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STUDIO: New Line
RUNNING TIME: 93 min.
“It’s urban legends meets Urban Legends!”
Ron Livingston (Dill Scallion, Body Shots), Christopher Masterson (Scary Movie 2, Dragonheart: A New Beginning), Christine Taylor (The Brady Bunch Movie, Night of the Demons 2), Glenn Quinn (Dr. Giggles, Angel), Jacinda Barrett (Urban Legends: Final Cut, The Human Stain), etc.
A quartet of twentysomethings accidentally runs their car off a desolate country road one night, and while waiting for help to arrive they occupy themselves by telling an anthology of vaguely mundane spooky stories. In the first, a couple is spending their honeymoon traveling cross-country in a Winnebago, but when they take a brief detour for some sweaty sex they encounter a savage monster prowling the forest. After that a young girl discovers that her new chat friend on the internet isn’t quite who she thought. And finally, a wanderer pays a visit to an old remote house and falls for the gorgeous mute girl living there, but a menacing figure isn’t happy with their horizontal union.
"Yeah, yeah, I get it. Cover sheets on my TPS reports. Really funny. I’ve made other movies, ya know! I was in Two Ninas!"
Welp, it’s in widescreen (a very dark transfer, too) and shockingly, there’s a DTS track. Not really the sort of movie that needs it (only a few eerie sounds and music stings take advantage of it), but since there’s no bonus features to speak of outside of some trailers for older movies (Freddy vs. Jason, etc.), that’s the best you get. Also don’t be fooled by the names listed as “stars” on that cover, including James Marsden and Amy Smart, who literally appear for less than five minutes in the opening black-and-white prologue “The Hook” (you can guess the ending to that one).
Memory is a funny thing… for example, I recall catching Campfire Tales on cable several years ago and being quite entertained. Upon revisiting the flick, it’s actually pretty snore-inducing. I really like Livingston as an actor, but in the first story he just seems terminally bored (even when the bus driver from Speed shows up all panic-stricken), although I admit the clichéd ending actually turns out to be a different cliché than expected. With the second story, besides the quaint computer chat interface the young girl uses, the scariest thing about the notion of tasty tweens being preyed upon by internet sociopaths and pedophiles is how many times it’s actually happened in reality (and by people other than myself) since this movie was made in 1997.
"Ah. You probably didn’t recognize me without my special eyewear. And color. And talent."
The best of the anthology (and certainly of most interest to Whedon fanatics) is the third segment, which features Angel’s Irish demon, the late Glenn Quinn, doing a shaky American accent and trying to figure out what the hell’s going on with the silent girl in the creepy house. I’m actually still trying to piece it together myself, but at least it’s visually compelling and has a neat ending that finds at least one person about a foot shorter.
The biggest disappointment is that Campfire Tales is content to remain in the realm of standard hokum, and even with four separate opportunities nothing in the flick is especially scary or graphic or clever. Oh, and the intertwining wraparound story ultimately has a decent twist, although it’ll seem fairly familiar to anyone who’s seen Jacob’s Ladder.
4.0 out of 10