Friday, April 20, 2018

Review: Caesar and Otto’s Summer Camp Massacre

Text © Richard Gary / FFanzeen, 2018
Images from the Internet

Caesar and Otto’s Summer Camp Massacre
Written and directed by Dave Campfield
Fourth Horizon Cinema
75 minutes, 2009

Okay, this is a bit ass backwards: I’ve seen the films that followed this one, such as Caesar and Otto’s Deadly Xmas (2012) and Caesar and Otto’s Paranormal Halloween (2015), but never the original Caesar and Otto (2007), nor this one. Well, one down and one to go.

I’ve been a fan of the CandO films for a while now, and they’ve gone through some metamorphosis / growth over time thanks in part to additional experience in writing and direction by Campfield, plus the actors becoming more comfortable with their roles.

Foreground Ari K. Garg, Dave Campterfield, Paul Chomicki
The focus is on the two Denovio half-brothers: the insanely controlling, uptight and sexually ambiguous Caesar (Campfield), and the older and slovenly Otto (Paul Chomicki), who is the polar opposite of Caesar in every way. They don’t usually get along very well, but they rely on each other in ways that go below the surface. Added to this formula is their horn-dog grifter father, Fred (Scott Aguilar), who is self-assured and suave in ways his sons both detest and admire. In all the films, Fred keeps popping up in the strangest places at just the right (or wrong) times.

I am hardly the first person to say this, but this series is often compared to the Stooges, but I have my own theory: they have the slapstick of the Stooges, the anger of Abbott and Costello, and a wit like the Marx Brothers… okay, there is only one Bros. Marx, but there is a sharpness here amid a certain sort of purposeful witlessness that elevates this to beyond slapstick… and believe me, there’s plenty of that, as well. If the viewer takes it on the surface, it’s a fun escape piece of cinema nonsense that’s good with beer and pizza. But if one is a genre fan and pays attention, there is a level beyond the obvious, full of references to other films – the later CandO ones, even more so; it’s a bit tad more subtle here – and the humor is nearly constant, which goes well with, well, beer and pizza… and a game of spot-the-allusion. Take a drink every time you connect to one, and you’ll be blitzed by the end.

Felissa Rose
On the run after a road rage incident (Caesar is a rage-aholic with boundary issues – but then again, what rage-aholic doesn’t? Am I right?), CandO hide out by becoming counselors at a sleepaway camp where nefarious things are afoot. It’s run by Jerry Griffen (CandO regular Ken MacFarlane, who always plays someone evil named Jerry and has a last name that starts with a “G”). Among the counselors is the moody and hyper-sensitive Dick (Deron Miller) and the mysterious Carrie (Regina ula italiana Felissa Rose, also a producer of this and other CandO films; she’s will be forever known for a role she did as a youth that includes one of the oddest and longest still frames in horror cinema, which is the basis for this film; oops, reference, so take a sip of that beer!).

So much of the cast here, in its nascent troupe form, is a group that would be recurring in many of those CandOs to come. For example, there’s Avi K. Garg as a fellow counselor who has a running gag through all the releases, self-titled (and rightfully so) Scream-Queen Queen Brinke Stevens who is a shady character that has latched onto Otto, and Joe Estevez (brother of Martin Sheen) as an kinda nusty authority figure who is a fictional version of himself. Also worth noting in hindsight is another counsellor, Trai Byers; he would go on to become a regular on the remake of “90210” (2012), and more recently “Empire” (2015-present).

Everyone in the camp has their own agenda, including murder, thievery and cowardice, all of whom often make their hands present, even if the viewer doesn’t always know whose those are… yet.

Scott Aguilar
As for the murderer, well, I figured out for sure who the killer is at 43 minutes in, but not the why until the reveal. And speaking of time, there is a great visual gag at 35:50 that made me laugh pretty hard, and re-played it a couple of times more before moving on. The head count is not extremely high, but it’s plentiful. Despite the budget and cheesy flavor of the whole she-bang, Richard G. Calderon’s make-up SFX is quite worthy of notice.

The acting is done a bit campy, especially Campfield’s ham-fisted Caesar character who is – ta da – a bad actor. In later films Campfield will tone down the pretentious line reading (again, purposeful). Chomicki’s Otto is like a big child, hopeful and innocent in a kind of girl-hungry way, fumbling into relationships; Chomicki plays him with glee. As for their roguish father, Aguilar just looks like he’s having so much fun. In fact, most of the cast seems to be enjoying themselves, and that transfers to the viewer nicely.

This film is a lead-in to two horror shorts, the 9:39 minute Caesar and Otto in the House of Dracula (2009; HERE)  and the 16:51 Caesar and Otto Meet Dracula’s Lawyer (2010; HERE), which features yet another famous actor’s sibling, Ed Dennehy (bro of Brian), who plays Steve Dracula (brother of… you know who). They’re completely shot on green screen and make an interesting experiment. Plus, look for the cameo of Pigzilla!
If you’re in the mood for something deep, well, you’ve sorta come to the wrong place. I mean, there is a certain well of depth if you’re looking for it, but most people are going to see this merely as a fun way to spend an afternoon. Both ways are viable and I respect both approaches to looking at it; that being said, there is more to be gained by going beyond the surface, in my opinion.

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