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[Panic Fest Review] NIGHTMARE AT CAMP BLOODBATH is an Irreverent Horror Comedy at its Bloody Best

Still from NIGHTMARE AT CAMP BLOODBATH (2023), directed by Dylan Arnow - Panic Fest 2023.
Courtesy of Dylan Arnow

Paying homage to colorful campfire horror á la Friday the 13th (1980) and Fear Street: 1978 (2021), Nightmare at Camp Bloodbath is a delightfully tongue-in-cheek horror comedy. Written and directed by Dylan Arnow, the film balances its good-natured silliness by poking light fun at the tropes and hallmarks of some of horror’s most beloved slashers. It stars Adam Bussell, Marlee Forsyth, and Alex von Klemperer.

The short follows two camp counselors, Greg (Bussell) and his girlfriend Becky (Forsyth), as they return to their cabin at Camp Mo-Be-Bos-Co (a play on New Jersey’s own Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco) to find it destroyed by the neighboring camp. Greg has half a mind to go over and confront their rivals, but Becky is terrified that the dangerous Terrance Fisher (von Klemperer) is out and about in the dark. Greg reassures her that he’s an urban legend –– no more real than “the Loch Ness monster, or Jesus.” The film plays out as you might expect, with Terrance Fisher pursuing the clueless counselors to their bloody end.

Nightmare at Camp Bloodbath shines with authenticity. Farrell Plew and Cassie Wise’s prop work and set design is an excellent recreation of items in any Sleepaway Camp (1983) look-alike. The walkman Becky listens to plays a significant role in the film and possesses the power to take away her awareness of her surroundings. The result of such devotion to detail is a nostalgic trip down memory lane. The film errs in scenes where Greg repeatedly interacts with what looks like a modern fridge. It’s a jarring visual that immediately takes us out of the era the film emulates.

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Still from NIGHTMARE AT CAMP BLOODBATH (2023), directed by Dylan Arnow - Panic Fest 2023.
Courtesy of Dylan Arnow

At the same time, the film is rife with cheeky nods and easter eggs for everyone. From the date of the bloodbath — somehow both Friday the 13th and Halloween night — to the wholesome kumbaya of the counselors next door is a well-placed reference. Notably, the film never talks down to its audience or turns its nose up at the genre. Instead, it reads as a love letter to fellow slashers, albeit one that cheerfully self-deprecates.

Nightmare at Camp Bloodbath isn’t particularly deep or incredibly insightful –– but it’s not meant to be. Entertaining and irreverent, it is both a parody and a tribute to beloved classics. In the simplest terms, it’s a rousingly good time. Arnow’s writing is well-paced, the bits brief and to the point, and Greg Burnell and Chris Upton’s music pops with the candy-bright sound and style of the late 70s.


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