Back in 1987, self-proclaimed filmmaker Jon McBride gathered a bunch of enthusiastic -- yet talent-free -- pals into the woods to make a few movies. A few weeks back I saw one of these flicks (called Woodchipper Massacre) and I was amazed that something so outrageously amateurish could earn itself a nationwide video distribution -- but then I remembered that back in the late '80s you could have put out your own movie if you had a handycam, some willing friends, a few buckets of homemade gore, and a salacious title like Cannibal Campout.
Plot: A bunch of idiots go into the woods, butt heads with a ridiculous trio of sleazy cannibals, wander around a whole lot, get killed and get eaten. If there's more to Cannibal Campout than that, I'll have to take your word for it. Because there's no way I could sit through even five seconds of it over again. Cheap and chintzy is one thing. Low-end and insipid is another, but what's on display here is simply too stupid to believe.
McBride makes his villains so garishly weird, stupid and gross that it seems he's going for sort of a Texas Chainsaw Massacre tone, but the actors are so rotten, and the gore is so blatantly stupid-looking, that any sense of dread or discomfort is replaced by feelings of exasperated incredulity. (As in "How much dumber could this thing actually get!?!?") And since the flick has no scares and no (intentional) laughs, that leaves only the gore as a draw -- and, as mentioned before, the splat-stuff looks a whole lot like ramen noodles covered with pancake syrup.
To criticize the acting, the writing, the "production design," or any other component that's normally evaluated when discussing film would be a moot point; everyone involved with Cannibal Campout knows it's a complete piece of mindless cheese. Some people find this sort of cinematic masturbation kitschy or amusing. I find it grating, obnoxious and pretty freaking tiresome.
Audio/Video: It's a really tacky fullscreen transfer that blurs on the bottom like someone forgot to set the tracking on the VCR. Audio is delivered in DD 2.0; no subtitles.
Extras: Director Jon McBride contributes an audio commentary via phone, and while he's well aware his movie's a piece of crap, he still manages to applaud his own efforts a whole lot more than he ought to. The commentary might prove fascinating to any of McBride's friends and family members. Beyond that, not so much.
The most entertaining part of the DVD comes in the form of a 30-minute making of documentary that offers a bunch of interviews (old school and retrospective) with some of the filmmakers. Also included are a few deleted scenes, "raw gore footage," a music video, a stills gallery and some trailers.
I'm sure there's a small-yet-passionate audience for movies this cheaply-made and outspokenly amateurish; kinda wish I was a part of that audience, because these things are an absolute chore to sit through.
Ed Note: The Director Responds:
First let me say that I have never responded to a review like this, even though there have been many reviews posted about my movies, but this time I just couldn't help myself.
I don't mind at all that Scott didn't like my movies and, believe me, I have received my share of negative reviews on projects I've worked on. His assessment of the final product is totally justified depending on personal taste. While many people have really enjoyed my movies, lots of people don't and that's fine. It would be a pretty boring place if we all liked the same movies anyway. Personally, I don't happen to like 90% of the movies I see at my local theater but that's another topic entirely.
What I do mind about Scott's reviews is that he totally dismissed the most important aspect of my movies, which is, good or bad, they are fluke video phenomenons unlike any other and it is a miracle that they are even available. They have also become inspirations for Independent movie makers everywhere and have been distributed World Wide.
I still find that fact incredibly hard to believe given their amateurish no-budget nature but that's the truth of the matter.
Usually whenever my movies are met with criticism I pose the following question. "How many movies can you name which were made for $400, for a goof, in someone's back yard, with a VHS camcorder, with one person doing just about every single production job, sometimes including running the camera and jumping into the shot to act (or at least attempt to act) that were ultimately released World Wide?"
Well, I can actually name two. CANNIBAL CAMPOUT and WOODCHIPPER MASSACRE.
Ever since my movies were inexplicably released back in 1988 I have been bombarded by correspondence from aspiring movie makers who have all said it was seeing my no-budget SOV projects in their local video stores that sparked the motivation to get them started and I've always been fiercely proud of that. Just knowing that my movies motivated or paved the way for anyone is highly satisfying, especially in a society that loves to discourage people from doing what they truly dream of doing. In the cast interview section of the DVD extras, Tom Casiello himself pointed out how being a part of WOODCHIPPER really influenced him to pursue a career in the entertainment industry and now he's an Emmy winning writer. How cool is that? You know how great that makes me feel? Maybe hearing that one fact alone might inspire some kid in the middle of nowhere to pursue a career that had always seemed unattainable. Unfortunately Scott didn't mention that in his review though.
In the cast interview of the CANNIBAL DVD extras Chris Granger tells the amazing story of being recognized on the street in London and asked for an autograph. In LONDON! On the STREET! I'd say that is pretty remarkable for a home made movie shot by amateur kids in their back yard in Connecticut. I think a lot of people would too and be fascinated by the history of these movies, which truly is astonishing. Again, that snippet of information wasn't mentioned in Scott's review either.
Honestly, I have no beef with Scott regarding whether he liked or didn't like the movies. That's irrelevant and subjective since there are also lots of positive reviews for these movies all over the Internet. I just didn't like him glossing over the significance of these movies, because love 'em or hate 'em, they do have important SOV significance and a simple search on Google will confirm that.
It's not that he put my movies in the "skip it" category that bothers me because I know they aren't going to be everyone's cup of tea anyway. SOV features usually aren't and the audience for them is fairly small. However I don't think that my movies should be "skipped" by anyone with even a passing interest in video oddities or, more importantly, those people who have any ambition at all to make their own movie because fledgling filmmakers who are beaten down at every step and constantly told they can't do something need to see that it really can be done and it's up to them to do it. They need motivation and hope and to know that it's not impossible. Indeed, the final product might not be perfect or even all that good, but it can be done and maybe, just maybe, even get Worldwide Distribution thus inspiring others too.
At the very least I would have liked to seen a "Skip it, unless you have any ambitions at all to make a no budget movie yourself because if you are this one will definitely show you that it's totally possible."
Producer/Director CANNIBAL CAMPOUT/WOODCHIPPER MASSACRE