Being a true horror fan means developing a certain taste for trashy cinema. It’s like cheap beer; you know it’s terrible, but you can’t get enough of it. Camp Death III in 2D is pure trash and proud of it. Despite what the title might suggest, there are no previous Camp Death installments (at least, none that I can find online). Rather, it serves as a parody of Friday the 13th Part III, a film that made waves with its 3D special effects, yet couldn’t be redeemed with its terrible plot.
It’s been three years since Camp Crystal Meph has been shut down after the murderous rampage of Johann Van Damme was put to an end by a foul-mouthed puppet. With Johann safely locked up in the asylum (but not for long), the camp is re-opened as a rehabilitation center for the criminally insane.
Crystal Meph is run by a team of grossly unqualified counselors: there’s the head counselor, Tood, a hopeful wimp ready to burst into tears at a moment’s notice. Joining him is his verbally abusive Uncle Mel, who keeps getting attacked in the face by the same damned squirrel. Todd’s love interest, Rachel, is a traumatized survivor of Johann’s previous massacre. And finally, there’s Barry, wheelchair-bound and the butt end of way too many handicap jokes.
The campers are a batch of stereotypes and two-dimensional characters, and for good reason: there’s no point in getting attached as they’re quickly killed off one-by-one. The masked menace that is Johann has returned to Crystal Meph to finish what he has started. For each of his victims, he comes up with a creative ways of killing them – whether it’s with a toaster, a plunger or a chocolate bar.
The legend of Johann Van Damme emulates that of Jason Voorhees of the first three Friday the 13th movies. It begins with Johann’s mother. Driven mad by her son contracting scurvy, she goes about slaughtering innocent campers until being beheaded by a final girl. The next summer, Johann picked up where his mother left off, but was thwarted by yet another final girl.
With a budget of only $35,000, it’s apparent that director Matt Frame had no choice but to make an overly campy film. It has all the ingredients of a “bad” horror movie. The acting is purposely exaggerated. The additional recorded dialogue is out of sync with the actor. The CGI is so atrocious that it makes Birdemic look like a work of art. The plot holes are directly addressed and then immediately shrugged off. The gore effects are blatantly fake. The beauty of all of this is that it’s all intentional. It doesn’t pretend to be anything but a goofy B-movie. I can just imagine Frame looking at a scene and thinking “How can we make this dumber?”
There are times when the character interaction becomes chaotic and the overacting becomes increasingly annoying, but there are still some memorable (and a few gross-out) moments. My personal favorite scene is when an oblivious police officer gives Johann a tutorial on the best stabbing points on the human body, demonstrating on himself. The film reaches peak ridiculousness during an anti-gravity bike chase through the woods in a tribute to the Endor from Star Wars Episode VI.
There are many elements that make Camp Death III in 2D wholly unique. There’s puppets, musical numbers and a twist ending that’s surprising as it is stupid. The final showdown devolves into a psychotic nightmare. Whatever little sanity was present at the beginning is blasted into space by the end. Even the closing credits are driven way off course.
The runtime is mercifully short. I’ve seen my fair share of trashy films that were funny for the first 45 minutes, but by the second hour became excruciating. Had this film went over its 85-minute mark, I would have choked on my own annoyance.
Being a true horror fan isn’t all screams and sadism. It’s important that we laugh once in a while, and realize that many of the franchises that we hold dear are just as goofy as the movies that parody them. The humor of Camp Death III in 2D is no way clever. It’s the type of comedy that would make a kindergartener squirt their chocolate milk from their nose. But I dare you to watch it and not chuckle at least once. It’s damn near impossible. To quote the equally outrageous trailer, “this film is about as subtle as a rock to the face.”