Deadly Camp (1999) Movie Review

Along with the likes of “Bloody Beach” and “The Record”, “The Deadly Camp” is another Eastern take on that most venerable of cinematic forms, the U.S. slasher film, and is further proof that the recent flood of remakes and rip-offs is by no means a one way traffic. Clearly inspired by the likes of “Friday the 13th” and “The Burning”, and borrowing its central motif of a family of homicidal degenerates from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, “Deadly Camp” is an unambitious but enjoyable film which is aware enough of its source material and target audience not to stray from the accepted formula.

Fortunately, in this case, familiarity does not breed contempt, and the film is a welcome throwback to the old halcyon days of the genre, free from the tiresome ironic self-awareness that has plagued it in recent years ever since the success of the “Scream” franchise. Although lacking even a single scene of real creativity or originality, “The Deadly Camp” does give the usual mixture of half-written characters and brutal killings a welcome, if superficial Asian twist which sets it apart from many of its peers. In addition to this, despite boasting only average quotients of gore, the film has a truly perverse streak which makes for some very unpleasant scenes, made all the more disquieting by the fact that they are often presented in the time honoured Hong Kong tradition of tasteless slapstick.

The plot is generic, to say the least: a group of six youngsters travel to an island for a few days of wild partying. Of course, a bloody pre-credit sequence has already established that the island is far from deserted, and is instead inhabited by a bandaged maniac who wields a chainsaw and lives in a dilapidated shack along with his equally grotesque, mentally retarded teenage son. To bump up the number of potential victims, a group of condom sellers/smugglers (led by the inimitable Anthony Wong, from “Infernal Affairs” and “The Untold Story”) are searching for their unfortunate friend, who was chopped up in the film’s opening scene. With all the players in place, the expected mayhem begins, as the madman stalks and kills the campers, pausing just long enough to abduct the ladies as sexual playthings for his son.

As should be obvious from this synopsis, all of the genre’s narrative cliché are present, with no deviation from the norm whatsoever. To writer/director Bowie Lau’s credit, he manages to keep things slick, simple, and to the point. Lau eschews any technical trickery or pretensions of style, and paying only lip service to the beautiful surroundings, quickly gets down to business and never allows the pace to slow. He manages to maintain this right through to the film’s climax, which comes complete with a ridiculous, tacked on twist.

Although there is the usual sprinkling of pointless relationships and vacuous ‘character development’ scenes between the soon-to-die, Lau avoids being sidetracked by explaining the presence or motivation of the killer, allowing the maniac instead to function as a silent, murderous force of nature. This is very successful, and the maniac, referred to by the questionable subtitles as ‘the leprous man’, is a fearsome figure indeed, best described as “Darkman” gone bad, with an amusingly protective, sentimental attitude towards his wretched son.

It is the character of the son who gives the film its most perverse moments, and Lau exploits this to the full, utilising frequent close ups of the son’s disfigured face, presenting the boy as if he was a distant, disturbed cousin of the lovable ‘Sloth’ from “The Goonies”. Many of the son’s scenes have either a deviant sexual tone or involve urination, and give the film a dark edge which is at times more akin to that of a category III classic rather than a generic slasher film.

An important factor in the film’s success is that all of the characters are amusing rather than annoying, which is an improvement over so many films produced during the slasher boom of the 1980s. Although it is doubtful whether viewers will feel any kind of attachment to these disposable teens, the condom salesmen (boasting names like ‘pervert’ and ‘boar’) are a likeable bunch who helps to liven up the proceedings to the film’s considerable benefit. Of course, Anthony Wong is chief amongst these, and his presence adds a touch of class, especially during some revolting scenes where he helps the retarded son attempt intercourse with one of the understandably reluctant female cast members.

Some gore fans may feel a little let down by the fact that a number of the movie’s killings are off screen or presented in silhouettes, though there are enough bloody moments along with the depravity to raise “Deadly Camp” amongst the most grotesque of its Western counterparts. There are also a few effective scenes of bloody chainsaw action, though the special effects are of varying quality, especially during some fairly unconvincing dismemberment scenes.

Still, there should be enough action to please any fans of the genre, and despite not offering anything new or of any real significance, “The Deadly Camp” is a worthwhile, if minor horror film which is certainly worth checking out.

Bowie Lau (director) / Bowie Lau (screenplay)
CAST: Anthony Wong Chau-Sang …. Boar
Benny Lai
Winnie Leung …. Winnie
Tsz Sin Lam
Pui Wan Chak
Ling Ling Chui …. Linda

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