Starring: Jonathan Lipnicki, Bonnie Aarons and Andrew Divoff
Directed by: Thomas Walton
Running Time: 90 minutes
Our Score: 1.5 out of 5 Stars
The slasher genre is no stranger to parody. 2023 ended with “Totally Killer,” the “Scary Movie” franchise was built on slasher tropes, “Club Dread” was Broken Lizard’s follow-up to their smash hit “Super Troopers,” etc. The examples are endless. So, while “Camp Pleasant Lake” might have an interesting concept, an understanding of the slasher genre, and a cast that’s more than willing to slop it up with blood, the film barely tickles the funny bone and barely offers up anything remotely new or fresh.
“Camp Pleasant Lake” is about the titled summer camp, the site of an infamous murder from decades before, reopening under new management. The new owners are interested in cashing in on Camp Pleasant Lake’s horrific history by serving as an immersive horror attraction. Attendees are brought in on school bus, ready to see some fake blood and guts. What the owners aren’t expecting is an actual killer to show-up, who starts butchering camp workers and attendees. What follows is all promise and no payoff.
The biggest issue with “Camp Pleasant Lake” upfront is the cast. There are way too many characters and none of them are the lead. We don’t get any alone time with any and most of the time when they do talk, it’s awkward, forced, wooden and unfulfilling. The only time where “Camp Pleasant Lake” feels like a film with living breathing characters is in a flashback to the infamous incident that made Camp Pleasant Lake so…well…infamous. Even then, that flashback basically tells you who the killer is, quite easily. The only way you wouldn’t notice is if you were asleep.
Like I stated earlier, the movie just isn’t funny. The jokes are one note. If characters thinking an actual murder is fake because it’s a fake camp causes you to have giggle fits, I’d recommend this movie. For everyone else, you’re going to be wondering how many times characters can see this happen and still think it’s all staged. In fact, at one point, the killer goes to a group of remaining attendees and workers, at least 20 or more, and begins stabbing indiscriminately. At no point does a victim let out a “oh no, this is real” or anything to alert everyone living that the killer is a real killer. Nope, this just happens over and over again until the credits arrive.
All-in-all, “Camp Pleasant Lake” is empty on laughs, empty on suspense, and sometimes empty on gore despite the killer slashing his way through 30 people throughout its runtime. It’s really unfortunate because the idea behind the film is fantastic, the look of the killer is great for being low budget, and the killer’s origin story could easily be built into a franchise, but it never blossoms. Since you’ll have an unpleasant experience with “Camp Pleasant Lake,” I’d recommend a film like “Hell House LLC” or “Ruin Me,” because they do a much better job with the premise of a fake horror experience going awry.