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“Campfire Tales” is a forgotten 90s horror anthology that serves as a throwback to the types of stories you’d find in dusty paperbacks.

Campfire Tales

A group of friends tells each other terror-filled tales around a campfire after their car breaks down. Let’s dig into 1997’s CAMPFIRE TALES, directed by Martin Kunert, Matt Cooper, and David Semel!

As I See It

I love the idea of anthologies, especially for the horror genre. However, often they tend to be a group of stories that are too weak to be full-length features, and the filmmakers simply slap some tendrils on to make them make sense as a cooperative story.

A debut feature film from producer Eric Manes and Director Martin Kunert, Campfire Tales is mainly a victim of the time it was made. Ten years later, in short format on something like YouTube, we could have had a handful of quality short films as proof of concept for a couple of visionaries. Instead, Kunert and Manes “…did everything they could” to get this made as an anthology.

You can not knock that. They made it, and they cast some future stars. It’s not a bad film either. There is plenty to like about it.

The too-short opening segment “The Hook” was a nice play on a 50’s era make-out point slasher.

“The Honeymoon” is a clever, mobile, contained horror with some type of lurking beast that ends with a bit of gore reminiscent of the fate of Hopper’s men in Predator.

“The Locket” feels like an old-time ghost story in the vein of Algernon Blackwood, though a bit more mystery could have served it well.

“People Can Lick Too” is weird as hell and grossed me out without doing much beyond displaying some oddball proclivities.

The weakest segment would be the wrap-around story “The Campfire” — but even that was able to resolve itself in a clever enough way.

I dug the outro song, a rendition of “The Monster Mash” by female punk band Bobsled.

Famous Faces

Campfire Tales is full of famous faces.

Starring “The Campfire” is Christine Taylor as Lauren. It all started with Hey Dude on Nickelodeon. She would go on to play Marcia Brady in The Brady Bunch Movie and the popular girl in The Craft who loses her hair. She also starred in a bunch of seminal early 2000s comedies, including Zoolander and Dodgeball, and she played Sally Sitwell in Mitch Hurwitz’s genius show Arrested Development.

Chris Masterson plays Eric in “The Campfire” and may be best known as the oldest brother Francis, who spends most of his time away at military school, in Malcolm in the Middle. Also in this segment is Jay R. Ferguson, as Cliff, who played Stan Rizzo in the acclaimed series Mad Men.

Starring in “The Hook” is a well-known face. James Marsden plays Eddie, and you may know him best as Cyclops in Brian Singer’s X-Men. His co-star, Amy Smart, plays Jenny. She was every late-nineties teen’s dream girl thanks to her star turn in Road Trip.

Turning up in “The Honeymoon” is Ron Livingston (playing Rick), who would become a cult superstar thanks to Mike Judge’s Office Space. He also had great roles in Jon Favreau’s Swingers and deserves applause for his portrayal of Captain Nix in HBO’s Band of Brothers.

Headlining “The Locket” as Scott is Glenn Quinn. He played Becky’s boyfriend and later husband, Mark, in the original run of Roseanne. In a supporting role as Heather is Jacinda Barrett, who was on The Real World London before this. It was her first feature, though she has no speaking lines.

Finally, we’ve got Devon Odessa in “People Can Lick Too” as Katherine. She played Sharon Cherski in the seminal nineties teen drama, My So Called Life, as well as Hessie in a personal favorite eighties horror film, Pumpkinhead.

Of Gratuitous Nature

“The Honeymoon” properly serves us with not one but two sex scenes.

Heartthrob

It’s quite a mountain of handsome people who would move on to big films and projects, but Christine Taylor is at the top for me.

Ripe for a Remake

I don’t know that any one story (maybe “The Locket”) from Campfire Tales sticks out as deserving of a full-length treatment.

Spawns

No progeny to report.

Where to Watch

With no high-definition release of Campfire Tales and no streaming availability, it’s the DVD bargain bins that you’ll have to scour to find this one. You can also thank the merciful generosity of the Internet Archive for an online option.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 2.5


THE DAILY DIG
The Daily Dig brings you hidden genre gems from the 1960s-00s you may have not yet discovered. You’ll get a brief rundown of everything you need to know, including where to watch each title for yourself. Come back each day, Mon-Fri, for new featured titles. CLICK HERE FOR A TIMELINE OF DAILY DIG COVERAGE.

2 Comments

2 Records

  1. on January 22, 2024 at 2:37 pm
    Sharon Yablon wrote:
    Great film! I love this film! Bought the dvd years ago. Totally underappreciated and eerie. Thanks for your post!
    Reply
    • on January 22, 2024 at 5:53 pm
      Stephanie Malone wrote:

      We’re so glad you enjoyed this post. I’m a huge fan of The Daily Dig because our brilliant writer always uncovers and shares such underrated and hidden gems that many have never heard of and/or have long forgotten.

      Reply

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