Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy

Campfire Stories | Deadly Species

Campfire Stories
DVD
**1/2
Directed by Bob Cea
R
90 min

This is a rare surprise for me. Campfire Stories represents a movie in a class that hasn't been covered broadly in the last ten years or so.

Campfire Stories is a collection of three short vignettes (boy, bet you never thought you'd see THAT word, eh? eh?) with a central theme. In this case, it's a few kids get into an accident, seek a little shelter while they wait for a tow, and start telling some scary stories around a campfire. The ending, of course, is a surprise twist that makes all three vignettes, or stories, connect to each other in a way that only makes sense when viewed in retrospect.

The "collection movie" as it's sometimes called, can have one of two possible results. It's either a way to dump garbage storylines, as was the case with Deadtime Stories, or it can be a surprising and refreshing break with the ordinary, as in John Carpenter's Body Bags.

Campfire Stories lodges itself firmly into the category of collection movie, containing both garbage and refreshment at once. We kick it off with a talkative, loudmouthed flaming skull describe in brief the history of campfire stories and how they relate to a comic book he stars in. I know, it's pretty ambitious for a minute segment, and it actually comes off as kind of preachy and unnecessary. This Cryptkeeper knock off then fades from the picture, and we get our first shot of "the world of Campfire Stories."

And boy howdy, is it a doozy.

We've got a mental hospital that deals in pain threshold therapy losing one of its particularly nasty inmates, with relatively predictable results. Dig on the PC thuggery and stilted dialogue, featuring such KILLER phrases as "It's just Rodney being the sanitary napkin he is." and "What a penile implant." I'm STILL chortling over those. Who wrote this crap?

They say that if ten thousand monkeys worked at ten thousand typewriters, they'd produce the works of Shakespeare.

I'm guessing THIS script would take them about twenty minutes.

Second up, we get an Indian with a magic bag and the miscreants (all white, and almost all male) who mean to seize it. Oh, yeah, and there's Dire Consequences (tm) when they do--featuring the most bizarre peyote induced hallucinations you've seen in a movie in the last couple weeks, not to mention the most bizarre drug sequence you've seen since "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." Assuming you've seen "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas."

Third in the rotation is, God help me, a ripoff of the old horror story classic "The Hook." You know, guy and girl making out in a car when guy goes to investigate weird noise. But it doesn't end there...instead it takes an strange and compelling turn when the girl gets sick of the guy and goes to consult with her roommate. Roommates plot evil revenge on stereotypically foul and imbecilic boyfriends, and the whole thing gets out of hand, featuring more red herring than a Communist deli in Norway. It actually becomes a real surprise, with a twisted ending that will just possibly leave you scared.

Now, we have to wrap it up with a surprise twist ending...and it's a serious surprise.

The interesting part about Campfire Stories is that it brings together the worst crap you've ever laughed out of your VCR or DVD player together with a couple of worthy little features that may actually be something you might get a kick out of. It's like buying chocolate wrapped in old newspaper. David Johansen's performance as Ranger Bill is creepy and comedic by turns-why he refuses to acknowledge it, having himself billed as "Buster Poindexter" instead, is beyond me.

The DVD extras are a little on the sparse side...we've got a trailer. That's it. No subtitles, no audio options, deleted scenes, nothing. It's a trailer and that's ALL.

Now, all in all, Campfire Stories is a strange little package. Half interesting scary movie, half garbage so bad it's comical. Laugh at the front, thrill to the back, and possibly, enjoy.

 

Deadly Species
DVD
*
Directed by Daniel Springen
R
90min

Ah, here we go again...here comes another heaping steaming dose of tripe that'll make you hate Artisan Home Entertainment, and shaking your head in scornful wonderment that this bunch of no-names is so desperate for work that they're prepared to act in this pile of straight to video dung, thus destroying their careers before they even get started. We start out with a couple who look like they've gone ten rounds with either a quisinart or several angry IRS agents rushing back to their now-empty camp in the middle of the jungle. As is the standard for things like this, they're the ONLY ones surprised that the camp is empty. Most of the audience kind of figured it would be when they saw there was even a camp in the first place. Seconds later, they're completely killed by whatever it was that did the wounding. Since I saw neither electrical cables or briefcases and cheap suits, I'm forced to assume that it was neither a quisinart nor the IRS. Which is kind of sad because I'd LOVE to see a horror movie involving quisinarts or the IRS. I think it'd be a real step up from SOME of the tripe we get on the video store shelves these days. But then a new character steps in who may well INTEREST the IRS...a fellow named Wilson Friels is prepared to fund a college professor's expedition to go hunting after indians. Which by now should have every single hackle in the audience raised high enough to hang a flag from. Anyone who hasn't figured out that there's a link between the jungle we just saw and our boy Wilson should now eject their DVD, use it as a coaster, and re-enroll in the third grade. But our professor hasn't quite caught on yet, and packs up his partner and a handful of coeds to ship off to the jungle to go hunting up an elusive indian tribe called the Calusa. Which are, apparently, on a deserted island in the middle of a swamp accessible only by airboat. Which means they're going to have a serious problem when people start dying and they can't get off the island. This is the kind of thing Gilligan had nightmares about. Our intrepid pack of dead meat to be sets up camp on the deserted island with the last Calusa settlement on it, and by the fire, we learn that the secret of the Calusa involves the secret of life and death, along with "evil creatures" that guard it. And with the setup set up with all the subtlety of dynamite in a china shop, we hear rumblings in the jungle or forest or wherever we are right now. Oh, yeah, and whatever it is is watching the camp. A little while later, our party comes across what's left of a dismembered corpse, and this gets most everyone into a panic. Seems they've figured out what we ALL did twenty minutes ago--when there's only one way off the island that won't be back for several days, you're STUCK THERE! With whatever thing has a taste for pre - processed Soylent Green! And better yet, the party has managed to find the entrance to the place where the whole "secret of life and death" thing was kept. One of our coeds gets naked just in time to get messily killed and dragged off somewhere by the island's resident monsters. Boy, isn't it terribly convenient that she didn't get killed until AFTER she started bathing in the creek? What would this movie be without the distraction of naked women? Pretty much the same thing it is WITH the distraction of naked women...total, utter crap. Then, the movie decides it'd be fun to rip off Congo for a few minutes and set up a "perimeter defense system" against the horde of unknown human - hungry whatsits out in the trees. Casualties begin to mount and Wilson breaks out the guns to augment the perimeter system. And finally, the movie launches into an ending that is truly incoherent. The movie comes with subtitles and audio options, along with a still photo gallery and trailers for "Deadly Species," "Bloody Murder 2," "The Pool," "Down Time," and "Legion of the Dead."

So all in all, Deadly Species is only deadly dull, and should be avoided unless you're truly desperate for a horror movie.  

 

Want to receive an expanded version of Reel Advice as an E-Newsletter?? Email to thevideostoreguy@columnist.com with "The Advisor" in the subject line.  Steve Andersen, much to his own chagrin, is a five-plus year veteran of the direct to video market. He has spent an alarming amount of time in video stores and seeks to provide the public with advance information on all the video releases that they may never have heard of...whether they want to hear of them or not. Steve appears in one way or another weekly, biweekly, or monthly on such fine entertainment-related ezines as Film Threat, Dream Forge, Reel Horror, Acid Logic, Chaotic Culture Magazine, Malicious Bitch webzine, and many others. Readers, agents, or editors can email Steve at thevideostoreguy@columnist.com




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