Deer Camp ’86 Slogs Along In A Muddled Mess [Screamfest]

Deer Camp '86 still

Deer Camp ‘86 is a tortuous viewing experience despite its short 85–minute runtime. 

Deer Camp ‘86, directed by L. VanDyke Sibouotszen and written by Bo Hansen and Riley Taurus, playing at Screamfest, follows a set of men on a great outdoors trip for hunting season. Their journey turns into a fight for survival against a supernatural assailant. With dreadful acting and abrupt tonal shifts, the movie is akin to Pumpkinhead without the entertainment. Deer Camp ‘86 is a tortuous viewing experience despite its short 85–minute runtime. 

The group has Wes (Noah Lalonde), hothead Karlos (Josh Dominguez), J.B. (Brian Michael Raetz), Buck (Jay J. Bidwell), Simon (Arthur Cartwright) and Edwards (David Lautman). They friends head to the forests, geared up to hunt deer; to call them friends would be a misnomer. It is not the amount of yelling and bullying that makes their camaraderie unbelievable; it is the disregard they feel when some of their members die. One of them even cracks a joke while eyeing their deceased member. On their way to their cabin, they stop at a bar and Wes chats with the bartender named Star (Tina Joy), an Indigenous woman.  

Deer Camp Has Promising Parallels That Get Lost

Deer Camp '86 still of Star pointing a gun at a man
Deer Camp ’86 still. Courtesy of Screamfest.

While there, they wind up in a barroom brawl with a group of local racists, which Star breaks up at gunpoint. There is a commentary potential regarding the dichotomy of the troublemaking racists and the obscure danger of the unassuming man. Hypocritically, the group challenges the racists yet ignores the offensive member in their party. Social media’s alt-right racists and liberals trending name that mixes Pocahontas’s name with ‘broke’ to attack former president Trump is an apt parallel. 

But the whole message gets lost in the progressive degradation of the film’s quality. Tina Joy gives a decent performance, but the abysmal performances of the rest overshadow it. An unknown assailant attempts to assault her and kills her for resisting. The attempted assault angered me, but I still hoped there was something more to the film. Call me an optimist. But the acting continued to deteriorate as though there was a competition on who could deliver the worst performance. 

Traumatic Scene Feels Out Of Place

Deer Camp '86 still of a billboard stating "Have You Seen Us?" with a picture of two missing young, Indigenous women
Deer Camp ’86 still. Courtesy of Screamfest.

The humor does not work and most jokes are offensive in their efforts after Star’s death. The issue/movement about MMIW (Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women) feels inessential, used as a plot point rather than having any purpose despite it being the reason later events unfold. By the end, the twist is not a twist if you pay attention, and while it is doubtful anyone will miss these men, the film is so bad you cannot even enjoy their deaths. If there was a point, which the end suggests, it vanishes because Deer Camp ‘86 is terrible. 

Good Camera Work And Effects

Deer Camp '86 still of men approaching a man tied up up to trees.
Deer Camp ’86 still. Courtesy of Screamfest.

The camera work was reasonably good. It is confusing that certain parts stand out, given the meat of the film fails so abysmally. Visual effects of the supernatural pursuer were sound, which surprised me. There are some gory deaths for the audience, but this movie is not scary. There is too much that does not work. I didn’t know if this was horror or comedy because it failed at both. 

Deer Camp ‘86 takes a serious subject—missing and murdered Indigenous women—and obscures it behind a terrible film. Filled to the brim with bad acting, Deer Camp ‘86 borders on offensive but is hands-down bad. There are few films I recommend passing on, but I cannot even label this film camp or B-horror worth viewing. If you watch it, do so at your peril and realize it is time you do not get back. 

1 thought on “Deer Camp ’86 Slogs Along In A Muddled Mess [Screamfest]”

  1. Jacqueline VanEssen

    I completely disagree! I found the movie to be quite good. A combination of humor and horror. I think the acting was phenomenal. I particularly like the character Buck played by Jay J Bidwell. He definitely delivered.

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