Campfire Tales is one of the latest offerings from the cult horror specialist label Crypt Keeper. It's an interesting oddity from 1991 and shot on an obviously miniscule budget and attains a level of cult value due to the presence of Gunnar Hansen (Leatherface in the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre).

The film begins with three teens camping out in the woods late one night when they encounter a foreboding character, played by Hansen, who asks if he can warm himself by their fire. They reluctantly agree and their unexpected visitor then regales them with four tales of horror, which he claims are true. The first story tells of a maniac with a multi-bladed hook for a hand who is set on slicing and dicing young teenage victims. A courting couple out late at night are unfortunate enough to run into this psychopath and bloody violence ensues. The second tale revolves around two teens who are looking for cheap thrills with drugs and stumble upon a dealer who sells them some grass. This grass, however, is not all that it seems - and soon the pair find themselves hopelessly addicted and the resultant effects of this drug leaves them in something of a sticky mess. The third tale is about a covetous son who desires to get his hands on his inheritance. With murder on his mind, he visits his mother on Christmas Eve and kills her. Unfortunately for him, this invokes the wrath of Satan Claus (yes, you read that right) and he gets more than he bargained for. The fourth and final story tells of how a pirate finds himself shipwrecked upon an island. As it turns out, he had sparked a mutiny and taken control of the vessel before hitting a storm, which resulted in the shipwreck. Stumbling around the island, he encounters another man living there, who informs him that all is not what it seems. The pirate kills this fellow, who curses him as he dies. The pirate tries to leave the island on a raft, but is prevented from doing so by the zombie resurrection of his dead shipmates and finds that he may well be in for a long stay.

Although shot on an obviously virtually non-existent budget, the cast and crew work extremely hard, giving it everything they've got, to create something both entertaining and attention-grabbing. For the most part, the film works very well, but the budgetary limitations are an obvious hindrance. However, once you get over the fact that this is not going to be Hollywood gloss, then it becomes quite a fun ride. The fact that the film is broken into segments ensures that boredom is never an issue. This was a wise move on the part of the filmmakers and the episodic approach works in its favour.

There is also a lot of blood, guts and grue on display, which will certainly keep the gorehounds happy - but a surprising lack of any nudity, which is usually par for the course for this type of genre product. Not that the lack of any naked flesh is a complaint on my part, just surprising, that's all. This UK release is uncut too, so all the bloodletting is fully intact, you'll be pleased to know. It's not a film that is going to appeal to everybody, but I think that many genre fans will appreciate the work that has gone into this film - a film, I should add, that has obviously been made by people who love and understand the conventions of the horror genre.

Crypt Keeper present the film full-frame, which looks to about right. The quality of the presentation leaves a bit to be desired, but I imagine this is down to source materials more than any fault on the part of Crypt Keeper. It's a low-budget genre film, and the quality of the presentation reflects this. Having said that, it's more than watchable and I've seen a lot worse. What I'm trying to say is that it's not a bad transfer, but rather looks as if it was somewhat cheaply shot to begin with. It's worth noting, though, that as the film progresses the quality improves. The audio presentation is also a basic affair, being a simple DD 2.0 audio track, but it's efficient enough. Dialogue is crisp and clear and the music and sound effects are nicely balanced in the soundmix.

For those of you who enjoy gore-soaked, low-budget horror movies, then this is a definite must-see. However, if you're looking for something glossy and professional with high production values, then look elsewhere. I enjoyed it for it what it was, and I think the filmmakers are to be commended for working effectively within their limitations and don't attempt to be over-ambitious. I can think of far worse ways to spend 86 minutes of my time.

Review by CJ Otter

Released by Crypt Keeper
Classified 18 - Region All (PAL)
Extras :
see main review