Camp Hell, also known in the US as Camp Hope, is a confused and boring drama film masquerading as a supernatural horror. Its central premise is that there is a fundamentalist Christian summer camp that tries to instil its unique brand of fire and brimstone into its mostly devout teenage campers. This summer camp becomes the target of a demon for a past misdemeanour involving the grandfather of one of the current campers, Tommy (Will Denton). There’s a vague back story involving a previous camper named Daniel (one of Jesse Eisenberg’s earliest roles) that isn’t much expanded upon, except to say that he thought he was possessed and did bad things to himself and his little sister. Predictably, Tommy also has a sister – the same age as Daniel’s sister in fact! – which puts the fear of God (pun intended) into Tommy’s religious nut parents.
The main problem is that absolutely nothing happens. It seems like the audience is supposed to feel some kind of resentment towards the bullying counsellors, Tommy’s piously overbearing parents, or his annoying sister, but Tommy himself is so irritating that the audience wants him to suffer. For the duration of the film, various boring clichés take place – there’s an epileptic character who has visions, and a group of cartoonish goths haunt the film like a pack of wounded racoons – and it’s all supposed to be scary but really, really isn’t.
One of the most insidious ways that the film attempts to market itself is by placing Jesse Eisenberg on its marketing materials when in fact he is the bittiest of bit-parters, in a five minute segment at the beginning of the film that could easily have been cut. It adds nothing but more confused mythology to a dull film that is too boring to work out. The film was made long before The Social Network and it’s no coincidence that this film has received a re-release in the wake of that massive critical and commercial success. The most surprising thing about this film is that, without the benefit of hindsight, Eisenberg’s is not a stand-out performance in any way. He’s easily forgettable and is actually quite embarrassing to watch. When a film’s biggest selling point is a five minute portion starring a pre-fame Jesse Eisenberg, it’s got problems.
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