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Cannibal Campout
cast: Jon McBride, Amy Chludzinski, Christopher Granger, Richard Marcus, and Gene Robbins

director: Jon McBride

89 minutes (n/r) 1988
Camp Motion Pictures NTSC DVD Region 1 retail

RATING: 3/10
reviewed by Gary McMahon
Maybe it's me; perhaps I'm getting old. Fifteen years ago I might have enjoyed a film like Cannibal Campout, and laughed at its sheer vulgar ineptitude. From the cover depicting a curious Vic Reeves' look-alike devouring the flesh of a young woman's neck, to the leering hyperbole of the accompanying blurb and quotes, to the amateur-hour production itself - I would've taken it all in good humour. But watching this film now, 19 years after its initial direct-to-video release, I can't help but find that it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Pun certainly not intended.

The basic premise is that a bunch of school friends (John McBride, Amy Chludzinski, Christopher A. Granger, Carrie Lindell) go out into the woods for a camping weekend, expecting a couple of days of booze, sex and laughs. Along the way they run across three hillbilly cannibals - a thick-browed muscleman (Gene Robbins), a skinny maniac with a limp (Richard Markus) and potentially the most interesting character in the film, a silent figure dressed as a jet fighter pilot, complete with overalls, facemask and helmet (Joseph Salheb). Needless to say, everyone dies, and in an extremely bloody manner.

I've never had a problem with OTT low-budget gore. Indeed, I've long been an advocate of the splatter film as an art form, and believe that films like Last House On The Left, Cannibal Holocaust and The Evil Dead occupy a rightful place in the horror canon: they are clever, important milestones in the short history of extreme cinema. However, I also believe that this kind of thing needs to be done with a certain panache that is clearly missing in Cannibal Campout. When things get nasty - and they do get pretty nasty - events are filmed with such an egregious lack of style, empathy and understanding that you want to look away. Not because the deaths are so realistic - they aren't - but because they are so staged with such utter ineptitude that watching these scenes is akin to watching a sociopath teenager playacting his bloody fantasies. Everyone involved seems to think that this is all uproariously funny, but it isn't. It's actually quite debasing.

If only the filmmakers had invested as much energy in trying to generate character, tension and atmosphere as they did in creating outrageously bloody murders, they might have produced a film of no small merit. Unfortunately, all we get is countless tacky scenes of evisceration and mutilation, culminating in an ending that somehow manages to be simultaneously banal and unnecessarily tasteless.

The basic problem as I see it is that the film is too nasty to be funny and too shallow and stupid to be truly nasty. Instead we are left with an uneasy tone; something that rests uneasily between camp juvenile humour and below par would-be grindhouse savagery. In more capable hands we could have been treated to so much more.

Cannibal Campout enjoys something of a cult reputation, but there are much better gore films from this era currently available on DVD (The Deadly Spawn, The Video Dead, The Dead Next Door, to name but a few). If you really must own this disc, then rest assured it comes packed with an array of extras to keep you occupied. If nothing else, it represents value for money in this respect.

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