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Case Number 22002

Buy The Basement: Camp Retro '80s Horror Collection at Amazon

The Basement: Camp Retro '80s Horror Collection

Video Violence
1987 // 98 Minutes // Not Rated
Video Violence 2
1987 // 74 Minutes // Not Rated
Cannibal Campout
1988 // 88 Minutes // Not Rated
Captives
1988 // 83 Minutes // Not Rated
The Basement
1989 // 69 Minutes // Not Rated
Released by Camp Motion Pictures
Reviewed by Judge Daryl Loomis // August 12th, 2011

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All Rise...

The home movies Judge Daryl Loomis makes are horror shows of torn wrapping paper.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Cannibal Campout (published January 16th, 2007) and Captives (published December 12th, 2008) are also available.

The Charge

Where Saturday's campers become Sunday's brunch.

Opening Statement

If you loved cheap horror while growing up in the 1980s, you knew the lure of the big box video. The massive, gaudy boxes with terribly painted covers that had to sit on the top shelf because they couldn't fit elsewhere. The warnings: "Banned in 37 countries!" or "Pregnant women should not watch!" promised extremity way beyond the limits of what a puny, normal-sized box could hold. Blockbuster would never carry these titles, so they must be great. How often was I disappointed in the movie? A lot. Did I ever learn my lesson? No, I did not. They're good memories, anyhow, and now I get to revisit those days thanks to Camp Motion Pictures and The Basement: Camp Retro '80s Collection, an excellent collection of not-so-excellent movies.

Facts of the Case

The Basement
Four people with no clear connection get stuck in a spooky basement for some reason. A Crypt Keeper type monster steps out and tells them that each will commit an unspeakable act later in life. They don't believe him, so he shows them and we get four very short tales of the macabre.

Captives
Three weirdoes invade the home of a well-to-do family while the husband is at work. They aren't there to steal anything; they have a video they want to show the wife. On it is the past life of her husband, something much more violent and drug-fueled than she ever could have expected. When things go wrong for the invaders and blood gets shed, the wife must reconcile what she has seen and what she knows, and her new knowledge of the past makes her future unthinkable.

Cannibal Campout
Four college jerks descend on the New Jersey countryside for a nice little camping trip. Unfortunately, after running afoul of some hillbillies, they must fight for their lives as the yokels stalk them, both for sport and for supper.

Video Violence
Steven (Art Neill) moves from the big city to a small town to open a video store. Business is great, all the townspeople are members and sales are brisk, but everybody seems to gravitate toward the low-rent slasher flicks. One morning, he finds a homemade tape inside one of his boxes, and puts it in to see what they recorded. When it turns out to be a man being brutally murdered, he starts investigating, only to find a citywide cult of snuff filmmaking.

Video Violence 2
Howard and Eli, psychos from the first film, have taken their murder party to the airwaves, pirating in a program that shows more of the same. Unlike before, though, these videos include submissions from all over the region. Snuff is the hot new thing and nobody is safe from these mad hicks or their fans.

The Evidence

To receive Basement: Camp Retro '80s Collection in the mail was like receiving something I ordered six to eight weeks ago from Fangoria Magazine twenty years ago. The big box case, complete with flimsy plastic tray and VHS tape was a nostalgic kick in the pants for this old gore fiend. These are exactly the tapes I'd rent at 13, just as soon as I'd find a store to rent them to me (thanks, Mohawk Video). It was great to look back on the days when the bad was truly bad and not just banal. But a look back is all this is; a reminder that the old days are often better left as memory.

Four out of the five movies in the collection are genuine garbage, although I suspect that many would argue all five are that way. These films are Z-grade cinema to the core, but that doesn't leave them without their charms. Beyond the camcorder prints, shoddy acting, minimal (or no) lighting, and eye-poppingly terrible special effects, these are movies made by people who really wanted to make movies. There was no anticipation of profit, just earnest attempts to make something fun. Crappy, yes, but they tried their best with the resources they had, and I'd rather watch that than a $250 million dollar pile of bloat.

Whatever each viewer might think about the quality, or lack thereof, of the movies in this collection, cult fans cannot argue with what Camp Motion Pictures has given them. The Basement: Camp Retro '80s Collection is a loving tribute to these earnest, terrible films that I am happy to add to my collection. The big box case is really cool, with its cruddy painting that has nothing to do with any movie in the set and the VHS copy of The Basement. Now, fairly, I no longer have a working VCR, as I found out when trying to hook my old one up to my system. But that's not really the point; it wouldn't be the same if it was just the big box and the DVD case and, in spite of the space it takes on the shelf, I'm happy to have the set. The two Video Violence movies are the showcases of the collection, from a 2007 release that our Judge David Johnson did not appreciate as I do and, while he's completely correct in his assessments about the films themselves, the transfers look really good for the equipment they were shot with. They're much better than the other three films, though all five have been remastered to an extent that none of them deserve. Yes, there are still plenty of problems in these prints, but there's only so much that can be done for SOV productions. The sound, likewise, is shoddy but as good as can be expected.

The box is the sizzle, but the extras are the steak…maybe tougher than a Reno T-bone, but steak nonetheless. All five films feature commentary tracks that range from the relevant and useful (The Basement) to silly (both Video Violence films) to unrelated to the movie at all, though still interesting (Captives). The disc for The Basement, which had been unreleased until this collection, carries the bulk of the extras otherwise, with an impressive collection of old UHF programs that director Timothy O'Rawe made around the time of the film. It also contains so vintage news footage of the small town type that actually cares about an SOV horror film being shot in their community and a couple of odd short films by the director. It's a great first disc. The second only contains the films's respective commentaries, but Disc 3 has a fantastic interview with director Gary Cohen and a collection of trailers from other films in the Camp Motion Pictures vault. This collection is worthless to mainstream film fans, but to the cult of bad cinema, The Basement: Camp Retro '80s Collection is gold.

Closing Statement

I'd watch any of these movies again before I'd watch Titanic again, so take that as a recommendation or don't.

The Verdict

Case dismissed.

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Genres

• Bad
• Cult
• Exploitation
• Horror
• Independent
• Paranormal
• Suspense

Scales of Justice, Video Violence

Video: 85
Audio: 70
Extras: 70
Acting: 40
Story: 50
Judgment: 50

Perp Profile, Video Violence

Studio: Camp Motion Pictures
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 1987
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Video Violence

• Commentary
• Interview
• Trailer Vault

Scales of Justice, Video Violence 2

Video: 65
Audio: 60
Extras: 50
Acting: 44
Story: 58
Judgment: 70

Perp Profile, Video Violence 2

Studio: Camp Motion Pictures
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 74 Minutes
Release Year: 1987
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Video Violence 2

• Commentary

Scales of Justice, Cannibal Campout

Video: 65
Audio: 60
Extras: 50
Acting: 30
Story: 40
Judgment: 35

Perp Profile, Cannibal Campout

Studio: Camp Motion Pictures
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Cannibal Campout

• Commentary

Scales of Justice, Captives

Video: 70
Audio: 65
Extras: 50
Acting: 75
Story: 84
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile, Captives

Studio: Camp Motion Pictures
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 83 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Captives

• Commentary

Scales of Justice, The Basement

Video: 70
Audio: 60
Extras: 80
Acting: 20
Story: 40
Judgment: 40

Perp Profile, The Basement

Studio: Camp Motion Pictures
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 69 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, The Basement

• Commentary
• Archival Footage
• Television Shows








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