Judge Gordon Sullivan's Summer Camp Massacre was a lot less fun.
What the hell kind of summer camp is this?
Caesar and Otto's Summer Camp Massacre is the second feature from Dave Campfield to come out from those crazy cats at Camp Motion Pictures. After the release of his first film, Dark Chamber, Camp Motion Pictures were so pleased that they wanted to give him a (small) budget to make a film that would fit more with the campy slasher/monster/gore films that the studio is known for (you know, classics like Cannibal Campout and Splatter Beach). Dave retreated to the woods (or Topanga, California) to provide them with Caesar and Otto's Summer Camp Massacre, a sequel to a little-seen comedy that Campfield had directed before Dark Chamber (called, unsurprisingly, Caesar and Otto). The film is finally seeing the light of day on DVD, and it's a worthy successor to Campfield's first feature.
Facts of the Case
Caesar (director Dave Campfield) and his brother Otto (Paul Chomicki) live together in L.A. Otto is unemployed, while Caesar struggles to break into the acting business. During his day job driving a cab, Caesar gets into a tiff with a burly gentleman, delivering a number of blows to the stranger. Tragically, this stranger turns out to be the mentally challenged brother of the local police chief. Fearing for his life, Caesar flees with his brother Otto. Desperate to find work, the two seek out Job Counselor Estevez (Joe Estevez, Zombiegeddon). Mr. Estevez sends the pair to be counselors at Camp Sunsmile. After the two meet their fellow counselors, a mysterious new woman named Carrie (Felissa Rose, Sleepaway Camp) shows up, and people at the camp begin to die. Caesar and Otto have to get to the bottom of the mystery before they become victims of the gory killer.
I have to get one thing straight right out of the gate: Summer Camp Massacre is not a horror or slasher film per se. Instead, it could more rightfully be called a comedy that takes place in a slasher-film world. All the usual slasher-film elements (mysterious women, random deaths, summer camp) are present, but they're only the backdrop for Campfield and Co.'s comedy. Caesar and Otto are positioned as a modern incarnation of Abbott and Costello in their later years. The original Caesar and Otto put the duo in a reality-TV show, in this feature they're in a summer camp horror film, and the ending promises us Caesar and Otto in the House of Dracula. As a comedy, the film succeeds rather well. The humor mainly arises out of the situations Caesar and Otto find themselves in, although there are a few very good one-liners sprinkled throughout the script. The vast majority of the jokes are aimed at the horror crowd (especially those that play on Felissa Rose's participation in the Sleepaway Camp franchise). However, unlike the gentle jabs and nostalgia-tinged gags of most horror-comedies, Campfield's jokes at horror's expense have a rough edge to them. Some fans might not appreciate this approach, but after years of mollycoddling, it's nice to see someone try to stick it to horror fans.
My favorite part of Dark Chamber was Dave Campfield's performance, and the same holds true for Summer Camp Massacre. His portrayal of Caesar is just effeminate, just camp enough to be funny without ever getting tired (at least to me). It's also night and day different from his character in Dark Chamber, so he gets points for range. Also, even more than Dark Chamber, Campfield has surrounded himself with other fine actors in Summer Camp Massacre. Genre stalwarts like Joe Estevez and Brinke Stevens don't have much screen time, but they bring some serious street cred to the picture. The gang of camp-counselor victims is surprisingly diverse, and although they play some obvious types, there was little of the typical wooden acting that this budget level typically produces. Paul Chomicki's Otto is also dense-but-lovable. Finally, Felissa Rose plays on her role as Angela, crafting a mysterious persona that could have been tedious but ended up being surprisingly compelling.
Caesar and Otto's Summer Camp Massacre took the long road to DVD distribution, but it was worth the wait. The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer has a gritty, low budget feel to it. Shot on video, Summer Camp Massacre looks as good as you'd hope for a low budget horror flick. Brighter scenes (especially outdoors) look pretty crisp and well saturated, though some of the darker footage is a bit murky. But really, the transfer is exactly what the movie needs. The stereo audio mix is a no-frills affair, keeping the dialogue and score well-balanced and clear.
Extras are where this release shines. For Summer Camp Massacre, we get three different commentaries. Two feature Dave Campfield discussing the film, one with a moderator and the other with special guests. The third is a cast/crew commentary with Paul Chomicki, Summer Ferguson, Ken MacFarlane, Avi K. Garg, and Richard Calderon. Between these three you get everything you could ever have wanted to know about Caesar and Otto, from the camera it was filmed on to the difficulties the film ran into with budget and time constraints. The participants are engaging throughout, and they commentaries add real value to the disc. Next up is 13 minutes of behind the scenes and interview footage called "Behind the Massacre." Fans of Joe Estevez will appreciate the inclusion of 25 minutes of the man himself mugging for the camera and discussing his work. Finally, we get a set of deleted/alternate scenes that runs for five minutes along with a trio of trailers for Caesar and Otto films.
Most fans would be satisfied with the above, but Dave Campfield has loaded us down with a bonus Caesar and Otto short, Caesar and Otto Meet Dracula's Lawyer. It's a 15 minute film about the duo's encounter with the undead's solicitor. It's a nice continuation of the Caesar and Otto mythology. This short gets its own 60-second making of and a pair of commentaries.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I suspect that Caesar and Otto's Summer Camp Massacre is a love it or hate it film. Certainly some are going to find Campfield's brand of comedy shrill and obnoxious, while I'm sure others are going to object to his effeminate characterization. Those who are not already fans of low-budget horror are warned to stay far away, since neither the comedy nor the horror of Summer Camp Massacre is likely to be pleasant.
There is some good gore in Summer Camp Massacre, but it's fairly infrequent. Those just looking for gore and nudity will have to look elsewhere, since this film doesn't have enough red stuff to satisfy the gorehounds, and there isn't any naked female flesh on display.
Caesar and Otto's Summer Camp Massacre succeeds where Return to Sleepaway Camp failed, by bringing humor and horror back to the camp-slasher genre. The film breezes easily through its 75-minute runtime, and it seems so effortless that another Caesar and Otto film is both inevitable and welcome. I think we need a sequel to Summer Camp Massacre (whether it's Caesar and Otto in the House of Dracula or not) a lot more than we need another Saw film. Those looking for an evening of low-budget fun are encouraged to seek out Caesar and Otto's Summer Camp Massacre.
Caesar may be guilty of being flamboyant and Otto of being dumb, but Caesar and Otto's Summer Camp Massacre is only guilty of being fun.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Brain Damage Films
• Three Audio Commentaries
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