Review: Camp Hell (15) / Director: George VanBuskirk / Screenplay: George VanBuskirk / Starring: Dana Delaney, Andrew McCarthy, Caroline London, Will Denton, Bruce Davison / Release date: Out now
Recently it was revealed that actor Jesse Eisenberg was none too happy with the producers and distributors of Camp Hell as they had used his image so prominently in promoting the film when his role amounts to little more than a cameo. The truth of the matter is Eisenberg is probably ashamed to be associated with a film as un-redeemably bad as this one. Make no mistake, Camp Hell is Christian propaganda masquerading as a horror film and is on a par with those over the top 1950s government health warning films like Reefer Madness.
After the oddest mash up of imagery and music ever playing over the credits, the film begins in an ultra-religious community where Tommy Leary (Will Denton, woeful) lives with his ultra conservative and god fearing parents Michael and Patricia (Andrew McCarthy and Dana Delaney, as confused as we are). Tommy along with devout priest Father McAllister (Bruce Davison, giving it his all for no reward) and a few of Tommy’s Christian pals are shipped off to Christian summer camp where Tommy is tempted to sin with ‘sister’ Melissa (Valentina De Angelis). Eventually after an over zealous camp councillor tears up a copy of the comic Spawn and punches another student who went to a fun fair, Tommy and Melissa succumb to the sins of the flesh and dry hump in the woods. Whilst Tommy tries in vain to hide his semen encrusted jeans from the Christians, some kind of vaguely interested evil presence appears in the woods. The evil presence then knocks some people over and vandalises a church. The end.
It’s hard to understand what the intention was here, director George Van Buskirk who has been involved in the production of independent films like Roger Dodger and The Secret Lives of Dentists clearly has some issues with religion but seems to be saying that if you sin, bad things will happen, end of story. Then on the flipside he takes a devoutly religious man like Father McAllister who does no wrong, and has nothing but bad things happen to him. So what exactly is the point he is trying to make? The film doesn’t work as as horror as it’s not scary (it's on a par with an episode of Byker Grove in those stakes) and it doesn’t work as a satire of organised religion because it isn’t really pointing any fingers. If you are going to make a judgemental fire and brimstone Christian horror flick then have the guts to go full tilt into major carnage as a consequence of sinning. It seems that the overriding message of the film isn’t the old horror adage that sex equals death but those wet dreams and Todd Macfarlane comics equal possession and damnation. Even in these times when the right and left wings are further apart than ever, the message seems muddled and misjudged.
The more I think about this film the more it annoys me. At the beginning of the movie the cast are spouting po-faced scripture and you could be forgiven for thinking you are about to have a right old giggle at the American Christian right wing. This never really happens though as these idiots are presented as the good guys and some shadow in the woods and some crusty jeans are the most evil things in the world. The whole affair is just tedious and like a trip to Sunday school after years as an atheist. At one point in the middle I thought the film was about to come to life as Tommy tries desperately to hide the previously mentioned dry humping soiled jeans and they seem to become the McGuffin on which the rest of the film hangs. No such luck because the film chooses to proceed with half-assed effects and an ending that says even classic literature is no good for you.
As for Jesse Eisenberg’s role, he pops up as a former member of McAllister’s flock now in a mental home because he too succumbed to the lure of comic books, sugar and having a wank. The man is right to want to distance himself from this film which he no doubt did as a favour for someone.
Camp Hell is hopeless; it wants to point a finger at you and craft a scary cautionary tale at the same time but never rises above tedious sermonising. Avoid at all costs, even when it appears on DVD shelves in Poundland in a couple of weeks.