Director: William Cooke, Paul Talbot Starring: Gunnar Hansen, Robin Roberts, Tres Holton .USA. 1h 28m
Some of the best horror movies from the golden era of the 80’s and 90’s are some of the most down to earth, homegrown labor’s of love that cinema has ever presented and this entertaining anthology is one of the lesser known fun flicks that offers a bit of psychotropic kicks more than anything all too seriously scary it’s totally off the wall b movie goodness.
The adorable wrap around is short and sweet, skipping promptly from the traditional camp fire set up into a set of gory horrors, often based on those classic stories which were often muttered around the campfire or in my day the dark corner of the school library.
Once Upon a Time…You’re Dead
The group of wayward teens are hanging out around a campfire when a local homeless drunk comes to join them around the fire, finding the boys fascinating their wearly allow him to get some comfort from their fire, in return he promises to tell them some cracking scary stories, the bum is Gunnar Hansen and he’s actually a really animated storyteller finding something about the boys to wind into a dark tale of horror filled with frights, I dunno why this didn’t have a sequel?
The first story is about a killer stalking couples down lovers lane with a hook for a hand, it’s dark and slightly comical, it feels like most people aren’t too sure about their lines but it gives life to the all familiar story. Others include stories about pirate stranded on tropical islands with the dead and a terrible pirate accent, it’s never clear which is more scary, an evil Santa Claus (not Krampus) who punishes a spoilt man-child and my favorite is loosely based on a classic, Reefer Madness but the guy is selling leaves from an oversized False aralia (Dizygotheca elegantissima) but the results of the drugs is something which matches the grotesque scenes from Body Melt (1993) or Street Trash (1987).
Somehow on a shoestring budget a decent movie has been crafted, the film isn’t without issues, it’s basic but not shoddy.. apart from the acting, poor delivery from most involved apart from the seasoned Hansen but all he has to do convincingly is give off a dodgy persona which is second nature to him.
It has a lot of 80’s aesthetics about it but being released in the early 90’s that’s not a shocker, but what really let the film down is lack of an effective (now retro) creepy soundtrack. It has all the best elements of indie films and remains quite enjoyable without taking itself too seriously. If Creepshow is the Comic horror anthology come to life then Campfire tales is the Zine horror anthology, an accomplished and exhilarating movie virtuoso.
Related: Campfire Tales (1997),
Lists: 1990’s Horror Anthologies