Directed by Shawn Jones
Michael and Jason aren’t known for their conversation skills. Heck, I remember when Rob Zombie’s remake of the former was still to come out and fans were enraged when they heard Myers spoke in the script (he was meant to say ‘boo’). But what if they talked. Then talked and talked some more. So goes the premise of writer/ director Shawn Jones’ latest – an 80s homage that shows what killers get up to when there’s no teens to slay.
This isn’t to say there isn’t slaying too. The extended pre-credit sequence sees a prototypical slasher, with the usual tropes, condensed into a short. A group of teens talk about the legend of local boogeyman David Lightfoot, as they eat hot dogs and drink cold ones in the woods. But then you know who shows up, and quickly tears them apart. That’s all except one young girl, Tina (LaMartina), who gets saved by the local sheriff that’s been hunting Lightfoot for some time. Cut to a local pub, where original Jason Voorhees Ari Lehman plays bartender Joe. In shuffle his two favourite customers – Lightfoot and the man who just shot the shit out of him. But instead of fighting, the shadowy killer and his Ahab hunter perch themselves at the bar. Then chew the fat over their rivalry, years of lore and how they can both make sure they don’t have to do this all over again.
It’s an interesting premise, yet maybe the biggest flaw with Camp Killer is there’s just not enough substance to justify this talky approach. Whilst My Dinner with Andre used its scant premise to explore life, connection and the nature of storytelling, the script here’s far less ambitious. Much of the conversation that creates the bulk of act two, and a large part of three, is very expositional. Although initially promising, before too long the characters stretch the movie’s increasingly ridiculous mythology as it becomes a samey revenge from beyond the grave tale. What could be an intimate story of obsession becomes, at points, a run of the mill supernatural horror with a repetitive focus and an increasingly boring premise. The idea of the characters stuck in a cycle was interesting, along with the boredom of immortality, yet it simply isn’t deep enough to do these ideas justice. Consequently, it ends up being a cool but ultimately unrewarding means of telling a story you’ve seen before. Make no mistake, I thought the idea was brilliant at first, but with half an hour to go I couldn’t wait for it to ditch the dialogue for its final chase and just end.
To be fair, Shawn Jones goes some way towards making up for this with a genuinely solid grounding in slasher beats: he’s definitely done his homework. The opening scenes are a lot of fun, doing what most slashers do in 90 minutes in just 20. Moreover, although the film is visibly cheap, clearly shot on a shoestring, some of the kills look genuinely brilliant. These ‘greatest hits’ come complete with gallons of gore and originality. Some of the humour is also sharp, exploring the sub-genre’s tropes with the nudging style of Friday the 13th Part 6 – rather than the in yer face parody of the Scream series. The two leads, Watkins and Burril, also elevate much of their material, both getting very into character. Yet they aren’t enough to combat the sluggish pace. It sort makes me wish Jones had made a more conventional piece, or upped the character drama at the expense of the tired supernatural elements. I liked it, but really wanted to like it more. Sometimes serial killers should be seen and not heard.