Sitting in the middle of the forest, there’s a camp ground. Rumor has it that the camp was built on the site of an ancient Native American burial ground and that’s why grouchy Robert Ritchie (David Hess) and his wife Julia (Mismy Farmer) were able to afford it as such as reasonable price. I guess that could be true and maybe the part about the curse is true, too…. Well, no matter! People love to camp and the forest is lovely and there’s no way that this camp ground won’t be a success!
In fact, the only thing that could stop it from being a popular vacation location would be if two teenagers were mysteriously murdered one night….
Which, of course, is exactly what happens! The daughter of a local doctor (played by John Steiner, of all people) goes off with her boyfriend and both of them are murdered! (Though we’re told that the two of them are high school students and, when we first see them, they’re at basketball practice, both victims appear to be in their early 30s. When the actress playing the doctor’s daughter first approached him, I immediately assumed that she was playing his wife. I was actually a little bit stunned when she said, “Bye, Daddy.”)
Anyway, the unsolved murder pretty much ruins any hope of the camp ground being successful. 15 years later, Robert is paranoid and convinced that a Native shaman is sneaking around the forest and looking for campers to kill. Meanwhile, Julia is so frustrated with her increasingly unstable husband that she’s having an affair with the sheriff (Charles Napier). The sheriff is so busy shtupping Julia that it often falls upon Deputy Ted (Ivan Rassimov, who had the best hair of all the Italian horror actors) to actually enforce the law. Meanwhile, the doctor is still mourning the death of his daughter and wandering around the forest.
Eventually, a bunch of obnoxious 30-something teenagers arrive, looking for a place to park their camper and ride their dirt bikes. Despite the history of murder and the general grouchiness of Robert Ritchie, they decide to say at the campground. Soon, a masked killer is carving people up. Is it the spirit of the Native shaman or is it something else? Who will survive and what will be left of them?
This 1986 Italian film was directed by none other than Ruggero Deodato, the man behind films like Cannibal Holocaust and The House On The Edge of the Park (which starred Body Count’s David Hess). As one might expect from a Deodato film, the emphasis is on blood and atmosphere. Deodato, who always had a good eye for properly ominous locations, gets a lot of mileage out of that spooky forest, which really does look like exactly the place where a masked killer would chose to hang out. While the kills are tame by Deodato standards, they’re still icky enough to make you cringe. I’m sorry but if the scene involving the body hanging from the hook doesn’t freak you out, then you’ve obviously become dangerously desensitized and you probably should probably take a break from watching movies like this.
Of course, the main appeal of Body Count is to see a cast of Italian horror and exploitation veterans going through the motions of starring in an American-style slasher film. David Hess, Ivan Rassimov, John Steiner, Charles Napier, and Mimsy Farmer are all such wonderfully eccentric performers that they’re worth watching even when they’re stuck in one-dimensional roles. David Hess, especially, does a good job as the unhinged Robert Ritchie and the film makes good use of Hess’s image. The film understand that we’re so used to watching David Hess kill people on screen that our natural instinct is to suspect the worst when we see him in Body Count. I also liked the performance of John Steiner, largely because Steiner always came across like he couldn’t believe that, after a distinguished theatrical education, he somehow ended up an Italian horror mainstay. And, of course, Ivan Rassimov had the best hair in the Italian horror genre.
Body Count is on Prime. The story’s not great but it’s worth watching just for the horror vets in attendance.