Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Review: The Campground

© Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films
Images from the Internet
The Campground
Directed by Roman Jossart
Studio 605 / SydSo Media
54 minutes, 2013

Even though the “Kids go to woods à kids get dead” subgenre of slasher films is a pretty common opening gambit for new filmmakers, Roman Jossart (aka RoJo) takes some firm steps in the right direction.

He has stated that he has filtered the light more to the green than blue to set himself apart from the crowd, which is a good way of thinking in my book, but even without that, the film looks pretty good. The lighting, even for the night scenes, is nicely achieved. You can only see what the camera wants you to see, so the bleak and darkness that surround the characters is almost a driver in itself (plus it helps hide the real and used Indiana RV Camp where it was filmed). Also, the editing does not rely on the quick cuts to hide the action. I’m guessing RoJo used one camera (let me know if I’m wrong), so shots linger a bit, giving the viewer more of the feel of the scene and location. Thanks for that, alone.

Another good choice is that the set-up scene for the horrors to come is embedded in the film rather than at the head of it, though yes, there is a bloody prologue. Still, I actually prefer it this way than the standard “Michael kills his family, and now it is years later” kind of trope. Here’s the set-up is as a campfire ghost story, and though that’s been done before, it’s still different enough from most to be appreciated.

The cast of couples heading to camp out is large enough to make a decent size body count, although the downside of course is that the more people there are, the less exposition. What motivates these people?  For example, one finds his girlfriend dead, and races back to the rest of the group who basically take it like, Well, okay, I guess we should hang out and drink beer while you calmly walk to the car to get help. Me, I woulda been outta there faster than butter melts on the sun. This calmness in the face of death is, to me, one of the major flaws of the film. I mean, the main character (played by the director) is more concerned with the loss of his mask than about his dead or missing friends. My suspension of disbelief took a bit of a hit with that one.

Two other quick things in this regard: there’s a killer on the loose, so why would someone sneak off to use the camp’s bathroom rather than in the sightline of companions, never mind without letting anyone know, and if the killer calls someone on a cell phone, that means there is service, so why not call the coppers?  But, moving on…

The use of death by screwdriver is cool, especially since it’s the more painful (i.e., less sharp) Phillips Head rather than a Flathead, although the Canadian Robertson Squarehead would be even more disturbing, he said with a wicked smile.  While this isn’t the only means of dispatching, it is the most oft used, to satisfying effect.

RoJo is obviously a fan of the Friday the 13th series (see his ~30-minute fan film short HERE), and this film is an outcropping of that. Heck, there’s even a sequel coming (apparently, heroes can’t do simple math).

While the nudity is nonexistent and the blood is kept to a minimum, the effects that are employed keep the story moving, and even with the occasional holes in the story, such as those mentioned above, for a first go-at-it, and the minimal budget (IMDB lists it as $3,000, which means it’s probably less), RoJo does a commendable freshman job. If you’re a genre fan, I think you’ll get a kick out of it.

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