The Fuica Brothers, Demian and Leonardo, have been making independent films for over a decade, many of them featuring distinct settings. That experience is quite visible throughout their dramatic thriller Camping Trip. It is evident in the way the camera captures the scenery, in the swiveling drone shots, and in a well-choreographed slow-motion brawl sequence that dazzles the audience, highlighting the effort and thought put into the production. Unfortunately, that technical exception is the one thing that makes watching this stylishly photographed movie mildly justified. However, besides that, this is just a confusing and bland feature that doesn’t add up.
Ace (Alex Gravenstein) and Coco (Hannah Forest Briand) hitch a ride with Enzo (Leonardo Fuica) and Polly (Caitlin Cameron) to Enzo’s childhood camping spot after the first COVID-induced lockdown. The four set up a pleasant weekend stay with beers and barbeque, looking ahead to enjoying certain normalcy amidst the world-changing pandemic. But the seemingly fun vacation turns sour when two goons, Orick (Michael D’Amico) and Billy (Jonathan Vanderzon), botch a job and stash money in one of the couples’ tents. After discovering the ill-gotten goods, panic and suspicion kick in. Now questions of loyalty swirl about as the friends must fend off the unwanted guests.
As eerie as the plot sounds, Camping Trip doesn’t have any significant depth to its storyline or the people who populate it. The characters’ personalities and attributes are confusing and entirely out of sync. The discussions the two couples have and the night they spend at the camp don’t fit the panic-fueled transformation that comes later. These characters traverse a shallow puddle of emotions, which the actors’ expressions and delivery fail to bring forth.
“…the seemingly fun vacation turns sour when…the friends must fend off the unwanted guests.”
Co-director/writer Leonardo Fuica takes center stage in the lead role. He tries hard but never makes a compelling impact on viewers. Besides Fuica, Gravenstein’s portrayal of Ace is also implausible, made worse by giving him an intemperate arc. Even worse, the antagonists seem like mishandled props with unoriginal dialogue and dull banality.
Camping Trip also mismanages its intention to give the pandemic a decent weight in the story. The film opens up with references to the panic and hysteria of COVID. Ace, Coco, Enzo, and Polly discuss the changes the global catastrophe will bring to the world. But that discussion is never picked for further exploration. It was included probably to signify the time and limitations the movie was shot during. But, it fades away, amounting to little more than filler. And it’s not just the references to COVID that go nowhere. There are several other elements, including a murder subplot, that gets thrown out the window before they have the chance to strengthen the narrative or make any logical sense.
The one thing that the flick does decently is seen in two important sequences featuring severe conflicts between Ace, Coco, Enzo, and Polly. The director-duo uses rotating drone shots, taking the audience away from the scene every few moments, intensifying the whole setting, and creating a profoundly thrilling ambiance for those few minutes. But those eye-catching glimpses aren’t a saving grace. Having a few shots perfectly put together can’t compensate for the weak script that doesn’t sync with the characters, their portrayals, or the awkwardly written lines.
Despite obvious tension between the two groups of characters and the considerable bloodbath that follows at the lakeside, Camping Trip does not formulate a dark, horrifying atmosphere or a psychologically-heavy tension. The 115-minute runtime should’ve been more than sufficient enough to give the plot a solid foundation to weave a taut thriller. But the Fuicas failed at that, which means, despite the strong visuals, the film is hardly a fun experience.