Camp Cold Brook has all the makings of a good movie. It boasts a solid and believable cast, a gorgeous setting, and the respected name of Joe Dante as an executive producer. Far from living up to this potential, the film is wholly unoriginal and, at times, downright pitiful...
...Camp Cold Brook, the latest film from Andy Palmer, stars Chad Michael Murray (Jack), Danielle Harris (Angela), Candace De Visser (Emma), and Micheal Eric Reed (Kevin) as a team of television paranormal investigators known as The Haunt Squad. The squad is at risk of being canceled and desperate for an episode that will win back ratings. This is the conceit that leads them to a mysterious camp in Oklahoma, following an anonymous tip from one of their “fan” sites. When they arrive at Camp Cold Brook they know little beyond the fact that a grizzly murder occurred there in the 90s. Jack and co. decide to scout the location in search of something supernatural or creepy to use for their upcoming episode. Soon after they arrive and set up their cameras, they realize they are in over their heads. Something evil is haunting the campground, and it is going after the crew.
The failure of the film is surely by no fault of the cast. It features horror legend Danielle Harris and three other strong leads, each of whom is entirely capable and accomplished in their own right. Together they create a convincing portrayal of the Haunt Squad, which looks and feels like many of the paranormal crews that fill up our real-world TV networks. Unfortunately, no amount of talent could redeem the sloppy camera execution or carry a script completely dependent on tired genre trope elements and containing no original content. The biggest problem with Camp Cold Brook is it feels like a movie you’ve seen countless times before.
Does the town sheriff have a concerned hesitation to let the crew visit the camp? Yes. Are there curious people wandering around the town spouting ominous warnings against it? Yes. Is there a seemingly random character introduced about twenty minutes before the film ends in an attempt to tie in the story, but actually grinds the film to a halt? Yes. It is very "paint-by-numbers" and the numbers don’t add up to anything remarkable.
Camp Cold Brook is an overly convoluted ghost story that oscillates between predictable “scary” cliches (think jump scares and strange noises) and failed attempts at humor. The film also tries a little too hard to be an allegory for the flaws of paranormal reality TV shows and, worse, the television and studio system as a whole. It is pointed out so obviously and frequently, especially at the beginning of the film, that it feels forced and borders on insulting.
It must be said that, in addition to the quality of the cast, there is another bright spot in the cinematography. The use of multiple cameras is very welcome and is impressive in its ability to at times make the audience feel like they are watching an episode of a ghost hunting show. The truth is when the horror is on the screen and it’s dealing with the paranormal aspects, it works very well. It is a shame that Camp Cold Brook is bogged down by a poor script and mediocre directing. There is a good film buried somewhere in it, sadly it just doesn’t show up, except in fragments that never quite elevate the piece.
Head to Camp Cold Brook when it releases in select theaters, digital and VOD via Shout! Factory on February 14th, 2020.
By Justin Drabek
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