Saturday, September 24, 2011

Camp Hell (2010)

Doesn't the Devil have anything better to do?

A young man named Thomas/Tommy is going to summer camp in New Jersey, not just any summer camp, but a religious one in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are enough rules in place to almost make the campers temporary nuns and monks for what's supposed to be their carefree, once-in-a-lifetime vacation that everyone else at that age usually partakes. It's the time of raging hormones and rebellious tendencies, so temptations are going to come up in the youngster's minds. Instead of the adults leading by example, they use harsh scare tactics. That place is Camp Hope, but to the attendees it's more like "Camp Hell."

This is a mess when it comes to exposition, foreshadowing, mystery, pacing--you name it. Its idea of atmosphere seems inconclusive with outlining its plot, and also intrusive either with abrupt music or visions tacked on almost as if it was an after thought. Who knows? Maybe it was, because this must have been hell to market--hence the presently popular actor in a cameo only on the cover and their camp shirts stating 2006/2007 despite the release date of 2010. After awhile it makes you wonder what and where the focal point is. Are they bracing me to be fearful? Scared? Worried? Intrigued? Looking for relating points at the time of teenage angst? If it wasn't for the preview I saw earlier, I would have thought I picked up a different movie than intended. Eventually it gets around to Thomas explaining about his demonic dreams. Their camp leader, Father Phineas, tells of another that experienced visions before and ended up in a mental institution. This is Jesse Einsenberg's small bit part in the beginning, and then "poof."

Before that they go through spiritual exercises and give learning lessons. It's hard to say if there is a kind of tongue-in-cheek humor at first since the people are the epitome of dedicated to their cause. You have different characters among the boys: the blind followers, the smart alecks, the believers, and Tommy: a shaper--someone who everyone around him wants to mold like putty without always asking him what he feels first, or lambaste him when he actually expresses himself. Being absent of the things they normally do for fun leads to pranks and scary story telling to bide their extracurricular time, apart from the evil-less sports, spiritual singing (down with rock music!) and dancing they do on their own. Forbidden love is on the rise between Tommy and childhood friend Melissa. When you finally think things have kicked into gear or turned for the worst, it becomes a little teaser. Though at least you know that some kind of bad guy is laying in wait. To what purpose? They still don't give that up till later, with more waiting in the process.

For what it's worth, the acting was adequate and was able to get itself across without being distracting, though it still doesn't overcome its other setbacks or put this into a better light. As a horror movie or a film going for atmosphere, or even a drama or whatever it was trying to be, it falls short on defining and unraveling itself, leaving the viewer to frustratingly guess, speculate and reach. I'm not a gambler, but I'd be willing to put money down that this was written with the ending first and gone backwards from there. Somewhat shocking depending on which side of the fence you stand, or possibly an eye opener or a statement no one is willing to say, though everything before it wasn't worth the wait and tedium of getting there. It felt like a hyped up amusement ride with too much clutter (people in front of you), and then an actual experience that doesn't live up to its climax. This attempts to build up to a "something"-lurking-in-the-shadows type of movie, except it leaves the audience in the dark half the time that there is something even there or even why it's there for that matter. Scared? Well...of what? They might as well have dropped the background horror fodder and made this a drama because it might have made the experience less frustrating trying to figure out its "mystery" element or message in the mean time.

Rating: 2.5/10

Director: George VanBuskirk
Stars: Will Denton, Bruce Davison, Valentina de Angelis
Link: IMDB

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