Monday, July 13, 2020

Killer Camp, on CW

It is lethal bait and switch. Imagine you signed up for a randy summer camp reality show in the tradition of Meatballs, but discovered it was actually based on Friday the 13th. That was the big switcheroo pulled on the contestants of this new “reality” show inspired by 1980s American slasher movies. Every week, another camper is “killed” off—we hope and assume the quote marks are appropriate—in Killer Camp, which premieres Thursday night on the CW.

Apparently, the show’s true theme was a genuine shock to the contestants, but they stayed at Camp Pleasant, because TV air-time is still TV air-time. In fact, at least one horror fan is psyched by the turn of events. As host-comedian Bobby Mair explains, the slasher, “Handyman Bruce,” will bump one of them off each episode. The twist is Bruce is only a puppet, telepathically controlled by the real killer, who is masquerading as one of the campers.

Of course, campers are not supposed to sit around waiting to get hacked apart. They will keep busy competing in challenges to earn cash and more importantly, win clues to the killer’s true identity. However, whatever money remains unearned during each game goes into the killer’s pocket, so the mystery guest will be trying to secretly sabotage their efforts.

For genre fans (especially those of us deeply steeped in the films KC is riffing on), the show offers a lot of goofy, guilty-pleasure entertainment. The premise is quite sly and the execution (so to speak) is energetic, albeit mostly in a dopey, meathead kind of way. Frankly, the challenges ought to have more horror elements (at least judging from the first episode), but the look of Handyman Bruce is spot-on. Admittedly, he looks more like the killer from The Town that Dreaded Sundown than Jason Voorhees, but that is cool with us.

Frankly, the contestants’ level of screen charisma is somewhat higher than your typical reality show, but do not get too attached to anyone, for obvious reasons. However, Mair is especially well cast as the camp counselor-host, because he has the perfect level of slightly mean snarkiness. He really seems to enjoy needling campers with quips like: “gee, that sounds like something the killer would say!”

So far, it is all a good deal of old school slasher fun. The cast and crew are British and it was filmed on-location in Lithuanian, but the vibe and trappings are true to Camp Crystal Lake (hence the challenge money in dollars). Recommended for horror fans and reality junkies looking for something with a twist, Killer Camp kicks off this Thursday (7/16) on the CW.