For those of us who are old enough to remember the inception of Reality TV shows, especially the first swarm of ghost hunter shows, we remember the excitement we once felt at the idea of these shows potentially proving that there might actually be such thing as supernatural activity. However, as these types of shows have flooded the market since, it has become progressively more difficult for these shows to compete with one another. Some have tried the most outrageous tactics to boost ratings, especially in recent years as Reality TV becomes less lucrative. But, what if one of these tactics accidentally uncovered the supernatural? Would the ratings be worth the damage and death that might occur as a result? These questions are what get explored in director Andy Palmer’s and writer Alex Carl’s CAMP COLD BROOK. And, while some of what plays out is fairly predictable, the fun in the film is seeing how the cast reacts to the unfolding mystery before them.
The film focuses on Reality TV producer and host Jack Wilson (Chad Michael Murray) who has just received the news that his show Haunt Squad is on the verge of being canceled. Their lack of success in “finding” paranormal activity after a slew of episodes has put him between a rock and a hard place. That and mounting debt have him contemplating the next story that he needs to really boost the show’s ratings. At the suggestion from his recently hired PA, Emma (a criminally underused Candice De Visser), he and his producer Angela (Danielle Harris) make the executive decision to go out to Oklahoma to visit the legendary CAMP COLD BROOK and base their episode around the setting.
While Emma has filled them in on the events that took place at the tragic campsite, the audience and the Haunt Squad team slowly start to learn what took place that tragic night 20 some years ago. After a tragic accident kills the daughter of a rumored local witch, she went dark and performed a spell that contributed to the drowning of the young campers. After the events, she killed herself. While the story itself sounds like a legend, as the Haunt Squad team finds out, it very much happened. And it doesn’t take long after their arrival for shenanigans to start happening as the souls of both the witch and the young campers are eager to finish what they’ve started. It just becomes a matter of whether or not the team manages to solve the mystery before the resident spirits of the camp get murderous.
The storyline, as I mentioned previously, is a bit predictable. Some of it has to do with the fact the subgenre within horror that specifically deals with the subject matter of this film has been done to death. You’ve got the ghost hunters who are looking for ghosts and get more what they have bargained for. In that sense, the plot itself is fairly paint by numbers in its execution. However, the real joy for me was seeing how much writer Alex Carl injected various clues for the audience to figure out the mystery themselves before the last Act of the film. Unfortunately, though, the clues weren’t enough for me to feel a bit robbed by the ending. There was a small blink and you missed it clue that helped explain away why the ending happened the way it did, but it wasn’t enough for me to justify the newly-trained focus of the witch in that moment. Instead, it felt like a “Gotcha!” moment that made me throw my hands up in frustration. So, to put it frankly, I have a love and hate relationship with the story.
The true gift in this film, though, are the performances. The core cast really gives it their all to help sell the story that’s written on the page and it really works in the film’s favor. Chad Michael Murray is believable as the charismatic leader of the group who’s just trying to do the best he can to do well by his team. Danielle Harris further confirms why she is a Scream Queen while playing Angela. The character, despite being a veteran of Haunt Squad, is a chickenshit and, as the film continues to progress, you can’t help but feel sorry for her as her hysteria and fear really ramp up. The true MVP, in my own opinion though, is Michael Eric Reid. He portrays Reid, the poor cinematographer who is just, quite frankly, done with all the bullshit. As the comedic relief as well as the audience’s more logical perspective in the film, you got to love him for just trying to stick out this gig before he can move onto the next thing.
Overall, CAMP COLD BROOK doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel when it comes to its story or scares. However, there’s plenty for people to appreciate and love in this film. The core cast and their chemistry really mesh well in producing that relatable reality TV team feel and, as they start reacting to the events around them, you can really invest in their plight. And, while the story itself hits certain predictable notes, the amount of clues that writer Alex Carl left for viewers to try to piece together the mystery is very much appreciated by me. These clues in itself explain why the ending is the way it is, even if it does make you want just a little bit more.
CAMP COLD BROOK will now available in select theaters, Digital, and be available On Demand everywhere today, February 14, 2020.