This is a rare surprise for me. Campfire Stories represents a movie in a class
that hasn't been covered broadly in the last ten years or so.
Campfire Stories is a collection of three short vignettes (boy, bet you never
thought you'd see THAT word, eh? eh?) with a central theme. In this case, it's
a few kids get into an accident, seek a little shelter while they wait for a
tow, and start telling some scary stories around a campfire. The ending, of
course, is a surprise twist that makes all three vignettes, or stories, connect
to each other in a way that only makes sense when viewed in retrospect.
The "collection movie" as it's sometimes called, can have one of two possible
results. It's either a way to dump garbage storylines, as was the case with
Deadtime Stories, or it can be a surprising and refreshing break with the
ordinary, as in John Carpenter's Body Bags.
Campfire Stories lodges itself firmly into the category of collection movie,
containing both garbage and refreshment at once.
We kick it off with a talkative, loudmouthed flaming skull describe in brief the
history of campfire stories and how they relate to a comic book he stars in. I
know, it's pretty ambitious for a minute segment, and it actually comes off as
kind of preachy and unnecessary. This Cryptkeeper knock off then fades from the
picture, and we get our first shot of "the world of Campfire Stories."
And boy howdy, is it a doozy.
We've got a mental hospital that deals in pain threshold therapy losing one of
its particularly nasty inmates, with relatively predictable results. Dig on the
PC thuggery and stilted dialogue, featuring such KILLER phrases as "It's just
Rodney being the sanitary napkin he is." and "What a penile implant." I'm STILL
chortling over those. Who wrote this crap?
They say that if ten thousand monkeys worked at ten thousand typewriters, they'd
produce the works of Shakespeare.
I'm guessing THIS script would take them about twenty minutes.
Second up, we get an Indian with a magic bag and the miscreants (all white, and
almost all male) who mean to seize it. Oh, yeah, and there's Dire Consequences
(tm) when they do--featuring the most bizarre peyote induced hallucinations
you've seen in a movie in the last couple weeks, not to mention the most bizarre
drug sequence you've seen since "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." Assuming
you've seen "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas."
Third in the rotation is, God help me, a ripoff of the old horror story classic "The Hook." You know, guy and girl making out in a car when guy goes to
investigate weird noise. But it doesn't end there...instead it takes an strange
and compelling turn when the girl gets sick of the guy and goes to consult with
her roommate. Roommates plot evil revenge on stereotypically foul and imbecilic
boyfriends, and the whole thing gets out of hand, featuring more red herring
than a Communist deli in Norway. It actually becomes a real surprise, with a
twisted ending that will just possibly leave you scared.
Now, we have to wrap it up with a surprise twist ending...and it's a serious
The interesting part about Campfire Stories is that it brings together the worst
crap you've ever laughed out of your VCR or DVD player together with a couple of
worthy little features that may actually be something you might get a kick out
of. It's like buying chocolate wrapped in old newspaper. David Johansen's
performance as Ranger Bill is creepy and comedic by turns-why he refuses to
acknowledge it, having himself billed as "Buster Poindexter" instead, is beyond
The DVD extras are a little on the sparse side...we've got a trailer. That's
it. No subtitles, no audio options, deleted scenes, nothing. It's a trailer
and that's ALL.
Now, all in all, Campfire Stories is a strange little package. Half interesting
scary movie, half garbage so bad it's comical. Laugh at the front, thrill to
the back, and possibly, enjoy.
Ah, here we go again...here comes another heaping steaming dose of tripe that'll
make you hate Artisan Home Entertainment, and shaking your head in scornful
wonderment that this bunch of no-names is so desperate for work that they're
prepared to act in this pile of straight to video dung, thus destroying their
careers before they even get started.
We start out with a couple who look like they've gone ten rounds with either a
quisinart or several angry IRS agents rushing back to their now-empty camp in
the middle of the jungle. As is the standard for things like this, they're the
ONLY ones surprised that the camp is empty. Most of the audience kind of
figured it would be when they saw there was even a camp in the first place. Seconds later, they're completely killed by whatever it was that did
Since I saw neither electrical cables or briefcases and cheap suits, I'm forced
to assume that it was neither a quisinart nor the IRS.
Which is kind of sad because I'd LOVE to see a horror movie involving quisinarts
or the IRS. I think it'd be a real step up from SOME of the tripe we get on the
video store shelves these days.
But then a new character steps in who may well INTEREST the IRS...a fellow named
Wilson Friels is prepared to fund a college professor's expedition to go hunting
Which by now should have every single hackle in the audience raised high enough
to hang a flag from. Anyone who hasn't figured out that there's a link between
the jungle we just saw and our boy Wilson should now eject their DVD, use it as
a coaster, and re-enroll in the third grade.
But our professor hasn't quite caught on yet, and packs up his partner and a
handful of coeds to ship off to the jungle to go hunting up an elusive indian
tribe called the Calusa. Which are, apparently, on a deserted island in the
middle of a swamp accessible only by airboat.
Which means they're going to have a serious problem when people start dying and
they can't get off the island. This is the kind of thing Gilligan had
Our intrepid pack of dead meat to be sets up camp on the deserted island with
the last Calusa settlement on it, and by the fire, we learn that the secret of
the Calusa involves the secret of life and death, along with "evil creatures"
that guard it.
And with the setup set up with all the subtlety of dynamite in a china shop, we
hear rumblings in the jungle or forest or wherever we are right now. Oh, yeah,
and whatever it is is watching the camp.
A little while later, our party comes across what's left of a dismembered
corpse, and this gets most everyone into a panic. Seems they've figured out
what we ALL did twenty minutes ago--when there's only one way off the island
that won't be back for several days, you're STUCK THERE! With whatever thing has
a taste for pre - processed Soylent Green!
And better yet, the party has managed to find the entrance to the place where
the whole "secret of life and death" thing was kept.
One of our coeds gets naked just in time to get messily killed and dragged off
somewhere by the island's resident monsters. Boy, isn't it terribly convenient
that she didn't get killed until AFTER she started bathing in the creek? What
would this movie be without the distraction of naked women? Pretty much the
same thing it is WITH the distraction of naked women...total, utter crap.
Then, the movie decides it'd be fun to rip off Congo for a few minutes and set
up a "perimeter defense system" against the horde of unknown human - hungry
whatsits out in the trees. Casualties begin to mount and Wilson breaks out the
guns to augment the perimeter system.
And finally, the movie launches into an ending that is truly incoherent.
The movie comes with subtitles and audio options, along with a still photo
gallery and trailers for "Deadly Species," "Bloody Murder 2," "The Pool," "Down
Time," and "Legion of the Dead."
So all in all, Deadly Species is only deadly dull, and should be avoided unless
you're truly desperate for a horror movie.