Campfire Tales – 6
Director – Matt Cooper, Martin Kunert, David Semel
Cast – Jay R. Ferguson, Christine Taylor, Christopher Masterson, Kim Murphy, Ron Livingston, Jennifer MacDonald, Hawthorne James, Alex McKenna, Devon Odessa, Jonathan Fuller, Jacinda Barrett, James Marsden, Amy Smart, Frederick Lawrence
Release Year – 1998
Reviewed by John of the Dead
It is hard for me to explain the excitement I felt when I came across this low-budget anthology, a film I had never heard of, but I suspect I looked similar to my dog when I come home with a bag full of doggie treats (he knows what they sound like). A late 90s film that looks much like a late 70s flick, Campfire Tales gives us a series of famous urban legends re-imagined with a modern twist. Heavy in atmosphere and coming with plenty of the cheese associated with the enjoyably campy films from decades ago, I found joy in this piece despite its few faults. This simple anthology may not please those looking for an exciting experience, but it was enough for me to give it a mostly-positive review.
When a group of teens suffer a car wreck that leaves them stranded in the woods, they entertain themselves by telling scary tales around a campfire. Monsters, psychopaths, and ghosts adorn the stories, but nothing prepares them for the horror they will face when they run out of campfire tales.
Right from the get-go you know the kids are in for some trouble, with their car breaking down in the middle of nowhere and them having to start a fire to stay warm. This plays off much like the famed TV show “Are You Afraid of the Dark”, so those who grew up loving the show should be able to reminisce a bit with this flick thanks to that. The wraparound moves well and sets the tone early on and never relents until its shocking but predictable climax.
The first segment is “The Hook” (starring James Marsden and Amy Smart), a simple and short piece that shows us two “parking” lovers’ close call with a hook-welding maniac. This was definitely a film to set the tone for the remaining stories and get us in “the mood”, and I found it interesting that such a short story was used to start the experience, and it worked out very well.
The second segment is “The Honeymoon”, where a young city-slicker couple rents an RV and ventures out into the woods to enjoy (and consummate) their new marriage. Soon after arriving they are warned by a local to stay in the RV and leave the area as quickly as they good, for their own safety, because “they” come out on nights where a full moon is present. They figure they should heed his warnings, but it is too late and they must battle a heinous creature if they wish to survive the night. I enjoyed this story the most thanks to its creature action and some fairly creepy scenes as well. This was also the goriest, and it came with a climax that bleeds true horror.
The third segment is the one with the creepiest title, “People Can Still Lick”. This follows a young girl who befriends a grown man pretending to be a young girl in a chatroom. When the girl innocently mentions that she will be home alone the man makes his way into her home and begins a night of taunting terror. I found this to be the most tension-filled story of the flick, with many scenes that will leave you creeped out despite their simplicity. It was awesome to watch the man toy with the girl, and like the previous story it ends on a horrific note.
Lastly, the fourth segment is “The Locket”, my least favorite. When Scott, a biker, has a problem with his motorcycle while traveling cross-country, he finds an isolated home and acquires the help of an attractive but mute young woman named Heather. He feels there is something odd about Heather, but given the circumstances he has no choice but to stay the night. Then, when Heather’s father returns home with an axe in hand he learns the true story behind Heather. This was an interesting tale and definitely the most diverse in that is required the most thought from the viewer. It came with decent gore and moderate horror, but I personally did not feel for this entry as much as I did it’s predecessors.
Overall, Campfire Tales is an enjoyable anthology that comes with flaws thanks to its low budget and occasional “meh” writing, but great atmosphere and mostly-positive direction result in an experience anthology fans may enjoy.