Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #49
Also known as Camping del terrore
Number of Views: Three
Release Date: May 14, 1987
Sub-Genre: Eighties Slasher
Country of Origin: Italy/United States
Running Time: 90 minutes
Director: Ruggero Deodato
Producer: Alessandro Fracassi
Screenplay: Alex Capone, David Parker Jr, Sheila Goldberg, Luca D’Alisera
Cinematography: Emilio Loffredo
Score: Claudio Simonetti
Editing: Eugenio Alabiso
Special Effects: Roberto Pace
Distributor: DMEG, Forum, Hollywood DVD Ltd,
Magna Pacific, Palace Home Video
Stars: Bruce Penhall, Mimsy Farmer, David Hess, Charles Napier, Luisa Maneri, Nicola Farron, Andrew J. Lederer, Stefano Madia, John Steiner, Nancy Brilli, Cynthia Thompson, Valentina Forte, Ivan Rassimov, Elana Pompei, Sven Kruger
Suggested Audio Candy:
Claudio Simonetti Body Count
Having recently revisited Michele Soavi’s delectable spaghetti splatterfest Stagefright, I was bang in the mood for another slice of schlock from similar coordinates and, with fond memories prevailing and rose-tinted spectacles firmly in place, there seemed no better candidate than Ruggero Deodato’s 1986 body count flick, cunningly titled Body Count. Arriving late in the cycle of Friday The 13th inspired slashers, this one made precious little impact and, despite a brief theatrical release in the United States, failed to secure itself VHS distribution, a crying shame considering this was its target market. Consequently, it has long since been consigned to obscurity. Thankfully, like a rescue home for wounded animals, I just can’t resist lending it an outstretched hand. You see, trash like this just so happens to fuel my pistons. Having said that, if you’re expecting me to herald this as a misunderstood classic, then you will have a long wait.
After a number of less than significant ventures, Deodato placed himself squarely on our radars in 1980 with the notorious Cannibal Holocaust earning him his fair share of controversy and plaudits. However, he struggled to build on this forward momentum, with little to show for the next few years other than sleazy exploitation number House on the Edge of the Park and brutal actioner Cut and Run. By the time 1986 came around, he was happy to simply mimic whatever was fashionable Stateside and Body Count had precious little in the way of innovation or an identity of its own. This affable muddle of a movie wasn’t concerned with how utterly preposterous it was and any flaws were proudly on display. However, with Deodato at the helm, it didn’t matter how punch drunk it appeared as there was always a chance of it delivering that winning hook.
The plot is as wafer-thin and cliché-ridden as they come. An RV full of youngsters (horny studs, dumb nymphos, and overweight prankster) touring Colorado decide to pick up a hitchhiking serviceman named Ben (Nicola Farron) and he kindly offers for them free board at his parents’ campsite as they appear to have no destination whatsoever. While his mother Julia (Mimsy Farmer) is happy to accommodate, his father Robert (David Hess) is far less enthused by the intrusion. You see, fifteen years ago a murderous Indian shaman ran amok and ventilated a pair of horny teenagers on his plot and Robert spends his spare time laying traps as he is convinced he is still prowling around the woods. To further fuel his paranoia, his wife has a history of ignoring her nuptials and is engaged in a long-running affair with local lawman Charlie (Charles Napier).
Anyhoots, all of this is immaterial as there are a number of randy teens just dying to be decimated and Deodato doesn’t procrastinate long in whittling the numbers down. This is where he plays his ace as there is a solitary location which plays host to many of the atrocities that positively drips with foreboding. There is something about the dilapidated bathhouse in Body Count that still chills my blood to this very day. Perhaps it is the flimsy piece of ply wood that conceals the dead bodies as they start to pile up but there is something vaguely disconcerting about this shabby old shack. I’m not alone in my infatuation either as, one by one, the teens find themselves drawn to it like moths to a flame and are soon made to regret their curiosity.
The atmosphere is heightened by an effectively haunting Claudio Simonetti score but sadly fades in and out seemingly at will and is compromised by some particularly shoddy editing. Speaking of glaring flaws, there are almost too many to mention here. How about this for starters? One ill-fated rock climber is sent plummeting to the ground from a cliff face and his long blonde locks suddenly become short and dark during his descent. His girlfriend, who witnesses his untimely demise, is understandably mortified and flees the scene screaming. However, after wandering to the nearby bathhouse, she then decides to calmly strip off her clothes.
Indeed, the murderous shaman must be rubbing his hands together with devilish glee as, after learning of Scott’s unfortunate “accident” and with his girlfriend still missing, they waste no time in getting back to aerobics and throwing a frisbee around. As their numbers further dwindle, the fickle teens barely bat an eyelid and instead head back to the bathhouse on their lonesome without a care in the world like lambs to the slaughter. Much as I’d love to credit our killer with a degree of cunning, his job is made decidedly easy by the fact that his victims appear positively begging for punishment.
Hess and Farmer always offer good value and are perfectly adequate in their roles, while Napier is ideally cast as the stubborn sheriff who seems more interested in finding a home for his other baton than doing any actual police work. For the most part, he chases his tail as he wanders aimlessly through the woodland with no real sense of purpose. However, it’s never less than a pleasure just seeing that well-sculptured face and he does eventually get to test out his boom stick. There’s also a whodunnit aspect although, at one point, pretty much everyone becomes capable of cold-blooded murder so any mystery is pretty much inconsequential.
By now, I guess it may sound like Body Count is an outright stinker and bereft of merit but, I assure you, I hold a special place in my heart for this particular slice of Camembert. It may not be high art or anything near approaching it and neither will it be equipped to end world poverty. However, it never once threatens to outstay its welcome and, as far as by-the-numbers slashers go, there are far worse ways to spend 90 minutes than Deodato’s cheap and cheerful Friday knock-off.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: This film is, as you may have grasped at this juncture, named Body Count so I guess it’s only right to perform a tally up. By my estimations, twelve unfortunates fall foul of the shaman’s fury, some in more mean-spirited manners than others. The real gristle is behind that mirror however. Meanwhile, a little shameless full-frontal nudity never goes amiss, particularly when sponsored by good old-fashioned eighties bush and there’s a little of that to keep our pulses racing.
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Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2013 (Revised Edition 2015)