Thursday, October 27, 2011

BODY COUNT (1987) - if you're gonna go camping on an Indian burial ground, burnt marshmellows are the least of your concerns

The credits roll to a hacky, pseudo-American Claudio Simonetti synth score, nevertheless saved by the pretty ballsy move being influenced by the Friday the 13th 3-D disco theme. Of course, since this is an Italian production pretending to be American, the film has to open with some white bread American institution, like, say, a basketball game. Bob turning the ball over again! Ugh! Naturally, coach tells him that he’ll suck less at playing the point if he sees a psychiatrist. Apparently, his plummeting assist-to-turnover ratio is in direct correlation with the trouble he’s having with his girlfriend. Just then, the team doctor’s daughter asks permission to go the local campground, and this segue-facilitating wish is granted.

As if our collective ire of suspicion has not already been raised by the mere suggestion of camping, these particular grounds have several quirks worth mentioning:

1. It is run by David Hess, one of the most notorious psychos in screen history.

2. It was built on an Indian burial ground.

3. A witch doctor has placed a curse upon the campground.

4. The daughters of prominent town doctors go there to have sex.

I think I know where this headed.

However, the daughter survives long enough to come across a cop car. She takes a seat, clutching a teddy bear close to her heart. Surely she will be safe after all, what with the cuddly bear, not to mention that a friendly officer is on his way back to protect her. Surely these warning signs I listed above were nothing more than empty stabs in the dark, a blind connecting of the dots, emblematic of nothing in…oh wait, someone is stabbing at her through the seat. Oh, well, never mind.

The girl runs away bleeding, and ends up underneath a log. Quite ruthlessly, the killer stabs her through the fucking log. Her boyfriend shows up looking for her, and, incredibly, finds her alive! Well, she didn’t get stabbed through a log after all! The teddy bear did in fact protect her! Thank the good…oh no, he gets stabbed too. It’s the killer again, wearing her shirt to trick the boyfriend. Alarmingly, Hess also has a creepy red herring son, and he pops his head in for good measure.

Eighteen years later, a RV full of schmucky fake yank teens are getting lost on their camping trip. Through the magic of recorded sound, we become privy to their conversations. Their hopes, dreams, and ideas come rushing forth like a flowing stream of humanity. At one point, someone says that Iron Maiden is the greatest band of all time (less an opinion, more a “fact”). A girl says the trip is bad for her ovaries. The fat guy complains about someone stealing his chocolate bar, and later divulges the wisdom that stealing somebody‘s girlfriend is “like a negro picking cotton“ (before this revelation, I smallmindedly looked upon these two situations as separate, un-linked events).

David’s son shows up, now a soldier returning home, and they bond together by setting traps for any pesky Indian Shamans that might be running wild on their property. Oh yeah, I forgot. In addition to those suspicious campground quirks I mentioned earlier, there are one or possibly two evil Indian shamans running around the area. We are later made aware of a bit a volatile love triangle between the sheriff, David, and his wife, the ever lovely Mimsy Farmer, who apparently likes to hide some pork sausage on the side.

The team doctor from the prologue goes fishing at a water hole near the campground, and engages the sheriff in small talk. They notice that two young female kayakers (who speak in ridiculously dubbed faux-southern speak, like if Scarlet O’Hara was played by a 10-year-old drunk Canadian girl) are also headed to the campsite (along with a bunch of other schmucks I haven't even mentioned), finally setting up this wild convergence, a plethora of victims and suspects, all conveniently showing up in a previously isolated setting. All of these characters run around from place to place and get killed in a wild stew of coincidence, happenstance, and circumstance, even including dreams and flashbacks, supplemented by that teddy bear popping up everywhere through the magic of teleportation (presumably a symbol of lost innocence, or there to appease any three-year-olds in the audience). It’s sort of like a retarded drawing room comedy version of Ten Little Indians spread out over five acres.


In the end, Deodato rips the ending of Friday the 13th Part 2 by having a killer Indian shaman doing a slow-mo jump through the window at the final girl while her and nerd boy are barricaded in a cabin. The sheriff eventually shows up and blows away the rascally redskin, who turns out to be the soldier’s son (what the shit?) in injun garb. The next day, the sheriff explains that Ben killed everyone, except for the doctor’s daughter from the prologue (the horny one with the teddy bear). Presumably Hess was responsible for that bit of business, so naturally he has to get his comeuppance, and an axe promptly finds its way into his frontal lobe, courtesy of an actual Indian Shaman. This particular character, true to the spirit of the film, is introduced during the final fucking shot.

Lest we forget director Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust and its critique of the media’s unethical distortion and destruction of the very subjects they are reporting on. Here, Ruggero may be attempting to tackle the American nuclear family, who try to whitewash any potential issues in order to maintain the illusion of the moral, all-American family to others and, more importantly, themselves. These repressed demons eventually come rushing forth, apparently in the form of teenie hacking Indian shamans.

Wait a second. Maybe it’s a treatise on the plight of the Indians, and the long standing refusal of the white man to accept responsibility for what amounted to ethnic cleansing. Not to mention that “negro picking cotton” comment…
how did I miss that? Shit. Well, if you wanna watch a triple thesis on the immoral foundations of America disguised as a middle of the road campground slasher, head down to your local video store and…oh wait, you won’t be able to find it. Never mind, forget I said anything.

P.S. This was written as part of the Italian horror blogathon over at Hugo Stiglitz Makes Moves. Clicky and check it out!

P.P.S. This is also post#8 in my Lazy Baker Halloween Horror Countdown. Hitting the home stretch people.

P.P.P.S. This movie is also know as "Camping del Terrore" and "Alaridos del Terror", and is not to be confused with the other movie callled "Body Count" from 1987, which is directed by Paul Leder and is aka "The Eleventh Commandment".

P.P.P.P.S. You can also consider this post a tribute to the recently deceased David Hess.

1 comment:

  1. I don't know if my first comment made it on here, so I'll repost it.

    Okay, you sold me with this:

    1. It is run by David Hess, one of the most notorious psychos in screen history.

    2. It was built on an Indian burial ground.

    3. A witch doctor has placed a curse upon the campground.

    4. The daughters of prominent town doctors go there to have sex.

    I haven't seen this yet (I've always wanted to, though), and now I have a good reason to bump it up on my list. I loved the tone of your essay, but I have to admit, I stopped reading because I didn't want anything spoiled for me. So I've bookmarked the page, and I'll be back to read the whole thing when I finally get around to watching this.

    Thanks for contributing this to the blogathon! I really appreciate it. Great stuff.