The idea behind the Don’t Watch It, John! series is to find cinema that’s so rotten, so foul, so incredibly fetid that no other human being would dare recommend it to another human being. So why on earth would I watch this stuff? I like to think of myself much like Colonel Nathan Jessup in A Few Good Men. We live in a world that has horrible movies, and those horrible movies have to be kept from potential viewers. Who’s gonna do it? You? You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That someone watching movies like Cannibal Campout (1988), while tragic, probably saves lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You want me on that wall, you need me on that wall, protecting you from the cinematic horrors of the world. Last time, I tackled a disastrous movie with a gigantic budget- Batman and Robin. This time, I’m going to prove that cinematic disaster knows no fiscal bounds by watching the tiny budget horror film, Cannibal Campout.
What is Cannibal Campout?
The Facets plot description, which apparently has very relaxed standards for what qualifies as “sexy”:
Eighties cult gore that’s guaranteed to leave a bad taste in your mouth. Three orphans vow on their mother’s deathbed to never eat junk food again. The logical alternative is to turn into man-eating freaks. As far as social commentary goes, Cannibal Campout starts and stops with the reasonable argument that sexy campers taste better than vegetables.
Regardless of their definition of the word “sexy”, I have to give a big thumbs up to Facets for their descriptions. They’re great.
Who stars in this cinematic monstrosity? It stars absolutely nobody you know. As I understand it, the director (Jon McBride, who also stars as one of the campers) has carved out a niche with exactly this kind of movie. Of the rest of the cast, some guy named Richard Marcus is the only one who was ever in any other film or TV show after this. The bulk of it is TV work, and I wonder if there aren’t two actors named Richard Marcus, with the more prominent Richard Marcus erroneously tagged with this movie on his IMDb page.
The Stats: As you might expect for a straight-to-video production from 1988, not many people have watched and reviewed it. 225 viewers on IMDb have given it an average 3.4 rating (out of 10). Only two critics have reviewed it on Rotten Tomatoes, with neither giving it a “fresh” rating. One of those two is one of my favorite critics- Scott Weinberg. At the end of Weinberg’s review, the director- McBride- responded. The full text is at the end of the review and it’s interesting. I’d recommend reading it.
The Review: I could run this movie down if I wanted. It’d be like shooting fish in barrel because nearly everything about it is sloppy at best and pathetic at worst. But, if you’ve read the director’s reply to Weinberg, then you know there’s a little more to it than that. I’d planned on addressing this even before reading that letter, and now I feel even more compelled to do so.The fact is that this film was so clearly shot with no budget. Sometimes, you hear “no budget” and the moniker actually means something in the neighborhood of $500,000. For Cannibal Campout, I would’ve guessed a budget in the hundreds of dollars, and McBride’s letter confirms that it was $400. More importantly, it was made in the late 80s, when filmmaking and editing equipment weren’t so readily available. Basically, some friends got together, went out into the woods, and shot a really shitty movie. They had to have worked hard on it given the constraints of the era. I’m not going to pump sunshine up your skirt- it’s laughably bad, no matter how much effort was required to make it. But I walked away admiring the effort.
Instead of continuing down that road, I’m going to list what you’ll see in this movie, should you choose to watch it. I think this list speaks for itself. I’d add that I had a pretty good time laughing at how bad it was. If you watch this movie, you will see:
-a gimp in an Air Force pilot’s helmet who dances around like a monkey at the prospect of seeing boobs or eating people. His brothers simply refer to him as “retard” (their word, not mine).
-cannibals who reference human flesh as being “just like mama used to make,” along with a few other references to their mama.
-two campers who come upon a piece of bloody, torn cloth in the woods and rationalize that the blood “must be berry juice.” Later, the same camper comes upon a giant pile of guts in the woods and says “That sure as hell isn’t berries!”
-a dead baby joke. Later, it’s revealed that one of the campers is pregnant. The dialogue went something like this:
Girl: I’m pregnant.
Boyfriend: Ooooh! So THAT’s why you didn’t like my dead baby joke.
-one of the cannibal murderers has a conversation about his sexual frustrations (not seeing enough “tits”) with a severed head.
-I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure I saw a corpse blink.
-an epic battle between a camper with a sledgehammer, and the Air Force pilot, who has an axe.
-disemboweling, and then the cannibal eats from the open belly like it’s a cereal bowl (sans spoon). Then he forces the victim’s friends to share in the bowel consumption.
-a riff on a Christmas song (“You’d better watch out, you’d better not cry…”). This is not a Christmas movie in any way, shape, or form.
-the phrase “You axed for it!” right after one of the cannibals buries an axe in a camper’s face.
-a twisted, amusingly fake melted face underneath the Air Force pilot’s helmet.
-a fly landing on a lense.
-two cannibals digging the fetus out of the pregnant girl’s stomach, and then eating it.
-a final scene that features the cannibals insisting that fast food is bad for you. Not that they’re wrong, of course. I just have no clue what the hell it was doing in this movie.
As gruesome as a lot of that sounds, it’s not that gruesome because the effects are $400 effects and it’s almost impossible to take any of it seriously. If you’re in to “so bad, it’s good” movies, Cannibal Campout is a fine selection.