Friday, 15 February 2013

Camp Blood 2

Director: Brad Sykes
Writer: Brad Sykes
Producer: David S Sterling
Cast: Jennifer Ritchkoff, Garrett Clancy, Tim Sullivan
Country: USA
Year of release: 2000
Reviewed from: UK DVD

The things I do for you. Not only did I suffer all the way through Camp Blood, I’m now sitting through another 75 minutes of washed-out, over-exposed video footage called Camp Blood 2. I’m suffering for other people’s art.

So has writer/director Brad Sykes progressed much in the year between the first film and this? Well, not really. This is maybe a bit better acted, and the direction is still okay-ish (certainly not as bad as the photography) but the film falls down completely on its tuppeny-ha’penny production values and its wafer-thin characterisation.

Jennifer Ritchkoff (who also gets a Production Assistant credit) returns as Tricia, sole survivor of the ‘Camp Blood massacre’. One year later, she is incarcerated in a padded cell which actually isn’t padded but is just a couple of white flats, as seen in the epilogue to Part I. Except that reverse shots show that the other walls aren’t even white. Also, the door is a standard internal door without any sort of peephole or viewing slot, which wouldn’t be much use in a secure mental institution for the 'criminally insane'. Plus it has a handle and a lock on the inside.

Although shots from the last film’s epilogue are included in a montage of flashback clips, we have to effectively ignore the whole staff-looking-like-Tricia’s-dead-friends bit. She is now in the care of Dr West (Tim Sullivan, who was one of the hunters in the first film) who lets her meet with a low-budget filmmaker, Worth Milligan (Garrett Clancy, a genuine B-movie director whose films include Dead 7 and Grave Tales (not this one); he also wrote Unseen Evil 2 and Scooter Kidz - blimey, you mean that got past the poster stage? - and acted in Creepies, Demon’s Kiss and Witchcraft XII) in a room with boxers of tapes on the windowsill. Milligan has a script, Within the Woods, about the Camp Blood massacre and wants Tricia, who is handcuffed, to help him as some sort of ‘advisor’ but she turns him down flat and West points out that as a ward of the state, there is no way that Milligan could get her out of the asylum.

West escorts Tricia back to her cell, demonstrating his professionalism by yelling “Shut up!” at a screaming, distressed psychiatric patient wandering down the corridor. After a nightmare about the clown killer, Tricia decides that she wants to work with Milligan after all and - hey presto - next thing we know Dr West is dropping her off at Milligan’s office (which has posters on the wall for From the Depths and 18 Bronze Men). The corridor outside West’s office, incidentally, is very obviously the same corridor in which West yelled at the patient.

Milligan and his sleazy stoner cameraman are auditioning actresses. The cameraman’s name is Shemp Moseley, which was the supposed killer’s name in the first film; the actor is credited as ‘Ken X’ (no relation to Malcolm). They cast brunette Vanessa (Sonya Joy Sims, who has been in oddball short films such as The Early '70s Movie Trailer and I Killed Eminem) as Tricia and talentless-but-busty Lola (the amusingly named Lisa Marie Bolick: Enticement) as Nicole, promising her there will only be one tasteful, artistically necessary topless scene. Blonde bimbette Adrienne (Misty Rae Hansen, a professional Madonna impersonator who was also in something called Boogie with the Undead) is just too late for the role and leaves disappointed.

Back home, Lola has a shower - displaying one of the least attractive pairs of artificial, pierced breasts I have ever seen - and gets hacked up in her own kitchen by a clown-masked psycho. When she doesn’t show at the next day’s read-through - where we meet Lance (Mark Overholt: Demon’s Kiss, Maximum Velocity) who is played Tricia’s boyfriend Steve and Todd (Timothy Patrick) who is playing Jay - Adrienne is given the role instead. This is achieved by Tricia going into another room with a pile of headshots and asking directory enquiries for the number of Adrienne Palmer in Hollywood. So Adrienne’s headshot doesn’t have a phone number on it? Right.

Oh, and the room in which she makes the phone call is very obviously the same one used for the reverse shots in her ‘padded cell’. I mean, if you can’t afford two rooms, at least dress the one you have differently.

Milligan, Tricia and Shemp (who is drinking) drive out to Camp Blackwood - this has a different sign from before, which has once again had the word ‘blood’ scrawled on it - and they set off from the car-park into ‘the woods’ with no equipment or bags. In the woods (which, as before, are both a well-defined campground and the middle of nowhere) the four actors are impatiently waiting, also with no bags. After the two groups join up, Milligan says he is waiting for a production assistant named Patrick and a stoned, fat guy in a strange hat (Courtney Burr: Skeletons, Curse of the Puppet Master, Dead 7, Jacqueline Hyde, various Power Rangers voices and Uncle Fester in Addams Family Reunion) wanders past, says he is Patrick and starts swearing - and threatening to kill people - when Milligan asks him to fetch the equipment from the car.

This equipment proves to be one cheap video camera, but as that’s what was used to shoot both Camp Blood films, Brad Sykes probably thinks that’s realistic. It did actually occur to me that, for a guy who makes low-budget movies, he seems to have a strange idea of what is involved in making low-budget movies. But then, that may be why the two of his movies I’ve seen so far have been so disappointing.

The cast and crew attempt to shoot one scene, with the now thoroughly sozzled Shemp as the clown-masked killer. After a couple of takes, they send Patrick for food (Milligan gives him 20 bucks) which once again reinforces how close to civilisation this ‘isolated spot’ actually is. Patrick wanders off, lights up a joint and gets sliced up by the clown. When he doesn’t return after two hours, the others observe that it’s getting late (while the sun beats down from the high heavens) and decide to set up camp, heading off with a selection of bags which they did not previously have, none of which look large enough to carry a tent.

They set up camp exactly where the friends did in the first film (except there is a bit more graffiti there this time) and, over a camp fire, Tricia narrates about three minutes of flashbacks. Vanessa, who has been fending off the slimy attentions of Lance, insists that she wants a tent to herself. Adrienne and Tricia agree to share the other one. Todd, who is a bit of a hypochondriac and has a fear of snakes, says he’s not sleeping in the open so Vanessa (who a moment ago wanted to be on her own) says he can share with her. In the night, Lance comes calling, asks Todd to leave the tent and then Vanessa is all over him which makes no sense character-wise (or indeed, at all). Post-shag, Lance is kicked out and macheteed, and then Vanessa gets it in the neck too.

The next morning, Vanessa and Lance have disappeared and there is apparently no blood on the tent despite Vanessa, while still inside the tent, having had a machete rammed in her mouth so hard that it stuck out the back of her head. Spooked, Tricia, Adrienne, Todd and even Shemp decided to head back to the cars. They very quickly split up for no reason and now the masked killer can start picking the five survivors off one by one.

It all comes to a head with Tricia tied up, kneeling in the centre of a circle of propped-up dead bodies: everyone is there except the one person we haven’t seen killed, and who is also the only person with a motive (although this turns out to be more complex than expected as she is actually the sister of Harris, the first film’s killer). The fact that this rather petite girl (look, you must have worked out who it is by now) bears no relation to the large, masculine figure whom we have seen wearing the clown mask, is exactly the same problem that the first film had. (Obviously we are supposed to think that it’s Shemp, partly because of his propensity for drinking and not saying much, partly because he plays the clown killer in the movie-within-a-movie, and partly because he has the same name as the ‘actor’ who played the killer in the first film. But it isn’t.)

Actually, Tricia’s psychological torment at the start of this scene is pretty well-handled by both director and actress as she starts to wonder whether she really is a psycho. But she isn’t.

The real killer, divested of clown mask, pours petrol over Tricia who cuts herself free with the broken remains of Shemp’s booze bottle. The two women fight and then the killer’s (heavily padded) sleeve catches fire. Instead of rolling in the dust or jumping into the stream five yards away, she crawls into one of the tents, apparently just so that we can see how quickly one of those things burns. There is no sign of her body afterwards - but as Tricia heads home the killer reappears. Apparently the fire really mangled her face but left her long, blonde hair and her clothes completely untouched. Tricia hacks her up with the machete but just before the girl dies she hands Tricia the clown mask and our heroine goes loping off back into the woods, mask in one hand, machete in the other.

The implication is that she is going to take on the mantle of the clown killer but, erm, what mantle? This girl was just doing it to get revenge on the woman she believed murdered her sister, who was doing it because she was a psycho lesbian, but the clown didn’t really exist because it was just a story the locals made up. Or something. None of this makes any sense.

Camp Blood 2 is no more enjoyable than the first film. The washed out video (apparently from the 3D process) makes it a chore to watch, even apart from the awful script and some distinctly variable acting. The film is full of careless contradictions and things that we are supposed to accept just because we’re told about them rather than because they contribute to any sort of cohesive storyline. There are also lots of things that simply look awful, like the interior night shots of the tents which are not only very well lit from outside but also very obviously considerably bigger tents than the ones in the exterior scenes.

Brannon Gould (Shreiker, Final Stab, Demonicus, The Coven) and Natascha Corrigan appear in an unconnected prologue as victims of the clown killer (which makes no sense if all she wanted to do was kill people on the film shoot). Jeff Leroy (director of Eyes of the Werewolf, Creepies etc) is once again both cinematographer and editor. Special effects are credited to Jeff Colbert (Dead 7, El Chupacabra, The Pumpkin Karver), Ernesto Cornejo (Dead 7), Sissy Hyde and Steve Worley. This DVD also included trailers for Witchouse 3: Demon Fire, The Dummy, Killjoy and the first Camp Blood but not, oddly, this movie.

Neither Camp Blood film is really worth watching, truth be told, because the script is so poor and the production values are non-existent. The second one is marginally better - or at least less bad - but I don’t think I have ever damned anything with praise quite that faint before. Maybe they’re more enjoyable in 3D...

(Dear God, apparently there is a third film in the series, called - just to confuse matters - Within the Woods. Dare I watch it?)

MJS rating: D+
review originally posted 8th February 2006

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