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New Line Home Cinema presents
Campfire Tales (1997)

"What if it's that guy with the hook hand?"
- Jenny (Amy Smart)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: January 19, 2006

Stars: Amy Smart, Ron Livingston, Christine Taylor, James Marsden
Other Stars: Jay R. Ferguson, Christopher K. Masterson, Kim Murphy, Jennifer MacDonald, Hawthorne James, Alex McKenna, Devon Odessa, Jacinda Barrett, Glenn Quinn
Director: David Semel, Martin Kunert, Matt Cooper

MPAA Rating: R for (violence/terror, language, sexuality)
Run Time: 01h:26m:56s
Release Date: August 30, 2005
UPC: 794043827624
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- B+B+A- D-

DVD Review

I'm a die-hard horror film fan, but I'm a complete sucker when it comes to anthology films. It doesn't get any better than the two Creepshow movies as far as this nifty little subgenre, but valiant efforts have been made to at least come close to those films, including Tales From the Darkside: The Movie, the upcoming Asian import, Three...Extremes, and even the urban spin on the genre, Tales From the Hood. Having an anthology picture whose stories are modern takes on classic urban legends is even better, and now a forgotten little gem from nearly a decade ago is finally on DVD.

One of the more recent anthology pictures is 1997's Campfire Tales, an interesting effort that is definitely worth a look. Unfortunately, aside from some cable TV exposure, this film as gone virtually unnoticed for years. There are solid performances by a collection of young actors that will be recognizable to movie fans today, since many of them have reached at least a semi-high level of stardom. Throughout the various segments, we see the likes of Ron Livingston (Office Space), James Marsden (Cyclops from the X-Men movies), Amy Smart (Road Trip), the lovely Jacinda Barrett (Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason), and even Mrs. Ben Stiller, herself, Christine Taylor (Dodgeball).

A cliché as far as this little subgenre goes, is to work the various stories of the film around a central story, usually involving a character spinning yarns of terror. This wraparound story finds a group of teenagers stranded in the woods after wrecking their car. While they're waiting for help to come, they decide to build a campfire, and what else is there to do (fully clothed) around a campfire then tell scary stories.

The first tale, The Hook, is actually told before the car accident happens, and is very short. This story of a killer with a hook hand that is on the loose near Lover's Lane in the 50s is basically throwaway material, but things really get going in The Honeymoon. We meet Valerie and Rick as they are driving their RV through the woods, when they decide to stop and "enjoy each other." It isn't long before they are terrorized by an unseen attacker, and when all is said and done, their fates prove to be truly shocking.

People Can Lick Too is set in a suburban home where young Amanda (Alex McKenna) is obsessed with internet chat rooms. Unfortunately, she chats with the wrong person, and soon has a sex offender/murder watching her. Home alone with her dog, Amanda might not find out about her chat buddy until its two late.

The Locket involves a drifter (Glenn Quinn) who comes across a house, where a beautiful young girl with a locket tied around her neck lives. The two fall instantly in love, but she never speaks a word. Soon, the drifter begins seeing violent images that will eventually lead to the unveiling of the girl's mystery.

While all of these are good and scary, the ending of The Honeymoon makes it the most interesting story, slightly edging out The Locket, whose ending is its only problem. The problem with the latter is that it you can see the ending coming from a mile away if you're at all familiar with the famous urban legend that it's based on. Still, each of these stories' outlines will be familiar to many people, so a lot of the element of surprise could be lost, but there's just enough originality in their presentation to make the film full of genuine surprises. Plus, I'm willing to bet that hardly anyone will see the ending of the wraparound story coming at all, so the overall ending to the film almost single-handedly makes Campfire Tales easy to recommend.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is very impressive. The black levels and contrast help create a very dark look to these spooky tales; a look that almost grows too dark at times, but is balanced just enough in all areas to avoid this problem. There is some grain and dirt, which isn't surprising for a nearly 10-year-old film, but the colors are well-rendered, with accurate fleshtones throughout.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: I never thought we'd have the option of hearing Campfire Tales in DTS, let alone Dolby Digital 5.1, but that is the case here. Both mixes are excellent, with the DTS getting the nod due to a bit wider dynamic range and stronger bass, especially when thunder is rumbling during The Locket. Ambient sounds travel across all of the speakers when necessary, and the dialogue is always clear, working well with the rest of the audio aspects.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Final Destination 2, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Freddy Vs. Jason
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The only extras are previews for other New Line Home Video releases.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

New Line Home Video's technical work on their Campfire Tales DVD makes it even easier to give this nifty flick a chance. The anamorphic video is amazing, and, not only is there a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, but a DTS track is here as well. That was almost as shocking as the great little stories that make up this anthology, which could be the perfect way to get the Halloween-horror-movie-watching season started.


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