Campfire Tales is a shoestring budget, independent horror film released in 1991 and written and directed by William Cooke and Paul Talbot. It's an anthology featuring a wraparound story with a group of teenagers telling scary stories around a campfire. One of the storytellers is horror legend Gunnar Hansen, best known as "Leatherface" from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The stories are, for the most part, original and surprisingly gory considering the budget. The movie also uses many elements from famous horror stories and directors (Lucio Fulci specifically). The film was re-released on DVD in 2002 from Sub Rosa.
This film should not be confused with the 1997 film starring James Marsden and Amy Smart.
The Hook Edit
The first story involves a girlfriend and boyfriend. The boyfriend returns his girlfriend home after hearing on the radio about an escapee (H. Ray York) from the local insane asylum terrorizing the countryside with a hook replacing his right hand. Upon returning home, she discovers that her parents have been decapitated. As she runs to get help from her boyfriend she discovers that he has also fallen victim to the hook. A battle ensues and she comes out victorious with killing the hookman with his own hook.
The second story is probably the most memorable one with two drug addicts searching for pot. Upon finding a large quantity, and a very strange drug dealer, they return home to smoke it up. When they awaken they are sickly and appear to be rotting. They return to get more and notice that the dealer is suffering from the same symptoms. But they take no notice and return home to indulge once again. Again, they awaken more sickly than before. Instead of seeking medical treatment they return to the dealers place again only to see that he is no longer there. His plants are still in the apartment and the two take all of the plants with them back to their place. They indulge once again. As they smoke, they begin to fall apart and eventually turn to slime.
Fright Before Xmas Edit
The third story has to do with a selfish man returning home to his Mother (Barbara Jackson) for Christmas. He makes it quite obvious his detest for family and his love for money. Which results in him murdering his Mother by pushing her down the stairs leading into the basement. He leaves the body and heads over to his brothers house to watch his two children while he and his wife leave for dinner. The children tell him a tale about an evil Santa Claus known as "Satan Claus" who comes and punishes those who do evil things throughout the year. He leaves to head back to his Mothers house plotting what he is going to tell the police and his brother. Upon returning he is attacked by Satan Claus (Michael R. Smith) and eventually gets his heart removed.
Skull and Crossbones Edit
The fourth story is unquestionably the one with the highest budget and final story is about a shipwrecked pirate (Lawrence E. Campbell) on a desolate island. He discovers a man (Harold Odom) who warns him about buried treasure on the island being guarded by zombies. The pirate kills the man and goes in search for the treasure, ignoring the mans warnings. He discovers the treasure only to be attacked by a large group of pirate zombies. After running from them for some time they eventually catch and kill him. The wrap around story involves the young men going to sleep with the narrator (Gunnar Hanson) revealing a hook on his right hand.
- Gunnar Hansen - Ralph
- Robin Roberts - Jason
- Tres Holton - Billy
- Courtney Ballard - Danny
- Lora Podell - Susan
- H. Ray York - The Hook
- Johnny Tamblyn - Jim (segment "The Hook")
- Jeff Jordan - Chris
- David Avin - Larry
- Kevin Draine - Martin
- Michael R. Smith - Frank (segment 'Overtoke'), Satan Claus (segment 'The Fright Before Xmas'), Zombie (segment "Skull and Crossbones")
- Terrill Douglas - Addict
- Bob Gonzalez - Addict
- Walter Kaufmann - Addict (segment "Overtoke"), Joe (segment "Fright Before Xmas")
- Paul Kaufmann - Steve
While Cooke & Talbot's film was made on an incredibly small budget, it's worth noting that the first segment was completed while they were still attending high school. Within one film, you can see the growth and maturity gained from each individual segment shoot: the summer camp staple about the hook and door handle gradually moves through campy college drug experimentation on to a remarkably mature pirate story. Gunnar was so pleased with his experience in filming the wrap pieces, he continued working with the filmmakers in Freakshow and Hellblock 13.