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Campfire Stories
cast: Jamie-Lynn DiScala, John Hensley, Charlie Day, David Johansen, John Quinn

director: Jeff Mazzola

90 minutes (18) 2004 widescreen ratio 16:9
Prism Leisure DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 2/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
Taking its cues from both the classic old E.C. horror comics and more recently, Tales From The Crypt movies, Campfire Stories gives you four stories for the price of one. The framing sequence involves two teenagers finding a young woman stranded by the side of the road. They take her with them and end up at a campsite manned, seemingly, only by Ranger Bob. Ranger Bob, to pass the time, begins telling both them, and the viewer, the other stories in the film.

I've always been fond of this type of structure, as it tends to offer more value for money. Or to put it another way, if you don't like one story hang around because the next one might be better. It's a fine principle but, unfortunately, Campfire Stories doesn't live up to its potential. There's a danger with this type of film that homage will become pastiche or, worse still, lazy writing - and in the case of at least one story here that's true. The first deals with a mental patient experimented on to boost his pain threshold, and shows what happens when he escapes. The second sees a group of criminals target an Indian biker and the third has a group of teens spending the night in one's dead aunt's house. All three are classic horror set-ups but only one, the Indian biker story, really works. The third story in particular starts well, is well shot and interestingly set up then descends into confusion, with the ending remaining resolutely unclear.

A lot of the fault can be laid squarely on the shoulders of the cast. Whilst the two teens in the framing story are interesting, nicely underplayed characters far too many other cast members go for full on hysteria. David Johansen as Ranger Bob is a particular offender, seeming to try for Crypt Keeper-like humour and failing.

Ultimately, Campfire Stories isn't quite sure what it is. The uneasy combination of humour and horror combined with the shoestring budget makes for an uneven and often irritating viewing experience. Whilst the producers are to be applauded for doing so much with so little, but their film's weaknesses outweigh its strengths.
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