Daniel Heaton’s review published on Letterboxd:
Barring the 'unofficial' 'Camp Blood 3' film 'Within the Woods' from 2005, there hadnt been a 'Camp Blood' movie in just over 14 years. It was largely considered a dead 'IP' until David Sterling (while acting as producer) decided to basically do a soft reboot on the series, bringing in Mark Polonia (of 'Feeders' 1-3 fame) to write and direct the film that would effectively relaunch the franchise...What could possibly go wrong?
'Camp Blood 3: First Slaughter' is essentially a clean slate reboot for the series. The only thing that carries across from the first 2 'Camp Blood' movies is the name 'Camp Blood' and the backstory of the 'clown killer' (basically that a husband came home to find his wife in bed with another man, and was driven insane with jealousy and rage to the point that he dragged them both into the woods, murdered them and then became a hermit, killing anyone who stayed in the woods for longer than a brief jog.)
The film (clocking in at a paltry 73 minutes, 7 minutes of which is made up of titles and credits) cuts all ties to the events of the first two films, instead focussing on a group of students who are taking an 'extra credits' class on 'Urban Legends'. The professor on the course informs the kids about the disturbing history of 'Camp Blackwood' (AKA Camp Blood) and the infamous Clown killer.
Given that the students all live VERY locally to the woods, the professor decides to set an assignment, the students are to go into the woods for a weekend and document any happenings that may occur, they're reluctent, but agree to.
The rest of the film more or less from that point onwards is then presented as a 'Cannibal Holocaust' style 'found footage' movie as we piece together the students recovered video footage to try and find out what happened to them and gather any information about the killer that we can.
and...thats the movie. And the biggest overhanging issue with the film is it's UTTER cheapness and desperation to try and JUST about meet the basic standards of professional cinema and not a jot more. and even then it fails.
What we have presented here is the bare minimum or less for the full runtime. The script is basically the most barest of slasher films with plot twists you can see from 2 acts away, HORRIFICALLY slow pacing (if you like shots of people slowly walking from their neighbourhood into the woods for 5 minutes, you've hit the jackpot with this film)
It cant decide the tone it wants to go with so you end up with weird melodramatic humour intercut with just...REALLY dull by the numbers slasher fodder. The dialogues dry, awkward and stiff. because half of the film is presented as a linear narrative piece and the other half is presented as found footage it makes building an act structure really difficult, letalone transitioning between them.
The reason that type of script writing/pacing worked in movies like 'Cannibal Holocaust' was because even though the majority of the film was being presented as 'Found footage' we still regularly cut back to the here and now, and we still made sure to present what was happening as a progrssive linear piece. We learnt about the found footage characters at the same time as the characters WATCHING the found footage, which gave it a bit more depth and helped smooth over the jarring nature of found footage movies.
That isnt the case here...instead about halfway into the running time, the film just goes 'This is foung footage now.' and that's it. no nuance, no context. it's just presented as found footage from that point onwards with a flimsy pretence that a news stations gotten ahold of all the police evidence and is presenting these 'snuff' movies uncut for the viewers amusement and in the hope someone will come forward (which doenst make any kind of sense at all)
Add to that that the script itself just...CANNOT show people plot point, and HAS to stop and explain them in vivid detail for large chunks of the runtime, things get unbearable FAST. and; while I wont go into spoilers here, the reveal of who the killer is was incredibly predictable, to the point that I guessed more or less how it shook out 15 minutes in. HOWEVER, the motivations of the killer are BIZARRLEY convoluted to the point that I felt I needed to jot down exactly who was avenging who, what revenge had led to what vengence and who was even supposed to be IN this movie...it's an 'info dump' ending that is very dissatisfying and left me just feeling cold.
The direction is a total mess, The role of a director is to curate the production, to make sure the cast and crew are following a clear vision and to make the big decisions about how the film should look, feel and to basically shape and mould the film into their ideal vision. This film has NON of that. it's rammed to the gills with TONS of padding the opening 10 minutes or so of the film has NO relevence to the rest of the movie, other than a brief decpitation sequence which does get a nod 50 minutes later.
Add to that that the cine is equally a total shambles too and you have a even more compounded problem. This is a film that thinks styalisation is just shaking the camera a bit every few seconds and dumping 40 million 'damaged VHS' effects filters over HD footage with a ton of 'film reel spinning' noise in the background (as if THAT makes any sense) and then calling it a day.
Shots are terribly composed, have ZERO stabalisation on them, sequences are poorly constructed and seem to almost be a patchwork of whatever they shot and figured they could get away with inserting into the film, over trying to build ANYTHING consistent. it's a clunky, lumpy mess of an edit comprised of uninteresting and irritating to look at shots that have been drenched in filters and flashing imagery to the point that it all just looks ugly.
As for the performances? Im just gonna treat it as a broad statement, it's horrendous. I thought the border 'porny' style acting in the first two 'Camp Blood' movies was bad. But the performances here make those guys look like they were part of the royal shakespere company.
Now; partial credit to them, the dialogue for this film is awkward, overly wordy and just plain written weird. Even the most seasoned actors would have trouble getting a decent delivery out of this thing. But these guys dont strike me as professionals, they strike me as friends and family of the producer/director/crew members who were promised a hot meal and some tape for giving up a couple weeks of their time to shoot a thing for a thing. They have NO screen presence, most fo their line deliveries are monotone and hollow, not ONE of them breaks above 'neutral' they're all either just short of passable, or worse.
In fact, the only thing I WILL give them part credit on (hence the one star rating) is both the fact that I didnt out and out HATE this movie, and that the scoring was probably the best thing about it. Its not winning any awards any time soon, but its easily the best 'Camp Blood' score i've heard to date...not that that's a particularly high bar to clear given the first 2 films only had 4 synth tracks played on a loop and the unofficial 'Camp Blood 3' sounded like someone raided 'Full Moon Features' sound library...it's not half bad, it does have some character to it. it's the best thing about this movie.
'Camp Blood: First Slaughter' clearly has a team behind it that enjoy slasher movies, but I dont think you'll find a better example of the old addage that 'Just because you like something, doesnt mean you're good at it.' This, for all intents and purposes, is a poor quality and low/no budget slasher wearing 'camp blood's skin. it has nothing to do with the other Camp Blood movies, [mild spoilers] but for 90% of the films runtime we're dealing with a TOTALLY different killer who doesnt even wear a clown mask (despite almost all the promotional material selling this as a killer clown movie)
It has poor direction, poor cine, poor performances and honestly, it just feels like they were pressed into a corner where they were FORCED to make a 'Camp Blood' movie for some reason, so they just crapped out ANYTHING to keep things going. it was an abysmal watch and had it not been for the occasional weird moment and the score, this would have absolutely been a bottom of the barrel watch, easily the worst horror movie i've seen this year to date (And given I watched all the 'Ray Dennis Steckler' movies recently THATS SAYING SOMETHING!) Avoid like the plague. Stick with 'Within the Woods' it may not be an amazing 'Camp Blood' movie, but at least it TRIES to be a 'Camp Blood' movie...which is more than can be said for this thing.