I am obsessed with this site. As a child, I was a bona fide televisual masochist, and remain so to this day. I could submit any number of things, from the fear that lingered after one look at the cover of the Dolls VHS to my fervent childhood belief that Chuckie lived under my bed with Talking Tina from The Twilight Zone. But instead, I’ll focus on one viewing experience that left haunted me through my childhood until well into my twenties: viewing a Lifetime movie starring Valerie Bertinelli titled Murder of Innocence.
You’re probably thinking, “Lifetime?!” But this is one fucked up tale. Valerie Bertinelli is a perky young waitress who catches the eye of a handsome young man. They marry before he realizes that she is batshit crazy. Sure, he knew she was a little nervous and indecisive, but when he returns home one day to find the refrigerator full of make-up and the walls covered in lipstick drawings, he realizes some serious shit is about to go down. They get divorced and she goes completely off the wall––making hang-up phone calls to her ex-sister-in-law, crushing dead flowers with gloved hands and stealing cuts of raw meat from the grocery store.
The thing that freaked me out the most––I was already a very astute student of psychology as a child––was that her symptoms made no sense. She obsessively washed her hands, but then hoarded and fondled raw meat; she loves kids but feeds them drugged rice krispie treats. Of course, it all ends terribly: she buys a gun and shoots a couple of kids in a classroom, retreats to a nearby house and then kills herself. It haunted me for years, until eventually I found it on Hulu (Below). And then it haunted me all over again. YOU’RE WELCOME.
Contrary to the experiences of Judy Moody, I’ve never known a summer that wasn’t a bummer. I don’t care how many popsicles I get. They’re hardly tasty enough to warrant the mosquitos that deliver them. I only enjoy summer when it’s trapped inside my T.V. and powerless to force me to wear shorts. Take for example the satisfying onscreen summer presented in the flirting with forgotten flick, HAPPY CAMPERS (2001), a well cast ensemble piece about a bunch of young folks who spend the hotter months as well-meaning yet generally unqualified camp counselors. If I told you how many times I watched this movie you’d rightly feel pity for me and sadder still, I’m starting to like it even more now that it’s old enough to sport a crisp bouquet of early 21st century nostalgia.
HAPPY CAMPERS was written and directed by DANIEL WATERS, who penned the cult classic HEATHERS and if you’re a fan of that one you should give this a try too. I have no idea why it wasn’t considered worthy of a theatrical release back in 2001 but those were strange times and there could be any number of reasons. WATERS smushes together a sweet s’more out of bawdy MEATBALLS behavior and schmaltzy JOHN HUGHES navel gazing (Someone even blurts out, “Don’t get BREAKFAST CLUB on me bitch!”), and while not every crude water balloon hits its mark, it has some smart performances, an authentic summer camp atmosphere and ends up being a surprisingly poignant reverie on doomed love…and it’s funny. Maybe you should just approach it as a FRIDAY THE 13th flick in which nobody dies. That doesn’t sound very appealing so let me get to work trying to squeeze some more horror out of this worthwhile non-horror movie.
DOMINIQUE SWAIN “Wendy”. Aw. A big huge chunk of my love for this movie can be contributed to SWAIN. She is adorably hilarious in this and just when you think her over-enthused “Howdy pouty! Isn’t fun great?” spouting goody two-shoes Wendy is a one-note caricature; SWAIN jazzily doodles over her previous portrait. This performance lead poor unsuspecting me in the early aughts to follow SWAIN like a drunk puppy through many a direct-to-video cinematic fiasco and even though most of those flicks have blurred together in my mind (and probably SWAIN’s too) I’m here to say, I’m all the better for it. Sadly and surprisingly DOMINIQUE has had little luck in the horror genre (both DEVOUR (2005) and DEAD MARY (2007) are aggravating duds) but I spy on the horizon that she’ll be in SHARKANSAS WOMEN’S PRISON MASSACRE directed by JIM (CHOPPING MALL, HARD TO DIE) WYNORSKI and co-starring TRACI LORDS! How can I not put all my hopeful eggs into that intriguing basket? However that seemingly sure-fire venture turns out DOMINIQUE and I will always have Camp Bleeding Dove.
BRAD RENFRO “Wichita”. Who better to play a reluctantly soulful oblivious heartbreaker than RENFRO who broke countless hearts when he died of a drug overdose at the age of 25 back in 2008? RENFRO was more than just a talented actor, he had a rare genuineness on screen that could make many a more celebrated star reek of artifice in comparison. What a loss. RENFRO’s largest contribution to horror was his role as Todd Bowan in the also under-seen APT PUPIL (1998), which was based on the novella of the same name from STEPHEN KING’s DIFFERENT SEASONS. As I recall RENFRO was really exceptional in that movie but I’m not going to watch it again to verify that on account of I already have enough trouble maintaining faith in humanity without Nazis aggravating the issue. By the way, did you know our pal BRAD starred in a RESIDENT EVIL 2 commercial directed by GEORGE ROMERO? That is so cool!!! Anyway, Wichita will always be my favorite RENFRO role.
EMILY BERGL “Talia”. As much I adore the aforementioned above, something tells me this movie would collapse like a pop tent without the cynical grounding spine of BERGL’s Talia. Talia’s has come to camp to connect with unrequited love, best bud Wichita only to find herself unduly subjugated to the friend zone. Her acidic self-deprecation provides much needed shady refuge to the summery goings on. Horror fans would best know EMILY from her turn as a telekinetic half-sibling to Carrie White in THE RAGE: CARRIE 2. I gotta say, whatever innumerable problems that batty sequel had BERGL wasn’t one of them. In fact, I think she was smartly cast as she rather comes across as a tart shandy made from half parts SPACEK & half parts IRVING. Like those two, she’s distinctive yet earthy and she too might have found a comfortable corner in movies back in the seventies when folks resembled humans. To be clear, I’m not one for flying deadly CD’s or inexplicable germinating CGI vine tattoos but at least THE RAGE: CARRIE 2 wasn’t the creative graveyard the recent remake was. BERGYL also appeared in the psychological thriller CHASING SLEEP (2000) and was nominated for a Saturn Award for her performance in TAKEN, that excellent miniseries about alien abduction.
JAIME KING “Pixel”. Hey, HAPPY CAMPERS is KING’s film debut! Back then she went by JAMES but her real name is JAIME because she’s named after THE BIONIC WOMAN– that is true and the cutest thing I ever heard. Who knew ex-models could be so likable? JAIME plays ethereal pansexual hippy chick Pixel who has a penchant for skinny-dipping. Having more than three (the magic number) horror roles under her belt, I’d say KING is has earned official scream queen status. Beyond her troika of loose horror remakes (MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3-D, MOTHER’S DAY, SILENT NIGHT) she was also in THE TRIPPER and did a bang up job as a concerned mom to a kid plagued by Chinese sweat shop ghosts with a grudge in the underloved Canadian shocker THEY WAIT. As if that weren’t enough she got all goth-ed out as a distressed dead lady in a coffin for a music video directed by her husband…
JUSTIN LONG “Donald”. Fresh off of his screen debut playing a nerd in GALAXY QUEST, LONG was again cast as a nerd in HAPPY CAMPERS. Don’t cry for JUSTIN though, he won’t be typecast forever, when it comes time to cast voices for ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS he miraculously gets the part of Alvin rather than Simon! LONG also has some pretty impressive horror cred. Around the same time he did the forgotten CAMPERS he starred in JEEPERS CREEPERS, which was a huge hit and has been forgotten by few. You’ll also find him playing a bewildered boyfriend in SAM RAIMI’s DRAG ME TO HELL and CHRISTINA RICCI’s suffering fiancé in the uber morbid AFTER.LIFE. I’m granting LONG extra horror gold stars for reading the audiobook of STEPHEN KING’s EVERYTHING’s EVENTUAL.
KERAM MALICKI- SANCHEZ “Jasper”. Wow, this movie has a gay character and it isn’t presented as any big whoop! I love when that happens. Not everybody is completely comfortable with Jasper’s orientation but somehow his own self-acceptance seems to nullify that issue better than any soapbox. Let’s check out SANCHEZ’s super impressive horror hit list! Like any worthwhile Canadian actor he has appeared on FRIDAY THE 13th: THE SERIES, he also did a BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and later, TRUE BLOOD. You may recall him as far back as CHERRY FALLS or a recently as TEXAS CHAINSAW 3-D where if I’m not mistaken, he got shoved on a hook and sawed in half! KERAM also directed this horror short…
JORDAN BRIDGES “Adam”. I gotta say, BRIDGES is very convincing as a lunkhead and trust me, I know lunkheads. I’m practically a lunkhead magnet. JORDAN shamefully has not fulfilled his horror film quota in any way shape or form. I’d be forced to throw him out the airlock but his life shall be spared due to the fact that his uncle JEFF has worked with JOHN CARPENTER (STARMAN) and also buried America’s sweetheart SANDRA BULLUCK alive in the remake of THE VANISHING and that has to count for something.
PETER STORMARE “Oberone”. Swedish actor STORMARE plays the camp’s director who is hit by lightening and left catatonic allowing anarchy to reign. STORMARE has not been in every movie ever made but it’s not for lack of trying. I guarantee you’ve bumped into him somewhere between FARGO and BAD MILO. For our purposes here, allow me to point out that he was a fantastic as Lucifer in CONSTANTINE. Even if you didn’t like that movie you have to admit he sorta ruled in that.
So that’s the horror of HAPPY CAMPERS. If you like eighties movies that are not eighties movies or horror movies that are not horror movies, this could be your jam. Again I’ll warn you that there is no body count but as one character appropriately notes “Who needs a serial psycho when we have ourselves?”
Hello Kindertrauma! I was inspired by Pete G‘s recent Backseat Psycho post to reach out to you with my own hazy, ’70s memory of a movie I saw when I was a kid. Here’s all I remember:
A teenage girl is taunted (and possibly killed?) by three older teenage/college boys. To get back at them her mother (who happens to be a witch) goes to a pit in the woods and curses each one of the men to die by way of a natural element (air, fire,and ?). I only remember one of the deaths–one of the men dies when he jumps out of an airplane and his parachute doesn’t open (death by air?!?).
Does this ring any bells Kindertrauma?
Thanks so much!
— Steve Q.
I say it’s high time we have a “Be Kind to SIESTA (1987) Day” around here. Poor SIESTA never gets enough love. I guess that’s what a movie gets for being so insane. If only it were on DVD I’d feel fine placing it on the shelf right between fellow trippy brain scramblers, JACOB’S LADDER, ANGEL HEART & MULHOLLAND DR. but sadly it is not (at least not in these parts). SIESTA is directed by MARY (PET SEMATARY) LAMBERT and you can tell because it sorta visually resembles a MADONNA music video. In fact , I believe it shares some footage with LA ISLA BONITA. The tone is something else though, it’s got a creepy nightmare vibe enhanced by a haunting and hypnotic MILES DAVIS score. Rumor has it that LAMBERT asked her pal MADONNA to star but she said, “Nope” which is fine because that’s how we get ELLEN BARKIN.
BARKIN stars as Claire who is having one of those mornings. You know the kind where you wake up on the side of the road remembering nothing wearing blood-soaked clothes. The rest of the film she staggers around Spain trying to figure out if she killed somebody while encountering every single person you wouldn’t expect to see hamming it up in a movie together. Are you ready for GABRIEL BRYNE, JULIAN SANDS, ISABELLA ROSSELLINI, GRACE JONES (!), THE YOUNG ONES‘ ALEXEI SAYLE and a near LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE reunion in the form of MARTIN SHEEN & JODIE “My House!” FOSTER? Wait, maybe this movie actually is based on a dream I once had. Some folks make bigger fools of themselves than others but I’ll let you judge for yourself who escapes with the most dignity. Of course critics for the most part attacked this film like a pack of rabid dogs but the bizarreness that makes it so easy to rip to shreds is exactly what makes it such an interesting and unique view. I heart me some SIESTA and am listening the soundtrack as we speak. Make sure you check it out if you’ve yet to…
This has stuck with me for so long that it’s almost impossible to believe it ever existed! A short film I saw as part of a double feature in Scotland at the local cinema (maybe with When a Stranger Calls?) -late ’70s/early ’80s. The parts that stick most is that it is British, short and it’s about a woman who repeatedly “sees” or remembers a murder being committed, no one believes her and she is hospitalized. In the very end of the film it turns out to be a premonition of the murder of her own family by a psycho hiding in the back of the car. The film ends with her seeing a hand with a knife come up from the back seat as she stands horrified… Help me remember what this film was!
I think I’ve read this one as a repeat offender, but I could be wrong. I know this traumatized quite a few of my generation, and it eventually was pulled from Sesame Street. This link probably won’t last long, so view it while you can.
It probably isn’t as scary as you remember it, but if you DO remember it, you probably remember being scared by it as a child. Enjoy the memory.
My sister and I have been searching for info on this for years. In the early ’80s we saw a horror short on HBO (may have been USA?) where a lady had some type of monstrous hand in a jar. One night, I think she was in the shower, and the creature came back for the hand. I believe the short ended with someone else displaying the jar, but it had the woman’s hand in it. Any info you have on this would be so great. Thanks, and keep up the good work!