I understand the intent of putting Jesse Eisenberg front and center on the cover, the art of which suggests a camp-counselor slasher in the style of “Friday the 13th,” but “The Social Network” star has little more than a cameo, and the film is unfortunately more of a drama.
I say “unfortunately” not because it’s bad, but because it’s based on true events — to be exact, those of its debuting writer/director George VanBuskirk. He grew up in a strict Catholic community in New Jersey called People of Hope, where kids were sent to the religion-based Camp Hope for two weeks each summer to have so much guilt surrounding their natural bodies hammered into them, it qualifies as soul-crushing abuse.
His fictionalized self is Tommy Leary (Will Denton, “Fright Night”), in whom Father McAllister (Bruce Davison, “X-Men”) takes a heavy interest. Tommy’s not a bad kid, but because he’s ravaged by hormones, he’s a target of the adults. I got a tiny “Donnie Darko” vibe off Tommy’s mental faculties as a result of the camp’s policies and actions.
Things for Tommy aren’t any better at home, where his parents (Andrew McCarthy and Dana Delany, who’s playing the polar opposite of her hedonistic S&M queen from "Exit to Eden") practically equate “impure thoughts” with first-degree murder.
With strong performances all around, it’s a well-made movie, if not particulary one I’d want to revisit. It’s important to note that “Camp Hell” is not anti-Christian, but anti-crazy Christian. There's a huge difference. —Rod Lott