Cannibal Campout (1988)
By: Lauren Monaghan on February 7, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Camp Motion Pictures (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 4:3. English DD 2.0. 87 minutes
The Movie
Director: Jon McBride
Starring: Jon McBride, Amy Chludzinski, Christopher Granger, Richard Marcus, Gene Robbins, Carrie Lindell, Joseph Salheb
Screenplay: John Rayl
Music: Christopher A. Granger
Tagline: Where Saturday's Campers Become Sunday's Brunch.
Country: USA
To be blunt, on the movie-excellence-o-meter, Cannibal Campout rates somewhere around "I'd rather be watching House of the Dead" and "Oh Lord! My eyes! My eyes!" But before you go digging for that eye gouging spork, there's something you might first consider: this classless little piece of cinema isn't so much a low budget film as it is a no budget film, supported only by the sheer enthusiasm of creator John McBride and friends.

Shot over a series of weekends in the late 1980s, there was little more to Cannibal Campout's production than a small crew (read: one guy with a home video camera and a sparse, questionably talented cast), some woodsy scenery and a healthy helping of gross foodstuffs and fake blood. At the time, everyone was working their butts off for a movie being made solely for the sake of making one, not one of them dreaming it would be seen outside of friends and family circles. Needless to say, its eventual distribution across the globe came as a shock of epic proportions for all involved, and is without doubt a feat worthy of a hearty slap on the back. Well played, Campers, well played.

For some of you, this knowledge may help make the Cannibal Campout experience more tolerable at best… or at the very least make you feel bad about disliking it. For the rest of you, though: happy sporking!

Cannibal Campout is the story of a bunch of friends looking to take a trip out into the woods for a little relaxing, a bit of smooching and a bunch of other activities that don't generally involve getting disembowelled. Unfortunately for them, their choice of camping ground is currently playing home to a trio of maniac cannibals, sending all plans of not getting hacked apart flying out the window.

Basically, Cannibal Campout is like the bastard child of a couple who have watched way too many reruns of Deliverance interspersed with showings of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Without the expected level of finesse.

To begin with, the acting (or whatever you can call what is going on onscreen) is atrocious – and not just in the "well what can you expect from a movie called Cannibal Campout?" way. This is trashy horror, no doubt, and bad acting comes with the territory – heck, it's usually part of what makes it so fun to watch – but what starts off as laughable soon becomes a point of annoyance, with lines being delivered either with awkward monotony or overzealous abandon. It's like watching a bad high school play… which to be fair, really isn't that far from the truth.

Then there's the storyline itself. Again, fans of the genre aren't necessarily holding their breaths for characters to do and say intelligible things. People will always investigate strange noises, scantily clad bimbos will always forget how not to run like jelly-legged drunkards, and wandering alone through the forest while psychos are on the loose always seems like a good idea at the time. Cannibal Campout dishes out this time honoured stupidity and then some. Unfortunately, as with the acting, what starts off as mildly entertaining drivel soon descends into a conga line of frustratingly bad plot events designed to lead our characters into a sea of clichéd situations, including "I'm being chased by a madman, but sure I'll stop and rest" and "Ooh, a rotting cabin, what better place to relax and unwind".

Also out to test our patience is the musical score: a lone piano riff played ad nauseum. Impending death and destruction? Cue the piano notes! A tender moment between lovers? Play that tune! Homoerotic subtext steadily building? One more time now!

And then finally there's the heart of the film: the blood and guts – and actually, it has to be said that the filmmakers did a fairly decent job with this, considering their lack of resources. While there's visually nothing spectacular on offer, by today's standards or those of the time, the prominent bloodshed helps bring a spark of entertainment, however faint, to an otherwise dull movie. In fact, it's rather interesting to see the kinds of things Cannibal Campout pulls off without the benefit of professionally made props and effects, and the home movie-like quality of the film actually works in it's favour here, with the 'realism' (for lack of a better word) adding an ick-factor that otherwise wouldn't be there.

Expect to see plenty of throat slitting, eviscerating and axe-in-the-face shenanigans, but don't expect them to rescue the movie.
Cannibal Campout was shot on video, and as can be expected it looks like a really bad home movie. The lighting is never right, the colours are a little off, everything's a bit on the fuzzy side, and occasionally there's a big ass blowfly on the screen. This is a 1.33:1, full screen presentation.
See above, re: home movie. Plenty of hissing, crackling and other sounds, including a fair amount of wind-blowing-through-the-mic ambience.
Extra Features
"Soup's on", as Campout's cannibals would say, when it comes to the special features on offer, designed to win your heart and to convince you of the film's hidden merits.

The most interesting thing about the movie is the behind the scenes stuff – the why and the how – and the special features are all about getting a sneak peak at how the film came to be. There's a half hour "Making Of" documentary, boldly titled "Cannibal Campout: the making of a cult classic", which, though shabbily put together, is an interesting mix of interviews showcasing how much fun the cast and "crew" had making the movie (seriously, it looked like a blast!). They're all aware of just how crappy the film can get, but at the same time it's obvious they're all proud to have been a part of it.

There's also a commentary track which again points out all the fun behind the scenes stuff, and really makes you want to like the film when you see how much it means to the people involved.

The disc also has a stills gallery of behind the scenes moments and a behind the scenes featurette titled "Raw Gore Footage", which if nothing else will help you appreciate the hell editing this thing would have been. There's also a few (pointless) deleted scenes and a music video by a band called The Vladimirs, including a long, rambling introduction (though the song itself is scarily catchy – and educational too: look out for sick motherfuckers in the woods, indeed!).

Finally, there's a handful of trailers in the Camp Video Vault, including ones for Cannibal Campout itself, Woodchipper Massacre, Ghoul School, Video Violence and Video Violence 2.

And you get a short, glossy booklet as well, with a few pictures and an introduction from director/writer/actor/producer John McBride.
The Verdict
As bad as bad can be. While appreciating all the time and effort that went into this film, and understanding that it was never intended for a broad audience is one thing, having to sit through all 87 minutes of its low-rent entirety is something else all together. Admire the feat the crew have performed, for sure, but make sure you only do so from afar.
Movie Score
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