Saturday, January 24, 2009

Movie Review: Camp Utopia (2002)

Camp Utopia

Written by Robert Madero and Skippy McGriff
Directed by Robert Madero

Collin Stark...Lance
Jessica Jordan...Gretchen
Alexandra Westmore...Dee Dee
James E. Foly...Vesper
Sarah Megan White...Brittany
Adam Minarovich...Ranger Roger
Nineteen sixty nine. Saigon. The war rages on in the jungles of Vietnam. Peace demonstrations continue on the streets of America. And in a small hippie commune in Northern California, Timothy Bach, a self-proclaimed guru, maintains a hypnotic hold on his followers.

Bach had left the world of rock and roll a year earlier, walking off stage in the middle of a concert in Chicago. He surfaced months later on the west coast, creating Campy Utopia as an idyllic refuge from the real world.

On June 23, 1969, a summer of love became the summer of horror for the disciples of Timothy Bach.

Something went terribly wrong in the free love and peace commune...

Following an over-long, mock-groovy music backed opening credits sequence (made bearable only by the gloriously gorgeous hippie chicks gyrating in mellow abandon), we witness the infamous Timothy Bach--played nearly silently by Stephen Pearcy, lead singer of the ridiculous hair metal band RATT--screwing some girl who is one with the cosmos. You know she's one with the cosmos, because she says things during intercourse like, "I want to fly with the universe!" And then, I'm assuming at climax, Timothy reaches out for a machete and grants her wish.

Flash forward to the present day. Five college kids (a self-professed "bunch of spoiled assholes") in a Volkswagen bus head out into the woods for a little camping trip. You got your perennial bitch (Gretchen), your sweet girl next door (Brittany), your horny hero (Lance), your greedy stock trader who would be more at home in the 1980s (Vesper), and your new girl with an encyclopedic knowledge of all things hippie (Dee Dee). They pitch their tents, of course, right on top of Timothy's old stomping grounds, looking to smoke some weed and get some ass. They're all alone out there on the blood-soaked grounds, except for Ranger Roger--a creepy and perverted forest ranger who watches pornos at Station #69 in his underwear with his asthmatic poodle on his lap.


(I'll never understand the need for bumbling comic relief characters in horror films--not even in 'classics' like Last House on the Left.)

Anywho, predictably, the teens begin meeting their maker one-by-one.

The acting is pretty poor in some places--although it gets better as the movie goes on, meaning that there was a pretty strict learning curve during the filming. The special effects are essentially what you'd expect from this sort of movie: sticky-icky ooey-gooey karo syrup and moderately successful prosthetics. The soundtrack, unfortunately, is pretty much dreadful, parts of it sounding like cues from an unreleased late-'eighties, early-'nineties erotic cop drama starring Bruce Willis or Jeff Fahey. (You'll understand once you hear it.)

Where the film excels, however, are the death scenes. They're brief, simple, and not particularly gory, but they are effective. Especially the first one. You knew it was coming eventually, you just didn't expect it to happen when it did. Props must also be given for the fact that this movie has self-aware elements (as seemingly all horror films must in the wake of Scream)--referencing Friday the 13th, Dead Next Door, Skinned Alive, and Blair Witch--but it's not hyper-aware, meaning that the characters don't use their knowledge of these films as the basis of their survival. Also, a big kudos to the filmmakers for having the balls to unveil the majority of the action in broad daylight--none of this slinking around in the shadows crap for them!

An enjoyable little low-budget throwback to Jason Voorhees and Charles Manson, definitely worth a watch to fans of the genre.

81 Minutes

I've got my "Stay Young" tee-shirt. How about you?

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