Director: Kerry Beyer
Year of release: 2009
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 96 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: DVD only
Tagline: "At cheerleader camp, no one can hear you scream".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: A group of teenage girls visit a training camp out In isolated woodland which is designed to help them improve as cheerleaders and bring them up to the standard necessary to be considered the nations best. Among them is alternative looking Nikki who unlike the others is not too interested in cheerleading but is instead attending the course as part of a community service program after a brush with the law.
Looked down on and disliked by the other girls Nikki is left behind by the party while on the way to the campsite. Forced to make her own way she is aided by a local gas station attendant who offers to drive her to her destination. On route he regales her with the tales of the campsites troubled past. Supposedly a couple of brutal murders and a rape are said to have occurred at the location during a previous cheerleader camp. The storyteller is quick to inform Nikki however that the man responsible, a fellow dubbed Teddy The Butcher is now behind bars.
Somewhat reassured Nikki arrives at camp but soon after it becomes apparent there is more blood to be spilt on site as those in attendance begin to fall victim to a masked assailant armed with axe and knife. Could the legendary Butcher be back?
Good points: *In Nikki we have a very likeable final girl, tough, strong and fierce in nature while also being someone that we can feel a bit of pity for due to the treatment she receives from the other girls. In addition her backstory when it comes to light pertaining to her run in with the police casts her in a sympathetic light. Having short hair and more of a punk rock alternative look than what we are used to seeing in our final girls also sets her apart and makes her instantly more memorable.
Aside from Nikki a number of the supporting cast do a fine job as well in particular fellow camp attendees Rachel and Missy who both entertain. The course instructors Lindsay and Brent are also good value and I also enjoyed the adult characters who appeared in more limited roles such as Amber’s Mother and Sheriff Todd.
*Visually the film looks fantastic with the picture quality being top notch. This is something you would expect as standard in most cases of course so maybe it’s a bit weird to mention it as a positive. Falling into the bracket of a low budget film however these projects can often be very hit or miss when it comes to visuals. Along with Slaughter Drive this is probably the best looking low budget indy slasher I’ve seen in terms of the picture quality. The presentation as a whole taking into account the editing and camera work is also very slick. Much better than most other slashers of a similar ilk moneywise.
*I felt as if a pretty good job was done of keeping the viewer guessing as to who the killer may turn out to be. As you would expect of any good mystery whodunnit type affair we have a selection of suspects such as the handyman, Sheriff, Mrs Haddonfield and Teddy The Butcher himself who we learn has escaped jail.
*The mask used by the killer appealed to me and I felt it was original as well looking as it did as what could be described as the face of a blow up sex doll. It won’t be to everyone’s taste as it does have a goofy comedic aspect to it but for me I approved and thought it worked well.
Bad Points: *The only major area I can pick out where the film falls down a bit and looses marks is with the deaths and gore effects. These are largely basic and a bit disappointing in comparison to how strong most everything else is. It was certainly the only part of the film for me which drew attention to the low budget. Some of the kills happen off camera with most if not all of the others cutting away at the point of weapon impact. On top of this the murders aren’t very inventive either and begin to feel a bit samey after a while. To sum up the issue almost straight after getting through watching this I couldn’t quite remember how two of the more prominent characters had died.
*There is a bit too much emphasis on comedy at times which can border on being too silly and unrealistic. The male cheerleaders being portrayed as stereotypical and ultra camp gay men is one example. The parts involving sex are also a bit on the crude and juvenile side, perhaps a bit too silly for their own good.
*Spoiler: The fate of one of the male characters Mitch is not definitively explained as though badly injured he is alive when discovered in the car only to not be mentioned again.
*Another spoiler: When the Terry character is introduced and captured by the surviving girls I didn’t think that they made it as clear as they should have done as to who he was. I was a bit confused when he first appeared not only regarding his identity but also in his intentions for being there. If he was innocent all the while why did he return to the murder site seeing that this would perhaps be one of the first places the cops would look for him?
Verdict: Despite a fairly long running time for a slasher Spirit Camp is fun and entertaining all the way through and never bores. Most of the characters are great in particular final girl Nikki and cheerleaders Rachel and Missy. Backing this up we have slick and polished presentation together with a cool looking killer.
Sadly it isn’t all good news as it’s hampered by budgetary restrictions which become evident during the death scenes. Sometimes it goes a bit over the top with sexual comedy as well and some of the more over the top moments could offend.
In spite of the flaws I’d still highly recommend checking this out. I don’t think genre fans would come away disappointed and for me It could well be the best low budget independent slasher film I’ve seen. It’s certainly in my top three.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1)Male cheerleader: Found dead with heavy torso wounds.
2)Female cheerleader: Killed with axe after brief chase and after being previously wounded with the same weapon.
3)Monika: Picked up by the neck and strangled.
4)Blair: Killed with an axe offscreen behind a toilet/outbuilding.
5)Amber: Knife thrust into the side of her head.
6)Mitch: Found in car boot/trunk covered in blood after previously being attacked with an axe. Is actually still alive when discovered but presumably dies soon after as he is not mentioned again. Missy and Rachel who were supposed to be watching over him also abandon the scene to check out the noise Nikki is making after discovering Lyndsay.
7)Lindsay: Found dead with a knitting needle sticking out of her eye.
8)Brent: Found by Missy dead in a canoe. Killed off camera.
9)Missy: Killed with a knife.
10)Teddy The Butcher: Stumbles over dead with an axe in his back on the equipment shed stairwell.
11)Rachel: Killed with a knife thrust to the stomach.
12)Sheriff Todd: Struck in the back with an axe.
13)Mrs Haddonfield: Discovered dead by Nikki. Body tied to a tree.