Telling horror stories by the campfire is the quintessential environment for telling scary stories. You are out there exposed and vulnerable to the wilderness. Your words, like the slightest sound in the quiet forest, can stir the imagination just like a stick prodding the illuminating fire. I am talking here in cliches, of course, and so is Campfire Tales (1997). It asks: “hey did you ever hear that scary story about the man with the hook? Or the one with the one with intruder in the house?” Well Campfire Tales takes a stab at these well known urban (or in some cases rural) legends. Campfire Tales is an anthology of horror tales (much like Creepshow format) with a collection of short, seemingly unrelated stories by different directors. Although, these stories are arguably by lesser known directors Matt Cooper, Martin Kunert and David Semel.
From the onset there are heavy 90’s influences of I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scary Story. Get a bunch of teens destined for stardom and put them in the same horror movie, sounds like a tale we have heard before. It begins with a story in black and white, “The Hook”, which is a variation of the killer with a hook for a hand urban legends. Here, it involves two kids on lover’s lane as they come into to close contact with the killer. With a pretty anticlimactic reveal. As the story progresses you wonder why even include it. Except to say, yes this movie is dealing with the stories that everyone has heard. However, it doesn’t totally fit as we move into “modern era” and a totally new narrative.
This time, a group of teens take refuge in an old abandoned church after they run their car recklessly of the road. By firelight and surrounded by the woods they tell each other horror stories. This scene, “The Campfire” becomes the over-arching narrative as they relate these tales to each other: “The Honeymoon”, “People Can Lick Too” and “The Locket”.
The first tale is about an RV trip gone wrong, which fits into the whole outdoor theme. If not for the movie, for our website. Urban legends with honeymooners are all too frequent, sometimes its a hotel, an abandoned house, here an RV. Like always, the monster is spurned on by the sexual activity of the couple (or is it just that its oppurtune because they are distracted). Either way, what is that? You can be married and sex brings death. That some Christian guilt thing or something. Anyways, its a mildly amusing, mildly scary story.
“People Can Lick Too”
A cautionary tale about using the internet and identity. Here in the internet is in it’s technological infancy but is still applicable as ever. It is a bit of take on the urban legend of the babysitter and the phone call, here minus the babysitter and the phone call (if that makes sense). Again, mildly amusing and scary but at times lacks clear direction (just running in the dark).
The third story is more or less the farmer’s daughter type story, where this young man takes refuge in a mysterious country house occupied by an even more mysterious mute girl, who looks like Shakira. That’s right her lips don’t lie, they also don’t speak.
Campfire Tales is mostly enjoyable. Like most anthology horror flicks it spares you the indignity of having to sit through an hour and a half of any of these stories on their own. Carved down to 15 minutes bits that are easily digestible, some of them even mildly amusing. It’s more like TV in a sense with just enough intrigue to keep you watching. There are some familiar faces: Ron Livingston (Office Space), Christine Taylor (Zoolander), James Marsden (X-men) & Amy Smart (Just Friends) are all here early in their acting career. Now, grievances: Campfire Tales seems very aware that it is dealing in cliches but doesn’t seem to take it further. It’s not enough to acknowledge that but to something different with it.
There are some rock and roll music connections to the film. The trailer (featured below) has the Rolling Stones – “Gimme Shelter” in it but is not featured in the movie. In the movie Christopher Masterson wears a Iron Maiden shirt but ends with a pretty horrid cover of “Monster Mash”, nuff said.
Length: 1h 28m
Rated: R (violence, sexuality)
Best time to watch: I would recommend twilight, early evening. The length of each segment lends well to late night watching but might not be amusing enough. 6pm -11pm, I would say.
Iron Maiden – “2 Minutes To Midnight” appears on Cottage Country Volume 16.