Greetings! Yet another in a series of articles highlighting MN-made films-this time a journey into a fave: slasher/horror. Camp Kill is in the same genre of the original Friday the 13th but it is it’s own film, a local filmmaker’s take on the genre. Please subscribe to this and the Vintage Vinyl Examiner page. It’s free to have both emailed directly into your life. Thank you!
CAMP KILL (2009) Written, produced, directed, edited, mixed by Nate Hanley. ‘Kill Music’ by Nate Hanley (plus sound recording); Acoustic guitar by Bud Farley. www.campkill.com; www.campkill.8m.com
One who complains about a lack of character development in many recent films cannot whine about that in “Camp Kill”. The unrated version is 160 minutes long and is more about the characters than the killings. Relax, gore-heads. There are plenty of innovative kills in this film which is set, ironically enough, in Camp Killawonga. It is somewhere in the woods of Northern Minnesota-beautiful but definitely not Minnesota nice.
The first victim is offed prior to the opening credits and is a precursor of the tone of the film. The scene is stark and brutal, filmed at night with no music in background, only the sounds of the night. From the dissolve out of the credits, we meet the vic…um, principles.
There is Kelly (Breanna Fuss), a perky friendly volunteer from a nature center who is assigned to the camp to teach nature. There’s Guy (Tony Czech-“Nothing Personal”) and his buddies, Joe (Derek Dirlam) and Fred (Will Duff). Tony works in a video store, Joe is a prankster and Fred is a non-descript hanger-on. There’s Tim (Matt Franta) and Katie (Heather Meyer), a dysfunctional couple. Tim is always in training for a marathon and Katie is constantly wondering why she’s with him. There are girlfriends (but not lovers) Jocelyn (Scarlet Salem) and Sue (Rachel Grubb), women as opposite as can be-one strong, one totally reliant on technology. And then there’s Lover Boy (Eric Binfet) and Lover Girl (Sarah Ann), appropriately named because that’s all they do is…love.
These principles inter-act throughout the film, developing their characters through dialogue and dream sequences. Along with several unusual fringe characters, they all begin to die one at a time. Each one is missed to varying degrees but no bodies are discovered. There are no air-heads running about screaming at each discovery. Through all of this killing, death and gore is not the central point-the characters are. Writer/director Hanley never once loses focus on that, never lets the violence distract from what he intended his characters to accomplish on their trip to camp.
Without prejudice since all the actors maintained focus until their death, the highlighted performances belong to Czech, Salem and Grubb. Czech’s Guy is friendly but removed from his companions. He develops his own agenda when he decides to put the moves on Katie. He impresses her with an urban legend, then invites her to a dramatic reading-with her as the only invitee. He nearly scores but fails only because Katie is worried about the fact that Tim is uncharactistically late returning from his run.
Salem is brilliant as the ‘cool girl’, now out of high school, but so attached to her cell phone that she can’t imagine life without it. She’s not an airhead by any means but her greatest horror is the fact that she can’t get a signal in this desolate wilderness that she badly wants to leave. She experiences two dreams in which that very thing happens, then has to cope with the reality that they were only dreams.
Grubb is equally brilliant as the strong, more sensible counterpart. She is constantly trying to focus on having a unique experience and sharing it with Miss Cell Phone. All of her efforts are brushed aside until she finally blows up at her friend, leaving Jocelyn stunned that she could be treated so poorly. Grubb’s character continues to enjoy Nature until events force her to face a new and harsher reality.
That’s all the story you get for free. No spoilers, remember? Hanley and his cast didn’t spend all that time in the woods to have the kicker handed away like Tic Tac’s at a hot dog eating contest. And what a kicker it is! The disc is available online (www.campkill.com). The website includes blooper reels, trailers, photo galleries and fun facts along with a tribute to Hanley’s father who passed away quite tragically. It’s a marathon run to the ending but an interesting trip. Slasher film fans will find this to be very different than similar films in the genre…and different is good.
As always, seeya at the movies…