Cannibal Campout (V)

Director Jon McBride (FEEDERS) never planned for anyone outside his circle of friends to see this film. Shot on a VHS Camcorder over the course of 6 months in late 1987 and early 1988. McBride and his motley crew of actors spent weekend road trips around New York and Connecticut shooting a movie that had no discernible script and no prospects of distribution. But in the heyday of the late 80’s video boom the filmmaker somehow managed to attract an interested distribution company and thus the legend of CANNIBAL CAMPOUT was born.

Although I can find no estimations of the budget it’s clear that we are talking hundreds of dollars not thousands—this is/was microbudget filmmaking before it has a cute little catch all name. What is amazing about this is that filmmakers today—with infinite access to computers, software and three chip digital video recorders are pushing out drivel every week that pales in comparison with a nearly 20-year old film shot on tape.

CANNIBAL CAMPOUT follows a tragic weekend in the lives of group of college friends who take a short getaway to the wilderness for some couples misadventure and wind up as fodder for a group of crazy mountain men with a taste for tender flesh. Call it a FRIDAY THE 13TH film without Jason or the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE meets THE EVIL DEAD. Its cut-and-paste movie making, but who cares. The joy of this film is in the sheer audacity of the filmmakers who managed to get this project on the shelves of mom and pop shops all over the country for probably about the same price as a VCR in 1988.

It’s hard to really pick apart the amateurish acting when everybody in the film was a friend of the director or a random passerby who just happened to be harangued into spitting a few stiff lines of dialogue out before being hacked to pieces. Having the benefit of VHS tape—like DV—does give the director the benefit of doing repeat takes, but demands made on free employees are often difficult to pass off. So you’re often left to make do with the best you can get.

The thing that really makes CANNIBAL CAMPOUT feel like a cohesive film is the editing and the forethought of McBride to have shot inserts, cutaways and b-roll. Too many microbudget filmmakers take long static shots full of dialogue and never cut to something as simple as scenery. That McBride was forced to cut scenes together with actors, who were not even on set at the same time, shows exceptional technical skill that many are just plain missing from so many productions.

Camp Motion Pictures a division of POPCinema delivers CANNIBAL CAMPOUT into retail stores in a pretty lavish special edition. Featuring audio commentary (via telephone) from McBride and moderated by fellow microbudget filmmaker Mark Pelonia (SPLATTER BEACH). The commentary is a fascinating look and how the project came together despite the lack of any real experience on the part of the principals. Also included is a brief making of featurette with a fairly interesting bunch of interviews and a few deleted scenes. The disc is rounded out with a music video inspired by the film and a trailer gallery highlighting upcoming release from Camp—including other shot of video 80’s epics like VIDEO VIOLENCE I & II and McBride’s follow-up feature WOODCHIPPER MASSACRE.

The film stands more a curio of the time—but that doesn’t make it a bad film, or even a good bad film—with all the trappings of the 1980’s fashion and dialogue clichés—it hardly stands up in 20-years of horror cinema as anything more than a conversation piece. Still to see McBride’s baby to come to the DVD marketplace warms my black heart for all the Z-movie mavericks that made my weekly trips down the isles of Movie Emporium or any number of other long since past video palaces so goddamn memorable.

Official Score