Director: Brad Sykes
Year of release: 2000
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 86 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: DVD only
Tagline: "Get ready for a bloody good time", "There is nothing like the great outdoors" and "Wide open with nowhere to run".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: Whilst out in the woods in and around an area called Camp Blackfoot a wildlife photographer and her partner are murdered by a lunatic dressed in a black boiler suit and a clown mask. We are then introduced to two couples, Tricia and Steve and Jay and Nicole who themselves are planning a camping trip to the Camp Blackfoot site. Though no corpse was found, news of the missing wildlife photographer has made the papers and recongnising the last known location of the woman as their destination Tricia is reluctant to go. Steve soon talks her into it and soon all four are on their way to the woods where they are set to meet up with a guide in the parking lot who will lead them deeper into the forestland. On route they run across a strange old man who warns them not to proceed any further. He says the camp is known locally as Camp Blood and starts shouting something about a clown as the friends drive off. Though Tricia is worried anew the others are unconcerned and after meeting up with the guide they trek deeper into the Camp Blackfoot territory. The following morning things turn into a nightmare as the group wake up to find themselves terrorised by the knife wielding clown we were introduced to earlier.
Good points: It was interesting in this how the killer attacked head on instead of sneaking up and trying to pick the group off individually while they were isolated. It was a bit of a different refreshing approach.
The killer looks okay as well and though it isn't of the best disguises you will ever see it does the job. Being sort of a Michael Myers style boiler suit coupled with a clown mask it doesn't really suit the backwoods style of the film I guess but that didn't bother me and as I say though the mask wasn't the greatest it was very decent. A solid effort has been made here at least which I appreciate and will always prefer to something basic like just a hoody say or of course no mask/costume at all which is even worse.
The story of this appealed to me and I think it shows a good understanding of the basic slasher template and it upholds most of the key things and contains most of the necessary ingredients. The story is pretty basic I know but i'm happy for that to be the case so long as it is told well. Sometimes simple is better as other films that can try and be too clever sometimes just end up tying themselves up in knots and thus not making sense. I appreciated some of the slasher trademarks on display here though such as the mask, an effort made to provide a bit of a backstory, the twist style ending involving the killer, chase scene towards the end, Crazy Ralph style character who warns the kids away and the reference to the camp names from Friday the 13th and The Burning.
I liked the four main characters as well in particular Jay who I found to be the most entertaining one but also the final girl Tricia warrants a mention as well. Though others may not agree I felt she did a good job in her scenes with Thatcher and the killer towards the end and I also liked how she was more of a regular looking kind of woman and had short hair, something we don't see all that often. Again perhaps I'm in the minority here but I like it when the cast don't all look like models.
For what must be a very low budget film the gore effects aren't too bad and actually looked very decent in a couple of places in particular the machete to one of the male characters arm and head.
The music as well is rather good especially again for such a low budget production. Credited as being done by a person or company known as Ghost who also work on many of the sequels it does a good job of adding to the atmosphere. It's nothing outstanding but worthy of a mention as a positive I'd say.
Bad Points: The picture quality isn't very good at all with the colors seeming very washed out and bland looking. Once or twice it even almost deteriorates to the point of nearly being black and white. Though not mentioned on the packaging I recall hearing something about 3D in the trailer so perhaps they intended it to be a 3D film at one point and that has something to do with the poor visuals. If not that then I'm not sure as I'm pretty sure I've seen films with lower budgets than this that looked a lot better.
The very end of the film lets it down a little with two of the actors that played different roles earlier returning to play medical and police staff. It either must have been some sort of joke or they just couldn't afford to hire any more actors to take on the roles. If the latter though then they were only very small roles with minimal dialogue so surely members of the production crew or the director himself could have done double duty and performed in the parts themselves for free.
Spoiler here: I also didn't like how Tricia was in a bed on the floor in the previously mentioned end scene which I assume was supposed to illustrate that she was in some type of padded cell environment. As she was only just supposed to have woken up though she wouldn't even have been properly interviewed by the police yet plus she took a battering at the end of the film so would need treatment for her wounds. So as such surely she would be in a normal hospital at this stage possibly with a police guard at the door and not a mental institution? Again perhaps it was a budget thing and they couldn't gain access to a real hospital but they could have at least tried to simulate a private hospital room.
There are also a number of small niggles that I would like to address. 1) Near the start Tricia says she doesn't want to go on the trip, partly because of the newspaper article but also she hints at another reason. This is never mentioned again though which was a surprise as I was expecting it to be picked up on again later. 2) When they were providing the killers backstory I think it would have worked better with Harris actually narrating what was happening as well as us just seeing it. Plus I would have liked for them to have explained why the killer just happened to have a clown mask to hand during this scene. 3) Spoiler here: It would have been better if they had of explained the relationship between Thatcher and Harris to establish why he was working with her. I did like reveal of the killer though which caught me by surprise. 4) Though it was pretty good overall I felt that the knife fight between Steve and the killer went on a little too long. 5) Another spoiler: Was weird how Jay just stood and laughed while being approached by the killer. I suppose he was supposed to be in shock and perhaps sent mad after accidentally killing Nicole but it could have been handled better. 6) The cartoon noises that occur to indicate a punch being thrown are pretty lame and make things sound slightly armature
Verdict: Though this film and series in general receives a lot of hate I found this first entry to be a lot of fun. Sure it is cheap looking and does have its fair share of issues as I've mentioned but for me these didn't detract from the viewing experience much and I still managed to enjoy it a lot. It could have been better but it stayed true to the slasher formula and was for me packed full of charm. I had a blast with it despite the flaws.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1) Photographers boyfriend: Impaled through the chest with machete.
2) Female Photographer: Hacked up with machete. Actual death off camera.
3) Hunter #1: Decapitated.
4) Hunter #2: Killed with machete (off screen)
5) Steve: Struck in the arm and head with machete.
6) Nicole: Stabbed by accident by Jay with a knife in the stomach.
7) Jay: Neck snapped.
8) Thatcher: Hacked to death by machete after Tricia gets a hold of it.
9) Harris: Takes a few machete blows and is then run over by a car.