Cannibal Campout (1988)
Director: Tom Fisher and Jon McBride
Writers: Jon Rayl
Starring: Jon McBride, Amy Chludzinski and Christopher A. Granger

The Plot: Cannibal Campout is the story of four college students who head out into the woods for a weekend of camping. However, the kids run into trouble before the partying can even begin. The location that they have chosen for their camp-site also happens to be centered in the same area as a deranged family of lunatic cannibals who regularly hunt human beings for their food. This group of three brothers quickly spot the college teens, and soon enough they are making food out of anyone who wanders off into the woods alone. Can this group manage to escape the woods or will they inevitably wind up as dinner.

The Review
If there’s one thing that I would expect readers to know about Varied Celluloid, it would be that we love trash. While we all do enjoy the cinematic classics, and its easy to pick apart all the reasons why a viewer should love the work of Francois Truffaut, there’s something glorious about a quality piece of schlock. The glory days of garbage cinema, if such a thing ever existed, would of course be the 1980s. It was a time that produced some of the most outlandish and downright awful cinematic atrocities the world has ever seen. Within this time frame, the ultimate pot of gold when it comes to cinematic abortions would the world of shot-on-video horror cinema. There are few exceptions to the rule (Video Violence is one of the few quality productions within the format) and generally if your movie was shot on tape during the eighties, then it was guaranteed to be trash regardless of your talent level. Cannibal Campout is one of the better known pieces of shot-on-video awfulness to escape the video age and somehow find an audience outside of local mom and pop videostores. Is its rediscovery on DVD worthy of your time? Probably not, but hey, it’s gory and fun!
What can an audience member expect from Cannibal Campout? Well, there are many things that will be thrown at any viewer who sits down to enjoy such a film for the first time. The first thing I would recommend anyone do is prepare themselves. Prepare in the best way that you can, by lowering your expectations beyond any regular aptitude. Even if you have seen a fair share of bad movies before, if you haven’t seen many backyard-productions such as this one then you must prepare for sensory overload, or underload as it were. Cannibal Campout is certainly not the worst movie I have ever seen, I can say that much in defense of the picture. It doesn’t even come remotely close. Throughout the near-decade that I have been doing this, I have become accustomed to these backyard-masterpieces and I have thus become a rather forgiving critic. The problem with simply blasting a movie like this is that despite everything, these young kids did their best to make a movie and for all intents and purposes they deserve a fair shake. Does that mean we can’t call a spade a spade? Not in the least. Cannibal Campout is every bit as amateurish as you might expect. The acting is atrocious for the most part, the writing is nearly non-existent and the entire movie serves very little purpose other than establishing reasons to stage gore FX. The gore seems to be the entire reason that the film is still popping up in horror film websites and media in the first place. It is certainly the reason you now see it gracing Varied Celluloid. So, you take the good, you subtract the bad and what you are left with is a sub-par piece of gore cinema.

Considering that this was shot on a home video camera, the audience will no doubt build up several preconceived notions about the film. That is to say… they can imagine the movie being utterly terrible. Most of these notions of course turn out to be true, but Cannibal Campout does have a few standout elements that defy the odds. Albeit, there are few. No matter what, the movie was running its race with a handicap right from the beginning. For one, picture quality will always be an issue with movies that were shot in this format. The images captured with home video cameras are almost always putrid. The quality of tape recording was an abomination to the world of cinema and no matter how filmmakers might have tried to “pretty” it up, it still looked like muddy garbage. Cannibal Campout is no different in this regard. The filmmakers do try and tie together a few engaging shots throughout, but there is very little one can do to make this video stock look like a real “movie.” However, I will give it to the filmmakers that they do manage to grab a few interesting shots throughout their movie and they do make good use of the wilderness setting that surrounds them. Continuing on with other negative connotations that shot-on-video might bring with it, indeed the acting here is a bit on the amateurish side of things. The quality of the acting, however, isn’t the worst that I have seen. I’m sure many reviewers have lambasted the film a million times over for this, but within the context of who these actors were beforehand and with the restrictions that were put on them, there are actually a few surprising performances throughout. The performance of Jon McBride is actually fairly decent. He doesn’t stretch out or deliver with conviction, but he is charismatic and manages to hold the film together throughout many scenes. Still, these are far and away from being great performances. You should definitely hope for the least.

Many of the technical merits of the film are adequate and get the job done. It is tightly edited and the choice of sets are usually very smart and do a suitable job of hiding the film’s limitations. All of these things simply cater towards establishing a series of gore sequences however, and the gore would probably be the main reason viewers will stick around. There are a few instances where the film seems to be ahead of the curve in its general appeal, both in terms of what the filmmakers were willing to do with their gore FX and what they were willing to do onscreen. The movie, if you keep an eye out for it, is loaded with various horror and cult film related references. This was, of course, years before Quentin Tarantino would make such actions a regular occurrence both in mainstream cinema and in the indie film market. We have a character walking around in a Clockwork Orange t-shirt and there are a few stabs (pun intended) taken at the Friday the 13th series as well. Going back to the gore, however, the show-stealer would be the coup-de-grace that the film scores during the final death sequence which is done in incredibly poor taste and lifts the movie up from the bowels of gorehound mediocrity. This, paired with a sequence that shows a decent disembowelment as well as a few clever dismemberments, makes the movie what it is. Aside from the gore, we are ultimately just talking about a Texas Chainsaw Massacre ripoff after all.

The Conclusion
This is not a great movie. Heck, it’s not even a good movie. However, it does feature some very tacky gore and breezes by at a quick pace. There are points available for that, right? I give the movie a two out of five. Despite its inadequacies, Cannibal Campout might be a fun party movie to throw on with some friends. If nothing else it will get some very peculiar reactions from your friends.