Movies like Friday the 13th and Sleepaway Camp made summer camp slashers a genre favorite. Decades of knock-offs and homages later and we get a new one called Camp Dread by director Harrison Smith. And it’s pretty much a must-see if you’re a fan of the flicks mentioned above—that is if you have the same awesome taste in horror as me.
Eric Roberts plays the director of a franchise of summer camp horror flicks from the 80s who is now going back to the camp where it was all filmed to make a reality show based on his movies. Felissa Rose of Sleepaway Camp was the star of Eric’s movies and will be hosting the show. Even Danielle Harris has a minor role as the town sheriff. Like, really minor.
The show’s contestants are all a bunch of fuck ups and Felissa, whose character left acting to get an education, will actually be counseling them as their camp counselor. At the same time, they have to fix up the summer camp and remain alive to win one million dollars—because there’s a fake killer on the loose. And you know what that means….
Camp Dread manages to pay homage to 80s summer camp horror in clever ways without getting lost in the novelty of it. It succeeds just in the fact that there is no attempt to “update” the slasher formula with any kind of torture porn to appease modern audiences. This is a straight up body count flick. There are unique deaths and some winks at oldies but goodies, and they all have that old school 80s gore feel, with just enough blood to get the point across.
But really, the movie isn’t so much reliant on the murders to entertain. It’s actually more of a whodunit. It keeps you watching less with scares than with the mystery. There are plenty of devilish twists and turns, right up until the end.
On top of all that, the cast of kids is generally likeable rather than the kinds of dicks you want to see die in modern horror. Alongside familiar clichés like the clown and the bitch, there are unique characters, including a beefy guido who is refreshingly nice instead of a hot head, a lesbian, and a dude with an artificial leg. Plus there’s a major pretty boy whose sexuality is questioned from the very start. We’re treated to him exercising in only his tight boxer briefs, as well as shirtless hotties galore during a summer camp fun montage. It’s like the 80s all over again.
Camp Dread is one of the strongest throwback flicks I’ve seen in the summer camp genre because it’s really rooted in the innocent fun of 80s horror—cool kills instead of brutality overkill, cool kids instead of kids you’d like to see “overkilled,” and witty nods to the summer camp genre instead of excessive satire. And you don’t want to miss the sex scene, complete with an actual money shot….