Starring Jon McBride, Amy Chludzinski, Christopher A. Granger, Richard Marcus, Gene Robbins, Carrie Lindell, Joseph Salheb, Nancy Sciarra, Ray Angelic, John Farrell
Directed by Jon McBride and Tom Fisher
Distributed by Alternative Cinema, LLC
There was a time in the late 1980’s when getting a movie distributed was pretty easy. In fact, pretty much anyone who had a video camera could do it with a little gumption and a little luck. This was a time when mom and pop video stores were popping up in every town and the mega chains were in their infancy, and if you had a video camera, you could be well on your way to stardom. Around 1988, Jon McBride managed to get hold of a video camera and created something unique. The result was an hour-and-a-half gorefest called Cannibal Campout.
The storyline of this movie is one that every horror fan has heard. A group of dumb students go out into the woods for a weekend campout of vice and fun when they run afoul of a few backwoods types, who turn out to be cannibals. What follows is low-budget film making at its finest, with enough disgusting moments for the time period that Fangoria magazine called it the grossest movie this side of Gore Godfather H. G. Lewis. They also said this movie would “probably repulse even the staunchest vidiot.”
There is plenty wrong with this movie, to be sure. First, it was shot on VHS, which means the quality is just about the bottom of the barrel. In addition, the plot was old and hackneyed even twenty years ago, and the actors are clearly not professionals. Moreover, there is little in this movie that gives it any value outside of the blatant gore scenes, all of which have since been topped a hundred times over in the twenty years since the original release.
Despite its shortcomings, however, this movie is more than a mere gore-fest motion picture. It is a testament to a time past before digital editing software that came pre-loaded on laptops and cameras that fit in the palm of a person’s hand. That this movie actually got made is amazing in and of itself, but that it got distributed is very telling about the time. How it got re-released on DVD, however, is anyone’s guess.
The special features on this DVD are a retrospective by those involved in the production of the film. In the phoned-in feature commentary, director Jon McBride reveals what he was thinking while coming up with this movie. In addition, he reveals some of the challenges involved in guerilla-style film making, including actors who don’t act and overzealous forest rangers with guns. Interviews with the cast reveal a genuine sense of accomplishment and fun that was had during the filming. It is amazing that, even after twenty years, the actors involved are being recognized in as far away as England for their roles in this movie.
Cannibal Campout is not a good movie. It isn’t terrible, but how it has developed staying power after twenty years is beyond me. The gore, for the time, was innovative, but it did little to move the plot along. The acting was sub-par, the story was as clichéd as could be imagined, and the quality was repulsive. But there was something about this movie, and its quirky director and cast, that gave it an audience that still persists today. Whether such a movie would have been possible today is anyone’s guess. But that it happened twenty years ago is a testament to McBride’s ambition, and for that alone this movie has worth.
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