Pass or Fail Weekend is Evil’s Playground. “Camp Twilight” reviewed! (DarkCoast / Digital Screener)

On the verge of failing and having to repeat a grade, six students are given the opportunity to spend one technology free weekend at Camp Twilight with their homeroom teacher, Ms. Bloom, and principal, Mr. Warner, as chaperones.    Planned with a series of outdoorsy, bonding activities, the weekend will serve to boost their grades to the cutoff line for graduating and, for some, maintaining their spot on the high school sports teams.  A local urban myth has haunted the camp’s reputation based off a grisly scene of murders a few years back, but the revamped park now serves as a community safe zone overseen by three dedicated, and also quirky, park rangers:  Art, Bob, and Chief Tom.  On a weekend where none of the students wanted to attend, forced by the threat of academic failure, an ominous figure revives the camp’s notorious past as one-by-one campers, teachers, and park rangers fall victim to a hooded killer’s impulse for blood.

Summer camps and masked serial killers are as synonymous as the vast ocean is with the dreadful thought of man-eating sharks.  “Friday the 13th, “Camp Blood,” and “Sleepaway Camp” have made a fortune and a franchise off the backs of the hapless summer campers, hacking and slashing away at the pre-martial sex crazed, the love struck wimps, and the overconfident jocks to build a flawless, ultimate killing machine series.  Will director Brandon Amelotte’s debut slasher, a horror-comedy entitled “Camp Twilight,” claim stake in the genre being the next persevering serial killer franchise?  For starters, the USA-made, indie feature releasing later this month has a leg up with “Sleepaway Camp” scream queen Felissa Rose headlining a cast that also includes a few other genre favorites as well as co-written the script with Amelotte.  Shot on the grounds of the palm tree lined Markham Park, “Camp Twilight” trades in mountain bike trails, disc golf, and it’s outdoor weapons range for machetes, lots of machetes, and is a product of Rick Finkelstein and Brandon Amelotte’s Florida based Entertainment Factory productions and, also Amelotte’s, Pelican Films.

As mentioned, genre icon Felissa Rose ditches the awkward teenage camper from the finale traumatizing “Sleepaway Camp” for a hyped-up, goody two shoes high school teacher in Ms. Bloom.  The top billed Rose brings the energetic know-how of her fully present, larger than life, broad range persona who audiences will never know exactly where her character stands until it’s lethally too late!  Rose is joined by more fresh faced, incredibly automaton co-stars in the roles of the six students and principal, played by the executive producer Barry Jay Minoff.  Minoff and Rose are supposed to be a couple concealing an affair, hiding their lustful courtship very poorly around the students, but both roles are completely under written, unexplored, and unfulfilling in the grand scheme of their pivotal plot point.  Little can be said differently about the students with a range of interrelationship intricacies that tried to be fleshed out as psychological terror triggers in lieu of their already conventional teenage sensitivity struggles.  There are other cult genre vets alongside Rose but in minor, more cameo-esque roles.  Linnea Quigley (“Return of the Living Dead”), Camille Keaton (“I Spit On Your Grave”), and Vernon Wells (“Innerspace”) add more or less star power to the fold, supplementing virtually nothing to the narrative but campy slasher fodder for fans to gobble up.  More impressively is Dave Sheridan bringing forth a version of “Scary Movie’s” loveable dimwitted cop, Doofus, with Ranger Bob, adding a great deal of the substantiated comedy toward “Camp Twilight’s” campy ebb and flow.  Cougar MacDowall, Thomas Haley, Hayleigh Hopkins, Harris Sebastian, Dondre Tuck, Brooklyn Haley, and Steven Chase, with “Truth or Dare’s” Jessica Cameron and Sport’s Illustrated model-turned-film producer, Tracy Lear, filling out the troupe lineup.

I wish I could say that “Camp Twilight” is a campsite of entertainment, a paradisal slasher of genius design, offering up a new breed of deranged psychopathy to the likes we’ve never seen.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t make heads or tails out of Brandon Amelotte’s derivative and tired trope-laden slasher rippled with loose and forgotten subplots and characters while at the same time being a heap of longwinded exposition that still way after viewing can’t fully explain the turbulent core of the story.  I hate to knock anything Felissa Rose touches, but I would be doing an injustice and a disservice if I tried to play up a slack script that starts off picturizing a campy horror-comedy but plays out the third act with critical revelations without a hint of funny bone material. The kills follow the trend of a lighthearted horror comedy, albeit the pelting of F-bombs, with “Camp Twilight’s” holdall of off screen deaths, barely scratching the surface with on screen kills rendered only by closeups, and not particularly bloody, intense, or nearly as menacing by a black hooded killer in jeans creeping up on prey in a well-lit campground with lots of room to run. The same company, Entertainment Factory, behind the horror icon drenched disappointment, “Death House,” should have been a clue into “Camp Twilight” critical success, but much like the “Death House,” both films are a totality of mess.

Not a fan of the outdoors? Hate bugs, snakes, and all things that go bump in the night? Does your fear of an unclear, inaccessible toilet seize you up? DarkCoast has you covered with their digital release of “Camp Twilight,” arriving onto digital platforms come November 1st, 2020 – Day of the Dead. The release platforms will include InDemand, DirecTV, FlixFling, Vudu & Fandango. The A/V qualities will not be reviewed due to the digital screener provided for this new film release, but I will say much of the soundtrack sounds stock file-ish (and there is no composer listed which would be a dead giveaway) and the Adam Beck cinematography is too well-lit, benumbing any kind of intense emotions that would correlate with the action. There were no bonus features included with the release nor were there any bonus scenes during or after the credits. “Camp Twilight” plays into it’s own title as a dim denticulated slasher that’s far too breathy and far less spirited and so the question stands, will “Camp Twilight” be the next slasher hit to spawn a lengthy, decade spanning franchise? The answer is no.

Insecurity is a Path to the EVILside! “Killing Spree” review!


Airplane mechanic Tom Russo is a newly married man; it’s his second marriage, in fact. Tom’s first go around in marital union didn’t go over so well as found himself on the other end of being a victim of adultery. Paranoid and skeptical, Tom requires his young and hot new wife, Leeza, to become a house wife as he works long, exhausting hours to support his family in a one income household. As the work hours pile, money becomes tight, and tensions build in the back of Tom’s mind, paranoia steamrolls Tom’s reality when he starts suspecting a lonely Leeza of screwing every delivery, repair, and lawn car man that knocks at their door. Without confronting Leeza with his delusions, Tom’s extreme jealously pushes him to kill and bury the men that he envisions involved in the affairs, but his victims don’t stay dead, they don’t stay buried, and seek the eternal suffering for their killer.

A few, long years have gone by since our last encounter with the practical effects-heavy, indie horror director Tim Ritter. From his disturbing tale of destructive descent in “Truth and Dare?: A Critical Madness to his “Switchblade Insane” segment from the SOV masters of horror in the ghastly-variant anthology “Hi-8 (Horror Independent 8)” that also helms short films from Donald Farmer (“Cannibal Hookers”), Todd Sheets (“Dreaming Purple Neon”), and Brad Sykes (“Camp Blood”), the filmmaker has a legacy of blood-shedding entertainment. Today, exploration into Ritter’s “Killing Spree” unearths his passion for horror that develops out of influences from other horror icons before leaving his bloody footprint in the indie scene. “Killing Spree,” written and directed by Ritter, displays the filmmaker’s deep affection for Fangoria magazine having it displayed, repeatedly used as coffee table literature prop. There’s also admiration for “Night of the Living Dead” in the bonkers film about one man’s mind snapping like a twig under the formidable stress. The main character’s name is Tom Russo and Russo is the last name of NOTLD co-writer John Russo and let’s not also forget about the undead rising from Tom’s backyard is fairly synonymous with zombie classic.

While Tim Ritter flicks may not be graced with star-studded actors and actress, even from the B-movie lot, and more than likely don’t spawn hidden talent, there’s still something to be wholeheartedly said about the cast of his films that can only be described as an eclectic bunch of marvelous misfits that bring underground brilliance to the screen. Asbestos Felt is one of those said characters. No, I don’t mean the toxic asbestos felt roofers use as a underlaying backing when nailing in shingles. “Killing Spree” is one of three films Felt and Tim Ritter have worked on together and the scrawny-build with a strung out Grizzly Adam’s head on his shoulders has a wide-eyed spectacle about him when playing Tom Russo spiraling down the crazy train drain. Tom’s obsession with keeping Leeza from the perverted grips on those naughty repairmen would drive any wife away, but not Leeza, played by Courtney Lercara. The “Slaughterhouse” actress is an aesthetic flower growing in the middle of all the mayhem and she protrudes an innocence well received by her character. Other cast members include Bruce Paquette with the white boy dance moves, indie horror vet John D. Wynkoop (“Brainjacked”), Kieran Turner, Alan Brown, Rachel Rutz, Cloe Pavel, and Raymond Carbone as a dirty old pilot with a wise guy brogue.

Remember when I said these types of horror films don’t typically expose acting artistry? Well, behind the camera, one or two crew members start their illustrious careers in the indie trenches. Such can be said for special effects master Joel Harlow who makes his introductory launch with “Killing Spree” and then find work on a couple sequels for “Toxic Avenger,” “Basket Case 2,” and all the way up to the Neil Marshall “Hellboy” and “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.” Yeah, I think Harlow made out OK. Harlow’s effects on “Killing Spree” will “blow your mind,” as stated on the back of the Blu-ray cover. Well, when Leeza’s head turns into giant lips then goes oral on Raymond Carbone’s head until his crown ejaculates, then, yes, these effects will blow your mind…literally! The medley macabre showcase Harlow’s craft from A to Z that includes a torched corpse, a disembowelment, severed undead head, and a nosy neighbor without a nose or without half a face for that matter.

Sub Rosa Studios re-releases “Killing Spree” onto the dual format, DVD/Blu-ray combo set with MVDVisuals providing distribution of the limited 666 copies. Essentially, this is the same release that was made available a couple years back presented in a standard television format of 1.33:1. The Betacamp SP 16mm video has held back the test of time since 1987, but with any video film on a budget, the rather cheap recording method does come with inadequacies, even if being remastered. For the entire runtime and not just in the tinted moments of carnage, the skin tones are akin to Donald Trump’s uncanny neon orange flesh and perhaps could have gone under an extensive color correction. Aside a few very minor tracking issues and faded coloring, the video transfer passes substantially well despite the continuous flare of orange. The English stereo 2.0 mix isn’t hearty or robust. Whenever Tom goes into maniacal mode, his crazy quips are quite soft even when he elevates his voice, and that goes the same with depth and range which are non-existent over the course of a flat audio tracks. Though soft at times, dialogue strongly comes through in the forefront with some fuzzy nuances. Bonus features are killer on this release with the Blu-ray sporting the majority with a never before seen extended director’s cut, a new commentary track from director Tim Ritter, a 90 minute documentary entitled “Blinded by the Blood,” a radio show commentary by H.G. Lewis and Tim Ritter, music tracks, photo slide show, three alternative scenes, blooper reel, and a Joel D. Wynkoop segment. The DVD also includes the director’s cut version of the film, the new commentary by Tim Ritter, and commentary for the original cut by Tim Ritter. “Killing Spree” is as grisly as the SRS cinema Blu-ray/DVD cover implies and then some with all the characteristics of a deranged and unhinged man exerting himself beyond the limits of sanity and mortality to unambiguously protect what is his; a dramatize example rendered as a metaphor for those who will do anything to protect what’s theirs.

Limited Edition. Get it now!