Monday, July 8, 2013

Happy Campers (2001)

Happy Campers
Directed by Daniel Waters
Starring Dominique Swain, Jaime King, Justin Long, Brad Renfro
Rated R 

What kind of sick fucky fuck ritual is that?

I never really understood the teenage camp counselor thing. Why put horny, stoned teenagers in charge of panicky, confused kids? It’s the perfect recipe for childhood trauma. I dunno how anyone survives it. Anyway, that’s the exact premise of Happy Campers: teenage sexcapades and prepubescent bummers. It was written and directed by Daniel Waters, the guy who wrote the classic 80’s teen-angst deathgasm Heathers. Happy Campers is actually the perfect companion piece to that seminal teen flick. It shares the same streak of pitch-black comedy, and is piled just as deep with bizzaro lines, iffy fashion choices,  and a manic ensemble cast of heroic villains and villainous heroes.

Happy Campers follows a group of camp counselors and their pint-sized charges over a six-week stay at Camp Bleeding Dove. Holy fuck, Camp BLEEDING DOVE? That’s a goddamn alarming name.

Anyway, there are many counselors here. So many. There’s Talia (Emily Bergl, the twitchy chick from Carrie II), the snippy, awkward intellectual, here because she’s in love with the camp’s Alpha Male. There’s Adam (Jordan Bridges), the jock asshole. Justin Long is Donald, the nervous geek. Brad Renfro (RIP) is Witchita, the he-dog dude everybody's in love with. Jasper (Keram Malicki-Sanchez) is the cool gay one, Pixel (Jaime King) is the kooky hot one, and Wendy (Dominque Swain, not playing a sourpuss, for once) is the crazed cheerleader. Also on board is Oberon (Peter Stomare), the fascist maniac running the joint who tells campfire stories about sodomizing serial killers to freaked-out 10 year olds. And of course, tons of screamy kids. Good times.

First week: Talia tells Witchita she's in love with him. He tells her to forget it. Pixel teaches the girls how to strip.  Week over.

Week two: Pixel skinny dips.

Wendy wears a bikini. Witchita nails her with a balloon and tries to shove a frog down her pants.  And thusly, our love/lust story begins. Important note: Dominique Swain looks fuckin’ awesome in a bikini.

I mean, seriously awesome.

Also there's a weird fat kid that gets picked on a lot and freaks out if anybody touches him. No word yet on whether he'll go crazy and kill everybody or not.

Wendy and Witchita meet out in the woods to make out. The woods are blue, just like in Heathers!

They almost bone until Oberon shows up. He tries to bust them, but gets electrocuted and is basically a vegetable. Wendy's freaked out by the whole thing and just goes back to being a counselor.

Week 3:  Jasper tries to get something going with Witchita. He's not into it. Everybody wants to bone this guy.

Also, Pixel tries to get something going with Wendy. She's not into it. Not a lot of gay stuff happening at Camp Bleeding Dove.

Wendy's starting to lose her mind, probably from sexual frustration. She gets up in front of the camp during lunch and starts banging on her acoustic guitar like a fuckin’ lunatic. At one point she screams "Isn't fun great?" It's scarier than it sounds.

Then there's a hurricane that almost blows the camp away.  Everybody takes advantage of the break in the action by trying to bone each other, except for Wendy, who gets stung by a bee on purpose to get 'closer' to the campers, and finds out she's seriously allergic to fuckin’ bees and almost dies.

Also, Witchita thinks he might've suddenly found Jesus, because he discovers a childhood photo that they were both in even though they never met. He makes out with her monster face, and then they bone. The end.

Well, it would be, but there's some complications to iron out. First off, it turns out Donald is obsessed with Wendy, and likes to stare at pictures of her while he puts clothes pins on his nipples. Also, Pixel hates Adam the asshole so much she has sex with him while he tortures the fat kid. Also, Oberon escapes to the woods and runs around naked, howling at the moon. I think this is week four, but it's hard to say, since it’s all just a blur of teenage sex at this point.

But then Witchita gets bored with boning Wendy. She has no idea why, so she and Pixel come up with a perfectly teenage plan to figure it out: Pixel is gonna take him out to the woods and offer herself to him. If he takes the bait, he clearly doesn’t care all that much about Wendy. I think that’s the idea? Also, Pixel might just want to bone Witchita. Everybody else does. But anyway, he knows what's up, and after she shows him her boobs, he just saunters off. Then Wendy goes goth and decides to either poison herself or him.

And she’s not the only one that’s bummed out. It’s the last day of camp and everybody's got the blues. Donald especially, since he bought a dozen boxes of condoms, and never even got to have sex with anybody. So, he makes water balloons with the rubbers and rallies the kids and goes to war against the other counselors.

And then Pixel and Wendy make out a little. And everybody learns an important lesson, even the fat kid. Well, maybe not the fat kid, nobody can help him.

Just kidding, he's ok, too.

It’s kind of a head-scratcher why this movie isn’t more well-known, since it seems ripe for cult-flick status. It’s filled with memorable lines (“Are you mad at me for giving the cabin girls new hairdos or teaching the girls how to activate their clitoris?”), there’s a bunch of winking nods to Heathers, the cast is young and pretty, the tone is gleefully venomous, and it’s aggressively sleazy. It might have just been a case of bad timing. Happy Campers was originally released in January of 2001, not the best month for a summer flick, and a few months later, the world had essentially ended, and nobody was in the mood for a summer romp of any kind. Whatever the reason for its flop status, Happy Campers is well worth a second look. It’s funny, mean, messy, weird, and occasionally embarrassing. Just like real summer camp.

- Ken 

Stacey says:
Man, I hated summer camp! I went to day camp every summer until I was in high school (except one, when went to overnight camp for four miserable weeks). While Happy Campers brought back all my horrid summer camp memories... it was also a lot of fun. They really got this one right!  Rumspringa-Woo!

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