Camp Cold Brook accomplishes a seemingly Herculean task. It manages to make both slasher flicks and movies centered on paranormal investigations feel fresh without being a deconstructionist take. This is because it steers clear of the more irritating tropes of either subgenre. That isn’t to say director Andy Palmer’s fright film is devoid of all cliches, but it avoids quite a few.
Jack (Chad Michael Murray) is the host of a supernatural investigation/ ghost hunting show. Now in its third season, they are facing cancellation. Jack convinces the executive at the studio, who likes Jack and his team, to give them a full-length special, to air in the summer. If it goes well, then another season will be picked up. The problem is that the ghost hunting team need something big and explosive to get viewers hooked to watch.
That is when producer Angela (Danielle Harris) hits on the idea of heading to Camp Cold Brook. Two decades ago, a horrific event involving the mass drowning of 28l campers took place at the church camp. The location is not far from Jack’s childhood home in Oklahoma, and his return to that site angers his mom Esther (Mary Buss) quite a bit. What actually happened all those years ago? Is there any truth to the urban legend of a witch causing it? What is Esther hiding from Jack?
“…a horrific event involving the mass drowning of 28l campers took place at the church camp.”
Let’s get the issues out of the way first. While resolving everything, Alex Carl’s screenplay goes the Insidious route. Now, before things sound too negative, the twist here makes much more sense than in that franchise-starter. However, it is easy to ascertain if an attentive watcher is paying attention to all the clues. These leaves Camp Cold Brook ending in a blasé way.
It is also a bit hard to swallow that Esther would have never informed Jack of the truth behind the urban legend of his hometown. Narratively, it allows for some riveting moments- especially when crosscutting between the two plot strands- but the withholding of knowledge makes less sense from a character standpoint. It again, hurts the overall impact of the film, so that the last few scenes are not as impactful as they could have been.
But, even knowing this, Camp Cold Brook is still a solid all-around watch. For one, Palmer’s direction is quite good. Despite a premise that readily allows the use of shaky cam, there is none to be found. The in-world explanation is the use of tiny gimbals for their cameras, so the first-person, found footage moments are calm. This makes moments when something eerie does happen all the more effective because the screen is not jarring the audiences’ eyeballs all over. The quiet just beforehand is more intense because of the stillness, so the film is pretty scary.