Streaming Releases: Wet Hot Canadian Dumber: Camp Death III in 2D! (2018)

In the immortal words of Spinal Tap's frontman David St. Hubbins, "It's such a fine line between stupid and clever." The very best spoofs are aware of that line, but always seem willing to push it just far enough for that big payoff. Films like Airplane!, Blazing Saddles, and, well, This is Spinal Tap, smartly mine the ultra-seriousness of their chosen tropes to get those laughs. Slapstick is about timing, about setups and payoffs, and the construct of the joke is just as important as its punchlines, if not more so. As spoofs turned to the ______ Movie formula of the late '90s and early 2000s, concepts like timing and nuance were set aside in favor of rapid fire pop culture references and over the top off-color jokes. The idea of the singularly focused spoof became lost. An interesting discussion could be had regarding which of these the new film Camp Death III in 2D!, now streaming for free to Amazon Prime members, is trying to be. But to consider for a second that the slightest bit of consideration was made by the filmmakers to actively be one thing or the other, or really anything at all, would be to give it entirely too much credit.

The title alone seems like an obvious swipe at Friday the 13th Part III in 3D, which is to say it targets the most over the top tropes of trashy '80s slasher flicks. It certainly starts from the same place; kids at camp get picked off one by one in increasingly cruel and creative ways by a crazed murderer. But that's as structured as things get in Camp Death. The campers at Camp Crystal Meph (these are the jokes, people) are themselves mentally unstable, and just this side of offensive. The thing is that they actually might be if there was any evidence that they were trying to be. Pure, unfiltered stupidity is the order of the day at Camp Death, and boy, does this movie know it. The only self-awareness this film has is its awareness of how downright moronic the movie is, which it spends the entirety of its mercifully short 80 minutes leaning as far into as possible. In a twisted way you kind of have to admire how brazen it is in its refusal to give the slightest iota of a crap. But had it tried, it might have been on to something.

Who will survive, and what will be left of them?

There are a few scattered moments where Camp Death accidentally manages to be pretty funny. Many of these come from the character of Uncle Mel, played without the slightest bit of nuance by Darren Andrichuk. Mel's "dialogue" such as it is consists of an endless stream of the most insanely disgusting off-color insults ever captured on film. Writer-director Matt Frame showcases a mastery of the most foul bits of the English language that would make the kids of South Park blush, and Andrichuk is the skilled maestro of this symphony of vulgarity. It is truly a sight to behold, and the rarest of instances where all of the over-the-top insanity manages to work in the film's favor.

The truly unusual thing about Camp Death is that where you might expect a film like this to be trying really hard to be offensive and gross, you can tell that it isn't. If Camp Death is trying to be anything at all, it's trying to be as stupid as it possibly can. It doesn't even seem to care what comes of it, or even if the audience thinks it's funny, piling on more and more stupidity to the point where it becomes numbing. Where a heavy and dark film might motivate someone to cleanse their palate by watching something light and dumb, it wouldn't be difficult to imagine someone flipping over to something like Manchester By The Sea to wash the taste of Camp Death out of their mouths. Camp Death is aggressively stupid to the point of desensitizing the viewer to its stupidity, which basically strips away anything that could have been entertaining or fun about the experience. Though occasionally the film stumbles into so-ridiculous-it's-funny territory, the vast majority of Camp Death III in 2D! is simply too much of a dumb thing.

--Mike Stec