Aspiring actor and part-time “limo” driver Caesar Denovio (Dave Campfield) overcomes his natural cowardice in a case of parking lot rage and punches out the mentally-challenged brother of the local sheriff. Terrified of the wedgies he’d receive in prison, Caesar and Otto, his aspiring lump of a brother (Paul Chomicki), skip town in a hurry. Job Counselor Estevez hooks them up with employment as counselors at Camp Sunshine. But they pick the worst time to learn how to mold young minds as one of the other new counselors-in-training is a dirty, stinkin’ slasher-killer, picking off the rest one by one.
Writer, director and star Dave Campfield (“Dark Corridor”) throws his hat into the ring of horror comedies, focusing his attention on the infamous “Sleepaway Camp” movies. But except for one brief moment of smug (and forced) self-awareness, Campfield delivers an entertaining little movie that is refreshingly irony-free. In all honesty, “Caesar and Otto”—the first feature starring the loveable misanthropes from Campfield’s previous shorts—is best for all the things that it’s not. The script wisely avoids drug humor so any dopey gags are of the goofy variety rather than the giggly-hip “Scary Movie” unfunniness. It also avoids filthy humor and, for the most part, reliance on profanity for laughs. A few of the profanities are scattered here and there, mostly in Caesar’s most sugar-high-infused dialogue, and they actually stick out from the rest of the straightline-punchline exchanges. Most of characters are played by genuine actors, all of whom seem to be committed to the project and want to bring something extra to their roles. And the limited gore is well-executed (sorry) and torture-free. (When one counselor takes a shovel to the shoulder, he cries out in agony: “My sweater!”)
Campfield’s intentions are worn on the box art, with one critic proclaiming it “Abbott and Costello on hard drugs!” but that’s far from accurate. It isn’t too difficult to envision a world where Caesar and Otto got their start in a vaudeville that lasted into the ‘80s before moving on to a string of movies with identical plots revolving around the duo and their handling of familiar situations. So the “Abbott and Costello” part is right but the “hard drugs” is not. Except for shots taken at the slovenly Otto, most of the humor is cruelty-free. There are insult jokes, yes, but they’re not designed to drive the targets sobbing to therapy. Actually, a closer comparison would be to the Bowery Boys (or even Ray Dennis Steckler’s “The Lemon Grove Kids”). When I mentioned to Campfield that his Caesar seemed to me like a cross between the lead Bowery Boys Huntz Hall and Leo Gorcey, he proudly countered “Maybe Huntz Hall and Norma Desmond!” And that seemed more appropriate. After all, he does describe the character as a “belligerent nancy boy” (yet still avoiding any cheap-shot gay bashing).
The sore-thumbs in the “Caesar and Otto” universe are not the unfamiliar actors, but the “celebrity” cameos. Felissa Rose is strangely lifeless in her “Angela” revamp and Joe Estevez is even more Joe Estevez than usual. Brinke Stevens works a better in her appearance as Otto’s off-again girlfriend who only calls when she wants to make bail, and it might be because she seems to recognize the movie’s tone, whereas the others are either mugging shamelessly or under the misconception that she’s starring in “Sleepwalking Camp”.
High marks are given to Ken MacFarlane as the daffy head counselor Jerry and to Avi K. Garg as the gentle soul Drew. But the star of the show, and he knows it, is Campfield as Caesar. While the director doesn’t hog the spotlight, it’s impossible for Caesar to blend into the background. Like a motor-mouthed Jackie Cooper, Caesar snaps, japes, and soliloquies throughout, with some of his funnier rants delivered at top speed becoming a single, very long word. It’s an all-or-nothing gusto delivered by a guy who truly loves what he’s doing, and it raises the energy of everyone around him.
But what sells the DVD is not the feature but the back up short, “…Meet Dracula’s Lawyer.” Whisking by in a hilarious breeze, the short fares better even with more cameos, including a funny self-abusing Debbie Rochon, a deadpan Desiree Gould (another “Sleepaway Camp” vet), and a surprisingly subdued Lloyd Kaufman. This time, the boys are up for the murder of Vlad Dracula’s lesser-known brother Steve Dracula (played by Brian Dennehy’s lesser-known brother Ed Dennehy) and Campfield is given a real run for his money in terms of scene-stealing from Francis Leik, who plays bloodsucker lawyer Jimmy Drainum. Leik is a dead-ringer for Michael Ironside and owns his sleazeball character. With a brisk pace and tighter editing than “Summer Camp Massacre” (and some middling-to-quite-good green screen ingenuity), “Meet Dracula’s Lawyer” is the icing, including the fancy flower-thingies and cursive writing, on the horror comedy cake.