March, er, marches on, and next up on my tour of shitty 2000s horror thanks to Amazon Prime is 2009’s Spirit Camp. Admittedly, whenever I hear the title I think of the 1980s slasher movie involving cheerleaders called Cheerleader Camp. While Cheerleader Camp had Leif Garrett and Lucinda Dickey and Betsy Russell and Teri Weigel, Spirit Camp has no one I recognize…
Wait… Roxy Vandiver. That sounds familiar. When I watched the trailer for the movie there was this girl with bright blonde hair with super short punk girl cut. She looks familiar. I mean, instantly, I thought “Oh that’s the girl I would be really into for no goddamn good reason and it would be a horrible idea for me to be into her.” But something was itchy in the back of my mind. Wait. Itchy? Wigs make your head itch sometimes…
That’s when it dawned on me. Roxy Vandiver was the girl with the long red hair who just walked into a scene completely full frontal nude in the 1986 part in Die Die Delta Pi! Sweet! I liked what I saw there. I like what I saw when she was wearing clothes in Spirit Camp’s trailer (seriously, that was the first time I ever saw clothing on Roxy Vandiver – no shit). Maybe I should have made March Roxy Vandiver Month.
Okay, so what’s Spirit Camp all about, hm? Amazon Prime says: “FRIDAY THE 13TH meets BRING IT ON! – When a street smart goth girl is forced to attend cheer camp as part of her rehabilitation from a juvenile correction facility, she clashes with the popular girls. But when members of the spirit squad start turning up dead, the girls must put aside their differences as they struggle to survive the murderous rage of a crazed psycho-killer lurking among them.”
I will say the the trailer did feature a ton of pull quotes from outlets I never heard of talking about how funny and amazing this movie is. I have my doubts. I have serious, serious doubts. However, these things don’t watch themselves, so I suppose I should get a move on.
At Camp Lumis Lake (I suppose “Lumis” is a nod to Dr. Loomis from Halloween?), a camp of boy and girl cheerleaders are hanging around a campfire. One of the girls suggestively eats a marshmallow while flirting with one of the guys. They steal away and she makes out with him. She then straight up takes her top off to expose them tittaes. The guy freaks out a bit and walks away after saying it’s all moving too fast. She follows him back to the campsite and accidentally trips over his body. She’s attacked by a ax wielding murderer who hacks into her collar bone. I will give the makeup dudes an A for effort as the wound is pretty gnarly with the bone showing and everything. She manages to get just feet from the campsite and is unable to yell for help. The killer finishes the job.
I have to say that I appreciate the fast start. We get a little boob, a little bit of a joke when the girl wonders out loud, “What does a girl have to do to get laid around here?” Some decent makeup effects on the victims. A killer that is kept unseen to build some mystery. I have to say that tight little five minute opening had the right feel for a slasher flick. (Too bad the dude cheerleader didn’t get to try out the tight little five minute opening on the cheerleader girl… heh – you know what I mean.)
So it is now two years later, and a new crop of cheerleaders are going to the camp. We meet three brunette cheerleaders. One knows the story about the killings. Another seems like a good girl who is excited about camp and kind of annoying about it – and packing a lace thong just in case not all the guys in the boy cheerleader camp across the lake are gay. I don’t know these two girls’ names. The movie didn’t really let us in on that. I know I like the girl who packed the thong. She has that going for her along with the ponytail thing and what have you. We also meet Amber who has a fat boyfriend who wants to fuck before she leaves for camp. And she goes along with it. I was literally a fraction of this guy’s girth when I was the assumed ages of these characters. I never got any trim that easy. It was grueling and torturous. I could have never just asked for it and get it. We also meet a fourth, chubby cheerleader. The good girl I’m overly attracted to in these opening minutes is a proponent of the girl coming along because she could maybe go on a diet and become and even better cheerleader…?
Finally, we meet Nikki, played by Roxy Vandiver. She’s gothy, punky, sassy, you get the picture. The other cheerleaders think she’s white trash. I guess she does live in a trailer park and is being forced to go to this camp as part of some juvenile delinquent behavior that she has to atone for or something. She’s just the antithesis of the other cheerleaders. She’s not all “rah-rah” or bubbly. She’s just the other girl. She’ll also very likely be the best chance of dealing with the killer once that begins.
At the camp, a couple other cheerleaders are already there. The guy cheerleader is super gay. He tells the girl, Lindsay, that he finished disinfecting the outhouse so she can go take a piss. She goes to the shitter and hears someone come in. When she goes outside, a hillbilly with an ax scares her and kills a snake right in front of her. I bet the rest of the movie will be spent trying to set him up as the killer, but I bet he isn’t.
Oh and the lady who runs the camp is named Mrs. Haddonfield. There’s gonna be a ton of references from better horror movies, huh?
So, the girls who are being driven to the camp by Amber’s mom stop at a gas station where they meet the hunky Bobby. Bobby gives them directions to the camp. The other girls instantly soak their little cheer panties over him, but he’s kinda into Nikki. And I don’t really blame him.
The girls purposely leave Nikki behind because they are bitches. Bobby drives her to the camp and tells her about the killings from a few years before. The interaction between Nikki and Bobby is actually kinda charming. It’s like these two actors are actually giving multiple shits about the movie.
After Nikki gets dropped off and the others meet Lindsay, who is a bit of a ball buster, we learn that there is yet another character on the way. This girl is a redhead who is running late. I don’t know her name yet, but her mom drives into the camp to drop her off as Bobby leaves. The readhead is walking toward the camp and starts to hear noises around her before being killed by a guy wearing rubber gloves. This is a real bummer not because I thought the girl was going to be a good character or anything of the sort. No, I’m bummed out because there are like five brunettes in this movie that I can hardly keep track of. Thank fuck that Nikki is blonde with short hair because I can recognize her. Oh and the “fat”girl. I guess she’s recognizable for that alone, but whatever.
The Sheriff comes to the camp to let Mrs. *sigh* Haddonfield that the killer from two years ago has escaped. He asks about the groundskeeper that I said will likely be accused of being the killer. Haddonfield, though, asks if he really believes in all those rumors about him. While all this bullshit happens, I’m thinking it is just about time to go back to our main brunette trio. Let’s do that, movie.
Awright… Now we’re talkin’!
The heavier girl isn’t joining the three bathing beauties because she claims she burns really easy. One of the bitchy girls says that she wouldn’t want to be caught dead in a bathing suit either if she looked like her. Not cool, guys. You know what? I think some of you cheerleaders are real jerks. The big girl finds the outhouse and we hear her get killed. Great. So now, I am losing the characters that I can easily identify and getting left with generic brunettes all over the place.
Fuck, even the gay guy is a girly brunette.
Nikki doesn’t join the others either because she had a freak out when walking across a bridge. She goes back to the cabin and the hillbilly with the ax watches her undress. Thanks again, Roxy, for showing off your pom poms.
There’s all sorts of little things that are thrown into the mix here that I have not really covered. I touched upon Nikki having problems with the bridge. I touched upon how the good girl cheerleader seems to be really into the whole spirit camp idea. I touched upon Amber (the only girl of the trio of main brunettes whose name I DO know) having no problem fucking her fat boyfriend, but I didn’t really mention that she’s having withdrawals from not being around him. Gross. There’s lots of these little things, but, while it does add a little charm to the movie to play off these archetypes, it’s not something I can easily cram into this breakdown succinctly. So I won’t.
Anyway, Amber’s tub of fuck sneaks into the camp and finds her. They make out. Gross. While Nikki is outside smoking, she sees someone watching their cabin in the dark smoking a cigar. She comes inside to tell the girls that she thinks someone is watching. Lindsay comes inside and finds a bottle of whisky in the main bitchy girl’s bag. When Lindsay leaves, Amber and her fat boyfriend take off to the outhouse to fuck. While he is going down on Amber, there are sounds of creaking floors and stuff. He looks around and sees that no one is in the outhouse with them. He goes outside to get a condom.
I’m legit jealous of this dude getting to make out hard with a hot actress.
Doesn’t matter because he gets killed on the way back from the car. The killer then goes after Amber while wearing this weird mask that the boyfriend always has around. That’s another thing I haven’t mentioned yet and won’t spend anymore time on. Nor will I mention the little aside made about him liking to dress in women’s clothing while having sex. They don’t show it so I’m not sure why it’s a thing in the movie. After approaching her in the bathroom, the killer stabs Amber in the head and kills her.
Lindsay tries to get the gay dude drunk so they can fuck, but… He’s gay. He fights her off and she storms out angry. Dude… He’s gay. A little drink, a little straddled girl and you think that’s enough to turn him straight? I’m sure there’s a joke there but I don’t get it because the dude’s gay. Just because she’s drunk and says it’s her birthday tomorrow doesn’t fix that. Alright, so Lindsay goes to the bathroom, and, for the second time in about 30 minutes, we get a shot of Lindsay taking a piss in the outhouse.
Lindsay doesn’t see Amber’s body and returns to the girls’ cabin where she catches Nikki smoking a cigarette, earning Nikki a third demerit that would mean expulsion. She also catches the other two girls, Rachel (who I JUST learned is the main bitchy girl) and the good girl (whose name I still don’t know) smoking pot. Just like with the booze, Lindsay takes the pot back to her cabin and starts smoking it while looking for the gay guy, Brent, who is nowhere to be found. She does find her birthday present from Brent, though – a giant vibrator. Brent is heading across the lake for gay sex, and Lindsay gets herself off, but doesn’t get the climax she hoped for when the killer comes in and gets rid of her.
Nikki figures out there are some bad things going on. She heard Lindsay screaming when she got killed. Nikki also figures out that the bigger girl and Amber have been gone too long. Not only that, but there’s a duffel bag on a bed that no one has touched and doesn’t seem to belong to anyone there so far. The good girl tells Nikki that belonged to the redhead that was killed earlier. When the trio goes looking for the missing girls, Nikki finds blood on the ground and they eventually find Amber’s boyfriend in his car. He’s still alive so she tries to start his car but finds the engine has been tampered with. Nikki goes to get help and tells Rachel and the good girl to stay with Amber’s boyfriend.
Nikki finds Mrs. Haddonfield’s rifle, but she also finds Lindsay’s body. Nikki is surprised by a guy in a mechanic’s overalls named Bob and she knocks him out and ties him up thinking he’s the killer. I guess Bob is the guy who escaped from prison and allegedly killed the two kids two years ago. When the power is cut by lightning striking the cabin, Bob escapes. The girls plan to go over to the boys’ camp. They realize the canoe at the lake is gone (Brent took it to get gay sexed), so the good girl decides to strip down and swim for the other camp. She finds the canoe in the middle of the lake but is scared by Brent’s body that is inside it. When she gets back to shore, the killer stabs her. Nikki and Rachel hear her scream and realizing the good girl was ultimately sacrificing herself for the rest of the team, decides they need to check on her even though Rachel wants to run away for safety.
There’s another weird through line too… Rape. It’s used as a punchline at times whenever the girls are weirded out by stories of killer – who apparently did rape his victims too… I guess? It’s a major part of Nikki’s back story too. She’s not a hardened criminal. She was raped by a couple guys and when she didn’t turn them in before the evidence of their crimes was gone, her boyfriend went and killed them. Thinking she could be with him in prison, she got picked up for shoplifting. That’s a weird back story and it’s weird that there’s any attention whatsoever paid to rape in the movie. There’s nothing that needs that to be part of anything. It also makes you feel weird about the more lurid stuff of girls in cheerleader outfits acting a bit sexy. It’s also weird to have Rachel, for all the bitch she is, basically blame Nikki for what happened to her.
Nikki and Rachel find a storage cabin where the killer’s stuff is laid out. Also, they find a big box of dynamite left over from the days of the rock quarry that is now the lake. They are seemingly attacked again by Bob, but he turns out to be just another victim of the real killer. When Rachel tries to run outside, she is confronted by the killer and is stabbed. As the killer sneaks up behind Nikki, she’s able to block his attack and runs away. She’s chased through the woods until she gets to a cliff and jumps into the lake. I’m sure this is on purpose, but we see her come out of the water and walks to the road where she finds the Sheriff, but her clothes are completely dry. It’s pretty classic and I can’t tell if it was a happy accident or done on purpose as a joke.
Instead of taking Nikki back to town, the Sheriff takes her to the camp because he wants to get the killer before the trail runs cold. He gives Nikki a rifle and tells her to wait while he checks things out. While waiting for the Sheriff, she finds a porno mag, a bloody knife, and the missing redhead’s panties in the glove box. Thinking now the Sheriff is the killer, she goes after him. He overpowers her and tells her that he’s collecting the stuff as evidence. Again, this weird, creepy sex stuff that is a joke, but not really funny. He just has a porno mag and some panties in his glove box. That’s not even counting the bloody knife!
The Sheriff cuffs Nikki and throws her into the back seat and says he’s going to look around some more but she’s his prime suspect. She breaks out of the back of the car and goes to the driver’s seat where she plans to hot wire the car. As she’s doing that, the Sheriff comes back with an ax sticking out of him. The killer slowly approaches but Nikki gets away until she gets the Sheriff’s truck stuck in a patch of mud that has been referred to multiple times. Nikki finds a bunch of bodies and is then knocked out by the killer.
When she comes to, she’s gagged and cuffed down to a bed. I guess we’re going to have more rape stuff before this ends, huh? Yeah. That’s exactly what the killer does – starts to rape her. While he’s doing that, Nikki picks the lock on the hand cuffs and stabs the killer a couple times. When she tries to get him with the ax, he stabs her in the stomach. The killer is unmasked to be Bobby. She sets him on fire. Which leads to the box of dynamite. Which leads to a big kaboom. Nikki wakes up in the hospital. The cops say they got the groundskeeper and he’s going to be locked away. She looks over to see Bobby burned but still alive. The movie ends with her being knocked out by a sedative from the doctors when she tries to tell the deputy that the groundskeeper isn’t the killer and he thinks she’s not making much sense in her current state.
The movie was written, directed, and produced by Kerry Beyer. Oh and he also shot, edited, and scored the movie too. I will say that he did a fairly decent job. This is another movie like Die Die Delta Pi that obviously takes inspiration from the horror movies of the 80s. However, I kind of feel like Beyer gets his subject matter better and understands what makes all those hallmarks of the genre good and classic. While there are names taken from Halloween, he also clearly makes use of Friday the 13th with the camp setting, waking up in a hospital, weird locals, etc. There were several other things I could say felt right about it. I didn’t care for all the rape mentions or how it was used in general, but maybe that makes this slightly more modern. That was hardly a subject used in the 80s horror movies and is a very real horror in this era.
What I do appreciate is that the movie was made with a pretty suitable amount of care and love. The actresses all seemed to be having fun and none of them really stood out as being too bad. I think they understood what they were doing and played up to it. I also definitely appreciate Roxy Vandiver. Yes, yes, she gets topless, but that’s not what I’m getting at. I feel like she is the proper mix of soft and hard. During the early part of the movie when she was having her meet-cute with the Bobby guy, she was likable, kind of adorable, and seemingly came to life a bit – compared to her more gothy, punky look. When she needed to be the hero, she hardened and seemed totally capable of being a ball buster. It was well done on a lot of levels.
For what Beyer had, the best possible movie came out of it. I’d say check it out if you have Amazon Prime. You might get a little bit of a chuckle or a decent amount of entertainment for nothing more than 90ish minutes of your attention.
Next week, I dip my toes into one more modern horror movie as suggested by Amazon Prime. We’ve seen sorority girls being chased by crazy ladies, cheerleaders chased by a crazy guy, two high school girls chased by a crazy spirit, and a movie that tried to turn a historical figure into a crazy person. It’s time to look at the all too real and crazy element of young love devolving into stalker insanity. Come back next week and we’ll talk 2015’s Clinger.