Campfire Stories (2001)

DVD Cover (Velocity Home Entertainment)
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Overall Rating 31%
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Ranked #5,933
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Jamie-Lynn Sigler
Jamie-Lynn Sigler
John Hensley
John Hensley
Joshua Harto
Joshua Harto
Charlie Day
Charlie Day
David Johansen
David Johansen
Review by Chad
Added: June 19, 2011
I love horror anthology flicks. I love these little nuggets of ideas that wouldn't work in a feature length film, and honestly, there's a lot of those ideas floating around. I also love them because I have a bit of a short attention span, and watching a handful of ten to twenty minute shorts is sometimes more entertaining that watching one ninety minute film. So, any time that I catch wind of one of these movies, regardless of what the reviews say about it, I usually end up popping it in. Campfire Stories marks yet another instance where I find myself regretting that decision.

We begin with a horrific CGI skull on a flame background talking to us about scaring our parents. It's as exciting as it sounds, and it looks like something I would have drawn on my trapper keeper back in the fifth grade. We're not off to a good start.

We then move on to the wraparound story, which finds two friends - Joe (Charlie Day) and Teddy (Joshua Harto) - heading out to a party in the middle of the woods. They're lost, of course, and just when all seems to be lost, they come across a young lady (Jamie-Lynn Sigler of The Sopranos fame) standing in the middle of the road. By "come across", I mean, they swerved to avoid missing her and popped one of their tires. Natalie is her name, and she tells them that her car broke down a few miles back and that she's as stuck as they are... but don't worry, she saw a few campers in the woods and they will be sure to help. The trio eventually finds the "campers", which is actually just a single park ranger (David Johansen, aka the vocalist for The New York Dolls, aka Buster Poindexter) sitting by a campfire. He tells them that he has already called in a tow truck, and while they're waiting, why not sit down and hear a few ghost stories? And we're off!

The first story starts off twenty years ago, and we enter an insane asylum where shitty punk-pop music blares out at all times. Oh, and there's something there about doctors torturing patients, but the music sort of overrides the storytelling aspect. An inmate eventually escapes, we move ahead to the present day, and we find ourselves at the local high school where a creepy janitor (George Kmeck) is mercilessly teased by the students. Can you guess where this is going? Watch for a cameo by Perez Hilton here - that'll sell some discs!

There is one saving grace to this story, and that is George Kmeck as the janitor / killer. Whoops, did I spoil it for you? Did you have any real doubts though? Anyway, Kmeck is an insanely creepy man, and he plays his role to perfection. Watching him torment these kids was great simply because of how much a legitimate psycho this man appears to be, so it wasn't all bad... just mostly. Otherwise, yes, it was bad. The story is as bland as they come with no shocks and no twists, and you can't even look at it like just another piece of slasher goodness as there is zero gore to be found here and the kills are incredibly weak. 3/10, and all three of those points are for Kmeck - replace him with someone else, and this would have been a 0/10.

Next on the list is a charming story about an Indian man who enters a diner, pays for a coffee with a fifty and tells the waitress to keep the change, and walks out. Simple enough, except for the fact that three hoodlums spot him and decide to follow him and kill him. They follow him to his trailer, watch him smoke a peace pipe (!) and talk to the animal spirits (!!), and then strangle him to death. They decide to smoke a little bit of his pipe before burying the body, and weird shit starts to happen.

I'll give the filmmakers credit for putting a little creativity into this one, even if it's as racist as it gets. In the sequel, will the black guy head back to the ghetto, smoke some crack, eat some chicken, and then get killed? Still, the pipe was sort of integral to the storyline, and I'll concede that it wouldn't have had the same effect if it was a simple crack pipe, so I'll let it slide. Other than that, it was an average story. It was creative, yes, but that doesn't mean that it was great. It wasn't horrible either, mind you, but it was leagues better than the previous story. The only thing that truly hurt this one was the abundance of horrible CGI work. Remember that CGI skull I mentioned? Imagine that, but on a grander scale. I'll leave the details to the brave viewer who picks this up. 4/10 for the overall piece.

The final story introduces us to a pair of high school gals who plan to get even with their boyfriends. You see, one of the boys was caught taping a sex act, while the other is insistent on getting into his girlfriend's pants. What savage beasts they are! Anyway, the four of them play a little truth or dare, they break out a video camera, and the girls set their plan of revenge into motion... only, there's a killer in the house, and he plans to have a little fun as well.

This one was the best of the bunch, but that's not really saying a lot. It had a sort of Blair Witch vibe going on in that the kills were shown through the lens of the video camera, and it actually worked out rather well. There is some legitimate tension to be found here while we try to figure out who the killer is and who might walk away from this house alive, but unfortunately, the entire thing comes crashing down with a stupid twist ending that makes zero sense. This one had a lot of promise, but that ending just ruined it for me. 4/10, and that would have been higher even if the ending had been something as simple as "random guy kills people for no reason."

I can't go into much detail about the conclusion of the wraparound story without spoiling it, but I will say that it doesn't fare much better than the rest of the film. It's a silly twist, it's not very shocking, and it's not very good either. The only saving grace is an appearance by The Misfits and a quick cameo by Stephanie Bellars (aka Gorgeous George of WCW fame). 3/10, and two of those points are for The Misfits - hey, it's the "new" Misfits and they're only there for a second, so it's nothing to brag about.

Overall, Campfire Stories has its moments and it has a few neat ideas, but the execution simply wasn't there. The stories are horrible at worst and barely-average at best, so to give this one a recommendation is out of the question. Rounding it all up, we come up with a final rating of 3.5/10 for the overall film - that sounds about right to me.
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