Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Summer Camp

Curse you, MoviePass, and your 24-hour rule. I'm going to be getting back to the hotel room at around 1 am central by the end of training.

Kind of strange that this one isn't playing Boston; I didn't even know about it before seeing it on the lousy of movies playing a nearby theater. I suspect that pay off this is because it seems to have taken a weird route. It was financed and produced in Spain, but like a non-trivial amount of Spanish genre films, shot in English, but wound up being picked up by Pantelion, a Lionsgate label that specializes in Spanish-language films, mostly Mexican, that might have some crossover appeal in the US. So, in order to serve that audience, the 90% of the film that is in English is subtitled.

Weird for me too watch, because my brain is trained to go to the subtitles and sort of tune out the soundtrack when they appear, which I occasionally miss a word as I remember that I don't speak Spanish. I do sort of wonder if putting this movie out via Pantelion hurt its chances of getting booked, especially since modest genre films were one of the things Lionsgate did so well for a long time (but, like New Line, they seem to act like it's something they've outgrown). The Boston-area theaters that book Spanish-language stuff mostly seem to go for comedies - I imagine Spanish-language movies get booked much more often in Texas - but may have gone for this with a different imprint and no subtitles.

Or not. They should have, though; it's a fairly fun horror movie that I think would appeal to a much broader audience than it's getting.

Summer Camp (El campamento del terror)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 22 March 2016 in AMC Stonebriar #5 (first-run, DCP)

From the title alone, it's pretty clear that Summer Camp is not exactly likely to break new ground as a horror movie, but there's plenty of hope that it may do a familiar thing well, and the 81-minute runtime is also fairly promising - these things are best when there's just time to react, not think. It is pretty cool, then, to see this one exceed expectations - yeah, it's got a lot of things horror fans have seen before, but it doesn't waste much time and packs what time it's got with enough switch-ups to keep the viewer guessing.

The camp is "El Búho" in the north of Spain, which promises English immersion for the kids arriving in two days, which means bilingual counselor Antonio (Andrés Velencoso) is joined by three Americans: returning friend Will (Diego Boneta), who hooked up with both female counselors last year, resulting in their not returning; Christy (Jocelin Donahue), the kind of girl who brings heels to camp; and Michelle (Maiara Walsh), the kind of girl who may very well not own a pair. It is, apparently, not enough that Spanish summer camps tend to be located in creepy, abandoned manor houses whose pipes are busted - there's an RV full of rednecks parked on the grounds, one of the dogs in the petting zoo has a case of rabies unlike any the farm-raised Will has ever seen before, and there's a lot of pollen floating around despite it being late in the season.

So, naturally, it's only a matter of time before something akin to the 28 Days Later rage virus breaks out, resulting in, as one character succinctly puts it, "the eyes, the biting, the black stuff". The fun comes from how writer/director Alberto Marini (a long-time collaborator with executive producer Jaume Balagueró directing his first feature) opts for a hard swerve right when it's time for the carnage to start, and then spends much of the rest of the movie giving his characters too much information as to what may be causing this rather than too little. He and co-writer Danielle Schleif also come up with a nifty variation on the device which keeps the choices from reducing to the simple, familiar kill-or-be-killed/fight-or-flight scenarios.

Full review on EFC.

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