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Film Review: Campfire Tales (1997)

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Horror takes a detour deep into the woods. Returning home from a concert and driving recklessly, four teenagers crash their car on a deserted road. To ward off the cold, they build a fire and wait for help. But the hair-raising stories they tell around the fire put a deeper chill into the night. Each tale is more lurid, more horrifying, more shocking than anything they’ve heard before. Yet for theses unlucky teens in the woods, the biggest shock is yet to come…


Directors – David Semel, Martin Kunert & Matt Cooper
Screenplay – Martin Kunert, Eric Manes & Matt Cooper

Out in 1997 and starring Ron Livingston of Office Space fame, this movie is a welcome throwback to the horror movies of old. Ghostly tales abound as four kids around a campfire spin scary yarns, all based in part on common urban legends.

The movie starts off in appropriate fashion with a quick telling of everyone’s favorite urban legend, “The Hook.” Done in B&W and set in the fifties, it sets the mood and tone for the rest of the movie perfectly.

Jump to present day with our four teens driving down a curvy mountain road. When they wreck the car, they set out some flares and decide to build a campfire while they wait for help. This sequence is entitled “The Campfire” and is the main story of the movie. After each tale we come back to the campfire and learn a little more of the night’s events. But the real treasures are the three stories that are told around the campfire.

First off is “The Honeymoon.” This one has Ron Livingston in it as Rick, on his honeymoon with his wife, Valerie. They are driving in a large RV across the country and pull off the highway on their way to a historic site that Rick wants to check out. What they find instead is beyond their worst nightmare. Ron is a real hoot, and delivers what is the best line in the whole movie as he runs from the RV buck naked and screams, “I just had great sex!” This whole sequence is extremely well done, complete with a warning from a creepy guy also out on the old road. The creatures, while barely seen, add a great deal of terror. I feel this one is the best of the bunch, but there are no slackers in this lineup.

Second is “People Can Lick Too.” It is the day before Amanda’s twelfth birthday, and she is as excited as can be. She jumps online and chats with Jessica, another young girl online. But we quickly learn that “Jessica” is not who she seems. With her parents off to parent-teacher meetings and her sister sneaking out while they’re gone, Amanda is home all by herself with her dog, Odin. What follows is creepy and intense. The end will definitely give you a shudder as it is just downright wrong and icky. No other way to describe it.

Last is “The Locket.” A young man named Scott is driving his motorcycle across the country when it breaks down in front of an old farmhouse. When he knocks on the front door for help, he is greeted by Heather, a beautiful young woman who can’t talk. As the night progresses, we find that the house is haunted, and the tragic events of the past are replayed over and over in gruesome fashion. While this segment is somewhat predictable, it doesn’t detract from the overall eerie feeling.

Overall, Campfire Tales is a wonderful movie complete with a cool twist at the end. Two in fact, the last one thrown in more for laughs. What I like most is the use of different old school urban legends throughout. And when you hear “The Monster Mash” playing over the closing credits, you realize what a great time you had watching the movie.

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