THE DEADLY CAMP
"Run! Run for life!"
Slash with panache?:
This was my first taste of an Asian slasher flick. I was expecting perhaps a late SCREAM (1996) knockoff, but I was more than pleasantly surprised to find, as the action unfolded, that the makers of THE DEADLY CAMP seem less concerned with grabbing the coattails of that particular fad and, instead, making what looks like a full-on tribute to the great American camp slasher flick from the early 80's.
It kicks off, naturally enough, in the woods. In the prologue a couple run away from a striding figure- his whirring chain saw hung low. In time honoured tradition one of them gets caught on some branches, whilst the girl (natch) slips over and falls to the ground. The screaming chainsaw is thrust into the screen. Fade to black.
Then, in perhaps a nod to THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, a teen called 'Professor' walks around a boat, which is chugging its way across the sea, video-ing the friends (brother Ken, Winnie, Soldier, Linda and Be Be) he's accompanying to a remote island for the weekend. "Nuts, we come camping just for fooling and fun!", one of them quips as they disembark they set up camp on the idyllic beach- or should I say that's actually what the charmingly twisted subtitles (which are a bugger to read by the way) translate it as; and which regularly seem to drop in the words "nuts!" to seemingly cover-up any difficulties in translation! … Whilst the group get settled in one of them hides everyone's mobile phone (which had been gathered in a plastic bag on the boat), with the unlikely purpose of ensuring that they are not disturbed. It goes without saying that someone is watching them, a hand pulling down a branch to get a better look at them frolicking in the water (ala FRIDAY THE 13TH); it is the same hand we see removing the bag of mobile phones…
Again with a nod to those early 80's camp slashers the teens settle down to a little pranking- the Professor tries to convince Soldier that his video camera has x-ray capabilities and came see through girl's clothes; whilst Ken (who's all moody, with smoldering eyes- and is obviously supposed to be some kind of heartthrob) plays a joke on his girlfriend, Winnie, after she gives him some new running shoes as a present ("I love you, nuts!"), and pretends to run off the edge of a cliff. … Later that night one of the couples settle down for a little hanky-panky (it was only a matter of time before a little t&a made an appearance!), but are interrupted by a lurking figure outside their tent. The ensuing shouts brings everyone running and they capture the intruder who's aptly named 'pervert' and, it turns out, comes from another small group of campers on the other side of the beach- more of whom turn up and offer the unlikely excuse for the intrusion that they are condom sellers and wondered if the teens needed any protection (!). Later we find out that in-fact they are a group of smugglers who are on the island on the lookout for two of their friends who went missing (the couple from the prologue).
Later that night pervert and his babbling friend (who are obviously the film's comedy relief) wander deep into the woods that surround the beach. At one point they indulge in a pissing game (don't ask), only to look up to see that they are being watched by a dribbling boy with buckteeth who proceeds to babble incoherently at them. During a scuffle the boy's arm is set on fire by a paraffin lamp and whilst he manages to put the flames out he howls in pain- pervert and his friend scarper.
The boy goes deeper into the woods to a ramshackle cabin where he finds his Father, a hulking figure with his face obscured with bandages, and tells him what has happened. The man dresses the boy's wounds whilst nearby a chain saw, for now, sits idle in a corner…
THE DEADLY CAMP is a whole lot of fun. It updates the scares and set pieces from those old camp slashers (especially films like THE BURNING (1981) and THE FINAL TERROR (1981)), and whilst it revels in every cliché (I can't remember the amount of times something rolled into the woods forcing one of the characters to step inside to retrieve it) it still retains some freshness by assimilating elements from Asian cult cinema. It isn't an out and out gore-fest by any means, although that's not to say that it holds back on the red stuff. The violence isn't particularly graphic but the body-count is high and the violence itself is prolonged by a killer who seems to enjoy beating up his prey before offing them- at one point he almost breaks into a rash of kickboxing against one poor unfortunate! He is quite a formidable bogeyman too, masked and silent, striding after the teens with knife, pickax, machete, and, of course, revving chain saw.
The film also benefits from a handful of genuinely tense scenes including one where a small bunch of survivors are huddled in the dark undergrowth observing the killer with an infrared camera, whilst he, unable to see them, stands inches from their faces scanning the forest. Or another great scene where looks of jubilation, after a plan to foil the killer, fade as the group realise that not everything is as it should be- all of which is revealed in torturous slow motion without letting the viewer, at first, see what troubles them.
It also benefits from some nice cinematography, which, matching the action, is fast and frenetic. And from a soundtrack which reminded me of those for mid-80's Italian genre flicks- feedback guitars wailing away during all the chase sequences. … Admittedly it is quite tempting to dwell on the appalling subtitles (something which seems to be the norm- I wonder why they can never get a decent translation?), especially when some of them are howlers such as, "It's true, we met a lunatic when we pissed yesterday!"; or "It's so scaring!". However the film is well made enough to mean that doesn't matter a great deal- and, I guess, it just adds to the charm.
It's all a lot of dumb fun, which I'd definitely recommend, especially if you want to see a new twist on old themes. And, talking of recurring themes, THE DEADLY CAMP naturally leaves the door wide open for a sequel with the kind of twist ending that you'd expect for a film taking it's cue from those early 80's slasher flicks. You'd be "nuts" to miss it!
BODYCOUNT 15 female:6 / male:9
1) Male killed with chain saw
2) Female killed with chain saw (off-screen)
3) Female killed (method unseen)- body glimpsed covered in blood
4) Male found chain sawed in half with noose around his neck
5) Male dismembered with chain saw (mostly off-screen)
6) Female dismembered with chain saw (mostly off-screen)
7) Male impaled on bamboo booby trap
8) Male stabbed in chest with knife
9) Male stabbed with knife
10) Female decapitated
11) Male impaled on bamboo booby trap
12) Male impaled on bamboo booby trap
13) Male impaled on bamboo booby trap
14) Female has neck cut with chain saw
15) Female falls from cliff