12. CAMPFIRES & FLASHLIGHTS: One where a character tells a scary story and then… flashback.
This challenge was a bit rough, as my goal is to watch movies I’ve never seen before during every Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge, which meant that I couldn’t write about Madman, Friday the 13th, the Friday the 13th remake, Friday the 13th part 2, The Fog, The Howling, Meatballs, The Burning, The Final Terror, Sorority House Massacre, The Prey, Don’t Go in the Woods, The Willies, Blood Sisters, Evil Laugh, Memorial Valley Massacre, Grim Prarie Tales,
I nearly did an overview of Are you Afraid of the Dark?, the Nickelodeon series that was bold enough to name a character after Lucio Fulci (in the 2019 reboot), but the whole show was after my time.
Then I remembered: there’s not just the 1991 Campfire Tales and the 2020 non-sequel remix/remake/ripoff Tales from the Campfire 3, there’s also the 1997 movie with the same title.
And yeah, I know, I’m a beyond confirmed hater of Scream, but for some reason, I tend to like the movies that come after it, like the Urban Legend series. And this fits right in, even if it was made concurrently with Wes Craven’s execrable film.
It starts with the story of the Hook, which has been used in a multitude of movies (it shows up in everything from Meatballs and He Knows You’re Alone to Lovers Lane and Final Exam, but its message of teenage sex equals death is pretty much the engine that powers every slasher ever made). James Marsden and Amy Smart are in this opening, which is something that you’ll notice about Campfire Tales: it’s packed with talent that would have great careers after it was made.
This leads us to the connective story which is — did you guess? — a campfire tale, as Cliff (Jay R. Ferguson, who is now on The Conners) wrecks a van on the way home from a concert, leading his friends Lauren (Christine Taylor, who is probably best known from the Brady Bunch movies), Eric (Christopher Masterson, Malcolm in the Middle) and Alex (Kim Murphy, Houseguest) to light a fire until help passes by. They start telling the stories that form the rest of the movie.
“The Honeymoon” has Ron Livingston (Office Space) and Jennifer Macdonald as a married couple being stalked on their RV wedding vacation. “People Can Lick Too,” which is one of my favorite urban legends, updating it (well, in 1997) to have internet chat rooms. The final story, “The Locket,” is less friend of a friend story and more time travel slasher, with another Roseanne-related actor (the late Glenn Quinn, who was Mark) romancing a mute woman (The Real World star Jacinda Barrett, who is also in Urban Legends: Final Cut) and being chased by her ax-carrying monster of a father.
The film ends dark Wizard of Oz style, as everyone except for Cliff disappears as paramedics attempt to save him. As the camera pulls away from the accident, everyone from the stories plays the roles of the emergency crews and, you guessed it, a hook is on the door of the car, the real cause of the crash.
Campfire Tales was the passion project of writer and co-director Martin Kunert (who would make the MTV horror anthology series Fear) and producer Eric Manes (who wrote and produced 3000 Miles to Graceland; he also produced Phat Beach in case you cared). In fact, this was originally called either Fear or All American Campfire Horror Stories.
The other directors of segments include Matt Cooper and David Semel, whose career has mainly been in TV (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Watchmen, Heroes).
Released by New Line Cinema in 1997, this movie inspired the Bollywood film Darna Mana Hai and while it’s been released on DVD, it’s never made the leap to blu ray.