Studio: Shout Studios
Director: Andy Palmer
Writer: Alex Carl
Producer: Warner Davis, Mark Alan
Stars: Chad Michael Murray, Danielle Harris, Mikey Reid, Candice De Visser, Courtney Gains
Desperate to save his failing TV show, a paranormal investigator takes on a haunting case with shocking ties to his team.
Had it been produced at least ten years earlier, ¡°Camp Cold Brook¡± probably would have been ¡°found footage.¡± It still has the setup of a typical ¡°haunted location investigation¡± that makes up 95% of films formatted in first-person though.
But prime time for reality-based frights has passed. Ghost hunter Jack Wilson learns this hard truth firsthand when a scotch-pouring network suit delivers the bad news that Jack¡¯s show ¡®Haunt Squad¡¯ isn¡¯t getting picked up for a fourth season. Viewers just aren¡¯t tuning in for redundant supernatural shenanigans anymore, a bit of inadvertent meta-commentary that speaks to ¡°Camp Cold Brook¡¯s¡± similar problem of attracting interested eyes.
Jack bargains to go out with a big boo. He and his producing partner Angie, video technician Kevin, and new P.A. Emma, you know, the usual people in these positions, have an idea to explore a site no other crew has been to before: Camp Cold Brook.
What¡¯s Camp Cold Brook¡¯s backstory? Common urban legend rules apply. In 1990, an accused witch blamed an Oklahoman church congregation for her daughter¡¯s tragic death. That witch took revenge by combining poison with occult magic to turn the church¡¯s children into crazed killers. The kids later drowned in the camp¡¯s lake, the witch set herself on fire, and concerned locals zippered their lips with warnings to never speak of the horrible mass murders again.
Putting a few Ben Franklins in his palm convinces the sheriff to look the other way this one time. Jack¡¯s quartet then journeys to the remote forest campsite for a music-set montage of setting up cameras, cables, and other equipment. Now they¡¯re ready to dig into predictable paranormal activity as their experience escalates from squinting at strange video flickers to flinching at stranger sights in the night.
I can¡¯t even calculate the countless hours I¡¯ve spent in cursed fictional places with various paranormal investigators during my time as a genre film critic. That¡¯s why I applaud ¡°Camp Cold Brook¡± for making another round of d¨¦j¨¤ vu more bearable by putting together a ghost hunting team that¡¯s refreshingly pleasant to be around.
Ably aided by the acting of familiar faces Chad Michael Murray and Danielle Harris, Jack and his team aren¡¯t showboating charlatans colored by obnoxious Hollywood phoniness. They¡¯re genuine skeptics who don¡¯t artificially ¡°enhance¡± their show, which ironically explains why no one watches it. There isn¡¯t enough material to elevate their personalities above perfunctory. But I appreciate that they¡¯re personable people exhibiting caring camaraderie with one another.
¡°Camp Cold Brook¡± also avoids stuffing the team in quicksand of behind-the-scenes romantic relationship complications, professional animosity, etc. The group does start going for each other¡¯s throats midway into the movie, although those confrontations are motivated by specific circumstances, not because anyone is an outright a-hole.
I¡¯ll give ¡°Camp Cold Brook¡± this much too: it looks like a basic made-for-cable movie, albeit one that¡¯s competently produced. By-the-numbers though it may be in most regards, ¡°Camp Cold Brook¡± comes neatly packaged with clean cinematography, crisp editing, and all other accoutrements of a project created by professionals committed to their crafts.
The ¡°unfortunately¡± you probably sense coming has to do with an excessively slow setup and regular recycling of standard spooks that are too pedestrian to actually be spooky. ¡°Camp Cold Brook¡± bloats itself with numerous scenes that amount to nothing more than creeping through cobwebs. Picturing what the script must have looked like, all I can see is page after page of declarative sentences describing dusty cabins accompanying instructive actions about looking distressed while waving flashlights around.
The way the plot curiously stretches out doesn¡¯t make sense for the story either. Jack¡¯s crew spends four days on what we¡¯re told is a location scout. Each day progresses from morning to night in just a few movie minutes, making it confusingly unclear what four separate people are actually doing during their 96 hours at this camp. Questions like these could be easily erased with a simple script edit compressing the timeline to two days. It wouldn¡¯t feel like the ghostly ¡°gotchas!¡± are spaced so far apart either.
All things considered, we¡¯re looking at a pretty plain paranormal thriller that¡¯s unremarkably ¡°okay.¡± Its forgettable familiarity means I wouldn¡¯t recommend it. But I also wouldn¡¯t shoo anyone away from the film if someone insists on checking it out. You¡¯d just better be in the mood for a mediocre horror movie with low stakes and an even lower return on your time and money investment.
Review Score: 45