MAY 9, 2010
I was all set to watch Nightbeast with my good friend Matt via Xbox Party, but for some reason Netflix doesn’t allow you to watch that particular film in a party, so we had to find something else. After some poking around, Matt stumbled on Camp Utopia, which sounded like a harmless enough “slasher goes after campers” movie. And since he doesn’t watch a horror movie a day, he thought it was the worst he had ever seen, at which point I pondered life without having seen Evil Woods or The Graveyard (both of which are worse).
But it IS pretty bad. The one thing a low budget generic slasher movie can offer you is a few good kills, but these are all abysmal (with at least one major one off-screen entirely). We get TWO “Killer comes up behind and swings something at the back of their head” kills, sans any splatter. Another guy is killed with a few projected arrows, which are pretty much bloodless as well. There is some decent carnage in the opening scene, but that doesn’t really count because it’s a flashback to a Charles Manson-y type singer who went crazy and began stabbing his followers. This is a slasher movie - our killer should be the one getting in the good kills.
And it’s supposed to be a surprise but it’s woefully obvious who the killer is - hell, I figured it out before the character was even introduced! Our two male leads are off to pick up their girlfriends and begin talking about a third girl that they don’t really know very well who has decided to join them. She also disappears for a while in the middle of the movie, something I wouldn’t have even noticed if one of the characters didn’t mention it with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. And even though her motive makes little sense, it doesn’t stop her from explaining it for what has to be a record 10 minutes (I’m not exaggerating). She drones on and on, in a suburban house (the whole movie takes place in the woods but they apparently shot the finale in Chatsworth or whatever), stopping only to complain about potatoes or something.
Also, the film is exponentially dated. See, the film was shot in 2002* but not released until 2005. So when our characters begin talking about “roughing it” in the woods, they mention things like CD players as what they will have to leave behind, instead of iPods or laptops, and only the yuppie character has a cell phone (which itself seems dated - most people had them by like 2000). So you have outdated technology being used to “modernize” what is a pretty outdated and tired setup.
The characters’ complete lack of concern with their situation is pretty much the only enjoyment I got out of it. The male lead’s best friend dies, and a bit later he’s making jokes about porn, and everyone else sort of looks at it as an inconvenience of sorts. And when HE dies, his girlfriend cries for a bit, and then apologizes later - she actually says “sorry for acting like a bitch earlier”. Yeah, finding your boyfriend’s head in your tent is YOUR problem, no one else’s.
I also kind of liked the weird sexual hang-ups the characters all seemed to have. One girl refuses to let her boyfriend do it without a condom (cue Jack Warden: “We didn’t have fancy birth control methods, like pullin’ out!”), and the other is on the rag. No one suggest blow jobs either. Also, when one of the guys puts the moves on the other girl, she refuses to go along with it. What the hell kind of kids in the woods slasher is this when no one fucks and acts responsibly? It’s pretty much the only original thing in the movie too.
The credits sport some eye-opening names though. You may be forgiven for missing it at the top of the film, because it lists EVERY SINGLE PERSON who ever steps in front of the camera (even unnamed extras!), but Timothy Bach (the Manson-y guy) is played by none other than Ratt frontman Stephen Pearcy, who also contributes a few songs (one of which is pretty damn good I must admit) from what I assume is a solo album. And the film is co-produced (and music supervised) by none other than Duane Whitaker, best known for Pulp Fiction (Maynard) and maybe Feast (Boss Man). He doesn’t actually appear in the film, oddly enough, but other than Pearcy he’s still the only name of note in the lot, which results in the following, rather odd sentiment: Duane Whitaker is slumming.
In short, if your Xbox viewing party is threatened by some odd exceptions in Netflix’s service, Camp Utopia should not be on your list of suitable replacements.
What say you?
*One of the actresses noticeably gains/loses weight throughout the film, so maybe it was shot (out of sequence) over a long period of time as well.