Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best and Camp Fear is living proof of this. A group of old friends return to work at a wilderness summer camp years after they attended as youngsters. This time they are joined by clean person Rachel, who starts to suspect the gang might be hiding a DARK SECRET about their prior visit.
Before long, a series of SCARETASTIC TRICKS are being played and no-one’s a HAPPY CAMPER. *Dies*.
Going into this one was fun. I did read it in the 90s but had NO recollection of what happened.
Oh yes. Our mysterious tormentor cleverly exploits the campers deepest fears: snakes, water, heights…erm well that’s it, but they’re still pretty scary.
Rachel is your standard girl-next-door. She’s quite exciting because she has short hair. Most Point Horror Girls have lots of hair. This is deemed a mistake because she wishes she could tie it back. Rachel has two main interests: pinning photos to a display board, thinking about removing them, but never doing so, and being clean. I mean, I like at least one shower a day, but Carol Ellis really enjoys writing about them. Not only that, the cleanliness of the camp site shower block is described at length several times. I think we all know what Ellis’s darkest fear is: dirty showers.
Like any good mystery, there’s a roster of suspects. We have princess Stacey, All-American Jordan, pro-active Linda, cold Mark, goofball Steve, brooding Paul and finally Terry who feels like she retires to her cabin to talk to the invisible friends she keeps in a shoebox of animal remains.
Big shout out also to the token adults who keep driving away for ‘supplies’ (yeah right), Tim and Michelle, who I legit believe to be Christine Baranski and Peter MacNichol from Addams Family Values.
Ellis has a dalliance with a love triangle in the first part of the book. Paul broods a little too hard and drives Rachel into the arms of Jordan. However, she quickly realises he has a sulking habit and Ellis realises she needs some suspects so Rachel throws her attention onto Paul for the remainder of the book. It works: I suspected Jordan all the way through.
Brilliantly there is actually a PAUL in HEARTTHROB and he’s actually quite hot and like his description in the book.
Jordan: ‘I’ve got a stick.’ We know, dear. Put it away.
Actually, Ellis writes pretty sharp teen dialogue and despite some ‘right, I think we should all go to bed now and leave the conversation for no reason’ moments, it all hangs together. The leaves are perhaps over described.
Ellis seems to go for some sort of name game I don’t understand. The male characters are called Steve Michaels, Paul Sidney and Mark James. That’s just a list of names, hun.
Body Count: 1
Did the best friend do it? Erm…well Rachel doesn’t really know anyone at the start. One of her friends is the villain, yes.
Some Mild Peril?
There are a couple of potentially haunting scenes. Strange noises in the night in the middle of the forest are always creepy and Ellis taps into everyone’s anxieties around school camps and being in the wilderness. It could have gone much further though.
Is It Any Good?
Camp Fear has all the ingredients of great Point Horror. It’s about as archetypal as they get, in many ways it’s the most traditional we’ve revisited yet. While this works to a degree – horror will ALWAYS exploit the bunch of adult-less teens scenario (this is almost a carbon copy of Friday 13th, clearly), there’s nothing to elevate it out of being A N Other Point Horror – Rachel isn’t quite interesting enough, Paul isn’t sexy enough, the thrills aren’t thrilling enough.
Worst of all though is the ending – to describe it as an anti-climax doesn’t begin to cover it. ‘I wouldn’t have shot them…’ WELL WHY BOTHER THEN?
Still, I whipped through Camp Fear in a single sitting so it can’t have been all bad.
Over to you:
1. Would Camp Fear had been more scary if Ellis had investigated the possibility of the dead boy ‘haunting’ Camp Silverlake?
2. What’s with Terry’s curious smirking? Does she have wind?
3. Mr Drummond: Harmless baldy or one for Yew Tree?
4. Who did you suspect? Did you correctly guess the villain?
5. How gay is Mark?