Sunday, August 7, 2016

Dangerous Antics (Aussie Grit Edition): Scare Campaign (2015)

Scare Campaign (Australia, 2015)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Meegan Warner, Ian Meadows, Olivia DeJonge |

Remember the show Scare Tactics? The one where an unsuspecting victim gets pranked by their friends and family in elaborate scenarios inspired by horror movies? Now, I always wondered what will happen if prank shows like this screw with the wrong guy? Maybe someone too unstable to understand that everything's a joke? Would there be misunderstandings? Lawsuits? Or perhaps, even murder?

Come to think of it, wasn't there already a slasher that did this "what if" situation? A 2013 indie called Hazmat? Welp, it looks like there that movie may have a competition as Australia decided to join this bandwagon and give us Scare Campaign! A cheesy sounding title for a surprisingly awesome movie.

In this bloody outing, the horror-themed prank show Scare Campaign is in dire need of ratings or else it'll face the bitter truth simply known as a cancellation. Thinking they should spice things up (and taking some sort of inspiration from a supposed snuff their producer showed them), the program's director Marcus and his little crew of actors and techies decide to prank who appears to be a very disturbed former doctor, much to the reasonable worries of Marcus' actress girlfriend Emma, who in turn had to deal with her boyfriend's uncaring attitude to their targets and even some of their actors.

Setting up a haunting-themed prank precisely at their victims's prior establishment, a near-rundown mental hospital, things obviously start out rocky as the good doc slowly loses it the further the prank goes. Inevitably, the doctor snaps and begins a bloody killing spree, slowly trailing from one twist reveal to the next as the massacre gets messier and more dangerous.

Straight out of the noggins of Cameron and Colin Cairnes, who you may remember as the writer and director brother team behind the most illegally pirated horror flick, 100 Bloody Acres, Scare Campaign is the two's second feature film and (personally) an improvement from their first feature, as well as a proud addition to the growing number of Ozploited slashers.

Basically, it's a bodycounter that lets you think you have an idea where the plot is heading, only to use almost every little detail hinted before, during and after the killing spree to make nasty bloody twists out of them. The further the plot goes, the more messed-up the surprises get, in a direction almost similar to a 2011 slasher called The Task wherein its plot started as a kidnapping before turning into a TV game show-going-deadly-wrong kind of shenanigan, only to tackle more reveals in the end. The difference between that movie and Scare Campaign, however, is that Campaign has the energy and direction to keep the flow going thanks to a more tolerable set of leads, a hectic-yet-workable pacing, and a witty direction that both kept and played around with the predictable slasher formula.

Apart from that, Scare Campaign also serves up quite a nasty treat for gore junkies and bloodhounds as the killings deliciously get nastier from one reveal to the next, all done through traditional practical effects and a tinge of bloody tension. The villains here are also a great bunch, starting with a rather intimidating mad ex-doctor who may have some secrets of his own, before eventually making way to a Deep Web-inspired cutting crew wielding some of the best looking customized weapons in slasherdom, probably inspired by the 1960 proto-slasher Peeping Tom. (Only with chainsaws. Gotta love the chainsaws)

If there is one thing that didn't do well with me would be the finale: without giving away much, it felt a little too easy for the story to just end the way it did, even if the sole purpose of doing so was to set-up a possible sequel and/or give some sort of ambiguity. After all the blood and guts spilled, I was expecting a better climax for the remaining casts and crews as they find themselves surrounded by an army of killers, but for some reason, we were instead given a tame do-or-die morality test of sorts that left me feeling cheated with a side of "meh". There's also a plot hole concerning the latter sets of twists that wasn't really explored or properly explained other than "it just happened". Thankfully, the rest of the film was a fun thrill ride so this low downslope of an ending didn't bother me much.

So what else can I say about Scare Campaign? Honestly, I have nothing else to blabber about without spoiling any more than what I had, aside of course that the film earns its spot as one of my top slashers! Nifty twists, characters you will love to hate, a great set of villains and a gore-o-meter tipping its scales, this modern ozploitation horror deserves all the lookie-look it can and will get!

1 female decapitated with a sword (snuff)
1 male gets a bladed camera to the face (snuff)
1 female stabbed to death with a letter opener
1 male garroted and hanged with a tie
1 female had her throat cut with a letter opener
1 male hacked to death with an axe
1 male hacked to death with an axe
1 male ran through the head with a bladed camera
1 male had his head sliced in half with a garrote-equipped camera
1 male stabbed with a bladed camera
1 female found hanging dead with her eyes gouged out
1 male sliced to death with a chainsaw-equipped camera
1 male disemboweled with a cervical dilator
1 male pushed into a furnace
Total: 14

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