CAMP promo art
CAMP
(aka KAMB)

(2008, Egypt)

3 stars  

directed by: Abed El Aziz Hashad
starring: Yasmen Abaza, Amr Abdelaziz, Amr Abdullatif, Ibrahim Abu Al Ata, Mohamed Atef, Ayman el Refaie, Yasmine Gamal, Amira Hany, Reem Helal, Mohamed Kholai, Lotfy Labib, Nesma Mamdouh

choice dialogue:

“You are the crazy one and you want all people dead.”

- this place is getting zero stars on Booking.com!

slash with panache?

 

[review by JA Kerswell]

   CAMP
  CAMP is Egypt's first - and perhaps only - slasher film. It follows the North American template, but has its own unique flavour.

CAMP is a wild Egyptian slasher movie that not only looks like it was shot in the 1980s - only the mobile phones and some of the fashions give it away that it is of more modern vintage - but also lifts a good number of tropes and twists from the best that decade had to offer. A group of young college graduates celebrate at a remote beach hotel, where they find highly eccentric staff and a legend of a murder in one of the rooms. It is also the anniversary of the death of the girlfriend of one of the group. After much flirting and beach football, a killer in an albino mask turns up and starts bumping them off one-by-one …

The film teases what could be behind the mayhem when it opens at Wael’s (Hani Sunallah) birthday party at his lavish mansion. His on/off fiance Shirin (Amira Hany) arrives but quickly has to leave when she learns a family member is ill. As she goes the beautiful Shaky arrives with her date Gamal (Mohamed Kholai). It then cuts to a year later with Gamal visiting her grave - with his friends and fellow graduates watching him. The film doesn’t explain what happened to Shaky until the end of the movie (at least partially with a very muddled coda).

For some reason, Shirin has brought along her kid sister, who is flung around in the back of a sports car as the movie suddenly morphs into THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS for 30 seconds. Bizarrely, they have chosen to go to a seemingly abandoned hotel by the sea (the Beach Camp of the film’s title) - which isn’t as derelict as it looks. One of the group even opines: “What is this weird building?” They are met by the owner Hasanain (Lotfy Labib) - who looks like he’s wet himself but it turns out to be a leaky water bottle (!). Also, there is the flirty Aliyyah (Gehan Salama), who seductively slinks around the guys and makes goo-goo eyes at them. And then there’s the cadaverous manservant who pushes a trolley around looking sinister and the bug-eyed mute cleaning lady who has a habit of standing in darkened rooms. Aliyyah - for some reason - tells the group that the hotel is almost fully booked even though there are no other guests there.

   CAMP
  Every slasher film needs an array of victims ...

After much flirting and interpersonal rivalries, a masked killer starts to whittle the guest list down with a curved blade similar to the one the hotel owner peels his apples with … .

The award for the most cardio in a single slasher movie must go to CAMP. The second half of the movie is nonstop running around the hotel and finding bodies with knives in their backs which then sets off another round of running and jumping out of windows marathon. It’s like the cast of Scooby Doo took amphetamines. I felt like I’d run a half marathon just watching it. Even considering the differences between Egyptian and Western horror movies, CAMP exaggerates everything. From the bombastic score - with sudden boing sound effects liberally added for dramatic purposes - to everyone overacting as if they were in a silent movie. Plus a mystery killer who manages to swap out black contact lenses in-between kills! It’s quite a heady concoction and despite not always making sense is certainly watchable and achieves a kind cheapjack - not to mention breakneck - sense of pace and tension once things get going.

However, what is especially unique with CAMP is how it is obviously riffing off North American 80s slashers but through the much more conservative lens of modern Islamic Egyptian society. The couples dance around each other with their desires but all talk of eventual marriage. When one character suggests to her beau that they should be a couple out of wedlock he looks shocked and calls her “indecent”. Another reveals the shame she feels at her mother having once been a dancer and her relief that she now wears the hijab. In another instance, when Shirin tries to comfort her younger sister - who thinks she just saw a ghost - she says: “Just read the Koran and go back to sleep.” The film also seems to imply that the murder spree is the result of some honour killing. Still, from what I understand, increased censorship in Egypt would make a film like CAMP unmakeable even a few years from when it was released. Even back then, according to screenwriter Haitham Waheed, censors forced them to remove some of the more violent scenes - which he says helped prevent the film from becoming a financial success.

   CAMP
  The killer in CAMP has a unique look. No wonder it's compared to Tommy Wiseau’s THE ROOM by some people in its home country!

It is a little difficult to know just how seriously the filmmakers are taking CAMP - although there are obvious comedic elements such as when a couple of new guests turn up and then bolt for the door when they mistake the TV for ghosts! At other times it is hand-wrenchingly earnest. It is clear that the nods to North American slashers of the 80s are intentional - even down to a blatant lift from one of the silliest moments from HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (1981) and a cat quite literally being flung into one scene for a false scare. In another, a character drops down in front of the group wearing a gorilla mask to give everyone another jolly good scare. There’s even a splattering of gore.

Although evidently not a high-budget production, the film boasts some great cinematography; with the camera swooping and circling around the hotel and following the unspooling mayhem. CAMP has the oversaturated and often hazy look of a grindhouse movie from the 1970s and 1980s - sans the fake speckles and other distortions other examples might use to fake its vintage. Whether that was intentional or typical of Egyptian cinema is lost to me, but it does give the film a unique look.

Ultimately, CAMP could be a better film. The fact that some Egyptian reviewers compare it to Tommy Wiseau’s THE ROOM (2003) suggests it has a mix of derision and some kind of cult following at home. However, despite - or perhaps because of this - it squeaks by with unbridled gonzo energy and its somewhat discombobulating culture clash. Whilst oh so familiar, it is also paradoxically quite unlike anything I’ve seen before.

 

 

BODYCOUNT  bodycount!   female: 4 / male: 5

1) Male has his throat slashed with a curved blade
      2) Female found with knife in her neck
      3) Female stabbed in the back with a curved blade
      4) Male hstabbed in the back
      5) Female stabbed in the back
      6) Male found drowned
      7) Male found with a knife in his back
      8) Male found with a knife to his chest
      9) ale found with a knife in his back

 

 

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