Cannibal Campout (1988)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2011-09-13 03:21

Written by: John Rayl
Directed by: Jon McBride and Tom Fisher
Starring: Jon McBride, Amy Chludzinski, and Christopher A. Granger

Reviewed by: Brett Gallman

“If you suck my cock, I’ll lick your pussy!”

The 80s shot-on-video craze had to be one of the more bonkers cinematic movements of all time; sure, the do-it-yourself thing is still going (perhaps more strongly than ever), but the equipment and technical resources now available to ambitious homespun directors dwarfs the stuff that video auteurs were stuck with back then. Armed with Video8 cameras, minimal (or no) lighting rigs, buckets of fake blood, and armies of friends willing to embarrass themselves, they crafted some downright bizarre cinematic oddities that took bottom low-rent material (like slasher flicks) and somehow made it cheaper and trashier; yet, somehow, in their own charming way, these suckers are sometimes more entertaining than their bottom-of-the-barrel brethren. It’s obvious what Cannibal Campout was cannibalizing cinematically, as it went where many ragtag film crews went into the 80s: to the woods, where everyone also went to die in violent fashion.

In this case, it’s four especially dimwitted college students looking to take a break from end-of-year stress. They plan a backwoods camping retreat despite a preponderance of disappearances in the area; upon arrival, they learn they aren’t alone, as there’s a trio of hicks who decide to terrorize them. As it turns out, they’re actually homicidal cannibals who have gone a while without a good meal, so this campout quickly devolves into a grisly cookout.

One of two 1988 SOV efforts from director McBride, Cannibal Campout is typical gratuitous fare. It’s not so much a movie as it’s a bunch of gratuitous stupidity punctuated by some spectacularly gruesome scenes. Not that it particularly matters, its technical merits basically stack up to your average SOV experience: choppy editing, varying sound volumes, a droning score that repeats the same few measures, and woefully inexperienced acting (with the exception of McBride and Richard Marcus, no one ever stepped in front of a camera again). Basically, it plays out like you’d expect when a bunch of buddies get together and decide to make a movie while utilizing crude equipment. But you knew that already; anyone who ever strolled to this corner of the video store is more than familiar with this sort of shaggy aesthetic.

They also know that these things often make up for their lack of technical prowess with an irreverent, gonzo approach that embraces an unabashed enthusiasm. Some SOV flicks are certainly memorable because of this (or maybe despite it), and Cannibal Campout can mostly be counted among that group. With characters that are only noteworthy due to being so witless, it’s loaded with enough stupidity to get you through the many long stretches where they just wander around the woods. Dead baby jokes, bad mullets (the official hairstyle of 80s SOV horror), and unintentionally hilarious dialogue are on display here. When two of the guys wander off, they’re not sure if the tattered rag they’ve found is covered in blood or berry juice, which leads to a great payoff when one of them has to later declare “this sure as hell isn’t berry juice!” with a straight face. As for the girls? Well, they’re a couple of classy broads who are convinced that they’re in the middle of a romantic place situated in God’s country…if you ignore the junky, overturned cars and rape-happy rednecks, I guess.

What a crew they are; from what I can gather, they’re a trio of brothers. The ring-leader is a bushy-eyebrowed lunatic who often mugs for the camera, while his sidekick is a wide-eyed grittily-voiced psycho who is prone to breaking out into song (talk about gratuitous--at one point, this guy repeats “it’s a small world” for a minute straight). And then there’s the mentally handicapped one, who wears a flight suit and a helmet, as if he’s a dimwitted, redneck Darth Vader or something. Their madness is matched only by their hunger and the carnage they perpetrate, which is grand and disgusting. If they aren’t hacking off limbs or forcing their victims to eat each other guts, then they’re performing their own cannibal ultrasound on a pregnant girl (if you think a dead baby joke’s in figurative bad taste, imagine what an actual dead baby tastes like).

Luckily, there’s a lot of padding in terms of victims; hell, there’s two sequences that are completely divorced from the actual proceedings--one is a great black and white flashback where our three antagonists wistfully recall a previous rape. This is of course forgivable because it’s just another excuse to show off gore, which is all Cannibal Campout wants to do. Essentially a backwoods Blood Feast, it’s one of those films that fails on every traditional level, yet succeeds at the one thing it needs to be good at, and that’s grossing you out. Purveyors of retro sleaze Camp Motion Pictures released this one a few years back on a features-laden disc that includes deleted scenes, a music video, a still gallery, a Camp trailer vault, interviews with the cast, and a commentary with McBride. The presentation is about what you’d expect--it looks and sounds like a VHS tape that’s been burned to DVD, which is fine. It’s since been re-released as part of Retro Horror Collection along with a bunch of other SOV flicks. That’s the best way to go about acquiring this one, as it’s essentially a vault of bad taste “classics.” On its own, Cannibal Campout is a silly one-off affair that’s probably more fun (and hopefully more gruesome) than your average family barbecue. “Soup’s on!” Rent it!

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