PLOT: For thirty years, Camp Woowonga and the surrounding wilderness have been the territory of masked slasher David Lightfoot. Seeking to end the curse for good, two killing spree survivors team up to go slasher hunting.
REVIEW: My favorite sub-genre of horror to watch is the slasher, and following the indie horror scene I have seen a lot of low budget movies that were made in homage to the classic slashers of the 1980s. While some of them are entertaining, I find a lot of them disappointing because they're so rarely able to even come close to feeling like the great slashers we were getting thirty-five years ago. With his '80s slasher homage CAMP KILLER, writer/director Shawn Jones avoids the comparison by taking a unique, deconstructive approach to the concept. This isn't another movie where a group of people gather on the killing grounds of a slasher to be knocked off one-by-one, although it does start out that way, but instead a story that examines the sub-genre's tropes, gives them a reason, and offers a glimpse at what its slasher does in his downtime.
The slasher Jones has created here is David Lightfoot, a man who stalks the long-abandoned grounds of Camp Woowonga and the surrounding woods while wearing an impressively designed skull mask. This is something Lightfoot has been doing for thirty years now, racking up well over six hundred kills, but people still keep wandering out into his territory, never to be seen again.
During the first twenty minutes of the film, Lightfoot makes quick work of the latest batch of campers to enter his wilderness, building up to a chase sequence with "final girl" Tina Wilcox (Melissa O'Brien). Just when it looks like Tina is going to be added to the victim list, the local sheriff (Jimmyo Burril), who is basically the Doctor Loomis to Lightfoot's Michael Myers, shows up and saves the day. This is the point at which a slasher movie would usually end, but there's over an hour left in the running time.
What first piqued my interest in this film was the fact that it was described as "JASON LIVES meets MY DINNER WITH ANDRE", MY DINNER WITH ANDRE being a 1981 film that consists entirely of a conversation between two men in a cafe. With the latest killing spree having come to an end, the sheriff goes to a bar, where original Jason Voorhees Ari Lehman plays bartender Joe, and is met there by an unmasked David Lightfoot (James Watkins). Lightfoot is different from slasher peers like Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers in that he has the ability to talk, he drops some quips during the early kill scenes (thankfully not as groan-inducing as some of the one-liners Freddy Krueger has had over the years), so there's no discrepancy in the character when he and the sheriff proceed to have a lengthy conversation about this battle they've been locked in for decades.
CAMP KILLER clearly takes most of its inspiration from the FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise, and while viewers who have just a ground floor knowledge of slashers should still be able to enjoy its deconstructive style, the more you know your FRIDAY THE 13TH sequels the more fun you'll have watching this movie. The conversation Lightfoot and the sheriff have is full of nods to the Voorhees saga, and I had a big grin on my face as I took in all the amusing references. Outside the realm of F13, there's also a really funny allusion to a scene in JEEPERS CREEPERS 2 that stood out to many audience members as being quite odd.
There is a lot of dialogue exchanged between the slasher and his Ahab, but CAMP KILLER may appeal to you even if chatty films aren't your bag. Not only are there flashbacks to some of Lightfoot's greatest hits spliced in during the conversation in the bar, there are also cutaways to Tina Wilcox and a fellow Lightfoot survivor, a really nutty, off-balance final girl wonderfully played by April Monique Burril (who you may know as the cult icon CHAINSAW SALLY) as they develop a revenge plot, paving the way for some climactic violence.
Carried on the shoulders of the strong, entertaining performances delivered by its stars, who were given some excellent dialogue to speak, CAMP KILLER is an '80s slasher homage that isn't like any specific movie that came out during that decade but is informed by several of them. I found it to be an absolute delight to watch. Jones has clearly done his sub-genre homework, and every reference struck home for me.
This isn't your typical bloodbath slasher, but I think any fan of slashers would have fun watching this clever entry in the sub-genre that serves as a passionate love letter to its predecessors.