There's a fine line between respectfully imitating the slasher genre and failing at it. I can't quite tell you why it works at times and why the concept falls flat at others. The "Scream" movies did a great job of being self-aware, celebrating all the typical ingredients of a good killer flick, and then expanding upon it. "Camp Dread" is a movie that gets the overly-tried and true formula for fun, sophisticated gore, and thrills right for the most part.
A group of troubled young adults are recruited to attend a summer camp at the location where a series of slasher films were made in the 1980s. Director Julian Barrett (Eric Roberts) invites them to take part in a reality TV-based reboot of his franchise where the last person left alive wins a million dollars. The attendees think it's all staged until corpses are found strewn out all over the campgrounds.
"Camp Dread" tries very hard to rise above the countless other clones of "Friday the 13th" that are released weekly straight-to-DVD. Although not perfect, its genuine effort through the use of practical gore effects and an attempt at a fun surprise ending far outweigh its sometimes tedious checklist of genre do's and don't's. In a world firmly submerged in the use of CGI, it's a breath of fresh air to see the use of theatrical blood and prosthetics, even if they don't always look as "real" as they should.
The cast of victims are your typical bunch of multi-cultural types from all walks of life. Each one is given traits that instill in the viewer a sense of urgency to see each of them die a horrible death. The actors play their roles quite well on a B-movie level. Eric Roberts is as smarmy and loathsome as ever in his role as the washed-up and desperate movie director. Danielle Harris gets far too little screen-time playing the token sheriff of the small town where the camp is located. It's entertaining to see the little scream queen from all the "Halloween" movies grown up and playing an adult in a position of power.
"Camp Dread" is not rated, but could easily carry an R. There's bloody violence, language, adult situations, and nudity. It has everything long-time audiences of slasher films have come to expect… and in one scene a little more possibly.
"Camp Dread" is a fun rollercoaster ride of thrills and gore that commemorates the slasher films that came before it. The movie mimics its predecessors on purpose while wanting to be taken seriously through throwing in some interesting plot twists and turns in its finale. Fans of "The Burning," "Friday the 13th," and other similar films will take pleasure in this bloody romp through the woods.