Camp (Review)


Directed by Abdel-Aziz Hashad
Written by Hytham Wahid

Egypt has a rich cinematic history that crumbled away in the early 1970s due to the nationalization of the film industry (which began in the mid-60s) and the cinema entered a period of decay that produced few quality films. There has been a small resurgence in the past few years as a number of indie directors spring up, revitalizing some of the magic of the Golden Age. As Camp is the product of a first time director who is considered part of the new wave of filmmaking, we’re going to skip the history lessons and jump into this modern Egyptian film.

Camp is a slasher film, and it is true to its slasher film roots in that a whole group of young people are ruthlessly slaughtered by a masked killer. It follows a lot of US slasher film tropes, from the killer popping up from all over the place to the killer killing people without being noticed. And we can’t have a horror movie if women don’t fall down while running from a killer. Camp is so similar to the American films it imitates, it actually detracts from the film, making it less of an Egyptian film and more of a slasher film similar to what you would find in any direct to DVD horror section. The kills are not particularly innovative and the film seems to exist just to show that Egypt can make films just as good as the US. This is director Abdel-Aziz Hashad’s first film, but he has gone on to make several more.

It is obvious that writer Hytham Wahid is a big horror buff. In interviews (sadly, the interview link disappeared after the 2011 Egyptian revolution) Wahid refutes claims that this is the first Egyptian horror film, mentioning other titles such as Yassin Ismail Yassin and Mohamed Shebl’s 1983 film Anyab (Fangs) starring singers Ahmed Adaweya and Aly El-Haggar as bloodsucking vampires, and 2006’s Ouija. Wahid talks a lot about the suspense of Camp, he seems to be less about the kills and more about the buildup. At TarsTarkas.NET, we don’t need no stinking subtitles, but they might have helped in picking up some of the suspense. I did have a good time trying to guess who the killer was, and I picked wrong.

Preppy Guy (Ayman Refai) – The main male character, as he spends the most time on camera. Most of his time on camera is in either a sweater or a racing uniform. Who wears a racing uniform on vacation? Ayman Refai (or Ayman El Refaey) is a singer in Egypt.
Frosted Hair (Hani Salama) – Frosted Hair is a ladies man. To import that fact on us, various female characters give him gazes throughout the film, of love, hate, or disgust. Hani Salama (sometimes Hani San’e Allah) also starred in the Egyptian movie Ouija.
Yamin (Mohamed El-Khola’y) – Yamin is so cool, he’s ice cold. Yamin is also mourning a dead girlfriend named Sheki, who died shortly after the flashback in the beginning and she comes to speak to him as a ghost later. Mohamed El-Khola’y also starred in the Egyptian movie Ouija.
Kevin (???) – Kevin is the nerdy guy who wears a kung fu shirt at some point, and carries around a gorilla mask. Because, who doesn’t? I couldn’t figure out who played him, but suspect the actor’s name is Mohammed Atef.
Nancy (Yasmine Gamal) – Preppy Guy’s girlfriend, and that’s about all the characterization she gets until she cheats on him and then is quickly killed by The Killer.
Selene (Amira Hani) – Selene spends most of her time being disapproving of the others, watching over her younger sister that she brought along for some reason, and acting all emo. Amira Hani acted in the TV series El Amma Nour, but of course you were aware of that fact.
Yasmin (Reem Helal) – At time it sounds like they’re calling her Yassanem, but as that isn’t a real name we went with Yasmin. Reem Helal was first runner-up at the Miss Egypt 2006, this is Reem Helal’s first film role.
The Killer (It is a mystery) – He’s a killer who kills people. Which one of the characters is this guy? Watch the film and find out! Or PayPal me $10 and I’ll tell you.

Camp starts out with a brief flashback at a party, then jumps ahead to a group of friends heading off to a getaway retreat for the weekend (on the way they go all Fast and Furious Tokyo Drift on the highway) and then arrive at the Beach Camp house. The Beach Camp house was shot at an old mansion of Khedive Tawfik that has been closed for 25 years after being used as a hospital and morgue. Beach Camp is staffed by the crotchety owner and his loose morals wife (Lotfy Labib and Jehan Salama), their deaf daughter (Nesma) and a weird concierge (Amr Abdel-Latif) – plus two other random workers. The rest of the house is empty and huge, and it’s so spooky we know someone’s gonna get murdered! It’s a great place, between the creepy old man caretaker, his wife putting the moves on every guy there, the bellboy rifling through the guests’ luggage stealing things, and the deaf woman staring with hate in her eyes, who wouldn’t want to spend a weekend getaway there?

To build up suspense, every employee they run into gets creepy music and zoom shots. But enough of that, let’s join our group of fun loving young people hanging on the beach, playing soccer, and snubbing the girls who are attracted to you to dance with the caretaker’s wife. And Frosted Hair is caught sleeping with Nancy, which is bad because she was dating Preppy Guy!

Soon a creepy shadow dude is seen lurking outside windows, fireplaces have flames shooting out of them and there is a fire in the building. The friends try to book it, but none of the three cars will start, and soon it is pouring rain. Frosted Hair is soon killed by a dude with white scarred makeup and long hair, but Preppy gets the blame over his anger at Frosted from his cheating with his girl (and Preppy not being there when the body was discovered.) Preppy angrily defends himself, and as the film continues characters will continue to run around, separate from each other, get lost, and get knocked off one by one.

We all know from horror films not to run around like chickens with their heads cut off when a killer is around. And we also know that someone will throw a cat offscreen onto a character during a suspenseful moment. And that deaf chick ain’t really deaf. Plus, the shock twist ending is the kind of ending that will make you groan, just because we’ve all been there, done that a million times.

Now, I assume the dialogue that I can’t understand would help endear me more to the characters so their loses are felt more, but not knowing what is going on lessons the impact. So I admit that this review isn’t as good as it could be in lieu of me becoming fluent in Arabic. But that’s about ten languages down on my list to learn. Even with the disadvantages I have, I couldn’t find myself not liking Camp, but I can’t find myself liking it either. It just more exists. It filled time, it was neat seeing a slasher film from a different culture, but it was also weak that it was too reliant on American tropes to be its own. Camp sadly goes down as a film that is more important in how it exists than how good the film actually is.

Rated 5/10 (creepy, creepier, knife time, creepiest, Let’s bring our younger sister to this retreat at the spooky mansion!)

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