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Camp Pleasant Lake (2024) Review

Camp Pleasant Lake sounds a lot like Camp Crystal Lake, doesn’t it? And that’s what writer/directer Thomas Walton (They Turned Us Into Killers, Room 9) wants you to think of and tune in expecting a Friday the 13th style experience.

Twenty years ago Camp Echo Lake, also known as Camp Pleasant Lake, was the site of a terrible crime. John (James Di Giacomo, Have You Met Miss Jones?, The Electric Man) and Ruby Meadows (Leila Almas Rose, Sanctioning Evil, Free Dead or Alive) were brutally murdered, their young daughter Echo (Lacey Burdine) was kidnapped and nobody seems to be sure what happened to her brother Jasper (William Delesk, Devil’s Knight, The Christmas Dance).

Twenty years later another couple Rick (Michael Paré, Streets of Fire, Planetquake) and Darlene Rutherford (Maritza Brikisak, Amityville Shark House, Brain Hunter: New Breed) are reopening it as a horror camp for adult horror fans willing to pay big money to LARP a slasher scenario based around the tragedy. And we all know this kind of thing never ends well.

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Much of the first half hour is devoted to a recreation of the events leading up to the tragedy. Which means lots of scenes of the parents bickering, the kids being unhappy and a stop at a sinister restaurant that features appearances by several familiar faces including Mike Ferguson (Operation Black Ops, Heart for the Holidays), Bonnie Aarons (The Nun, The Bell Keeper), and Robert LaSardo (Live and Die in East LA, Bloodthirst).

Back in the present the campers are clamouring for blood, and they’re going to get it.

While it isn’t advertised as anything but a retro slasher, Camp Pleasant Lake feels like it’s not meant to be taken entirely seriously. Some of the performances seem intentionally campy and the plot, which sees several of the now grown kids who knew what happened to Echo but didn’t say anything working at the camp, is ridiculous even by slasher standards. And the killer’s identity is so obvious my cats could guess it.

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Unfortunately, the idea’s execution is very uneven. A scene where characters are offering themselves up to the killer thinking it’s part of the show had me laughing. OK, it was more like a chuckle, but it was funny. Unfortunately, much of the film will draw a grin at best, and some attempts at humour revolving around scary looking men offering candy to little girls may hit some viewers the wrong way entirely.

A lot of Camp Pleasant Lake’s problem is the acting. There are few major roles, most of the cast have only a few lines before being dispatched and are played by supporters of the film’s crowdfunding campaign who paid to die on camera. While that makes it easier to raise the money to make films, it also becomes a problem for viewers who have to watch a bunch of obvious non actors. If you’re going to use pay to play, at least use it with discretion. If you like watching that, however, stick around for the post credits scenes.

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The professionals, who also include Devanny Pinn (Frost, The Sunday Night Slaughter), Jonathan Lipnicki (Jerry Maguire, Broil) and Andrew Divoff (Wishmaster, Demons), do a good job in mostly small roles. The filmmakers might have been better off with one or two fewer cameos and putting the money to hiring professionals for some of the general cast.

Camp Pleasant Lake does give us practical effects which range from simple blood spurts to some more involved gore. With the number of deaths packed into the film and frequently coming in groups, the constant stab one, throat slash the next, starts to get tedious. The film really needed a couple of showy deaths to shake things up because as it is, it feels like a lot of setup for very little payoff.

Camp Pleasant Lake never rises to its full potential, but might provide enough amusement if you’re in an undemanding mood and have the right sense of humour.

DeskPop Entertainment will release Camp Pleasant Lake in select cinemas and on VOD February 27th.

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