REVIEW: CAMP DREAD / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: HARRISON SMITH / SCREENPLAY: HARRISON SMITH / STARRING: ERIC ROBERTS, DANIELLE HARRIS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Eric Roberts stars in Camp Dread, a summer camp-set (in case you hadn’t guessed from the title) slasher film about an aged horror director who ships a group of awful youngsters off to star in his reality show cum horror reboot. If this were the nineties, we’d be calling it postmodern. Alas, Camp Dread is too dated even for that. Post-postmodern isn’t a thing yet, so we’re stuck with this desperately uncool dinosaur of a slasher feature, for the time being.
Roberts and modern Scream Queen Danielle Harris (the best of today’s bunch, by this reviewer’s reckoning) headline Camp Dread, but neither are around for long. Roberts appears once every ten minutes or so, smugly sneering from behind a laptop screen, while Harris’s screen time amounts to little more than a glorified cameo as the town sheriff.
Front and centre are the game’s contestants, a terrible gang of reprobates who spend most of their time either having sex, trying to have sex, Twittering or overusing the word ‘douchebag’. With its abundance of laptops, mobile phones and, um, digital picture frames (an actual plot point, believe it or not), Camp Dread is like spending your evening with a classroom full of naughty teenagers who won’t put down their phones for long enough to have so much as one measly conversation. It’s fine to acknowledge that this modern technology exists, but too many horror films fail to integrate the stuff into their stories without it seeming annoying, facile and stupid. Just like Camp Dread’s characters, for that matter.
As the film begins bumping off its characters, one by one, it does become slightly more bearable. Its Giallo-esque, old school death sequences are gratifyingly gory and vicious, with one early eyeball gag being particularly effective. The ever-reliable Roberts gives good sleaze, being one of the few actors capable of looking slimy even while wearing glasses. He could do with more screen time, but at least he gets more to do than most actors in such low-budget, straight to DVD movies (we’re looking at you, Danny Trejo).
In spite of Eric Roberts, Danielle Harris and a couple of other minor redeeming factors, Camp Dread is, ultimately, quite dread-ful.