Camp Bloody Beach‘s Amateur Curse

Let me peel back the curtain here a little. We at NewTeeVee Station are frequently contacted by creators who want us to look at their new web projects, some of which are great, and some of which are so-so. We try and emphasize the great stuff in our coverage, mainly because it’s not polite to jump up and down on something awful — especially if it’s a series by a group of passionate amateurs who might learn from their mistakes and one day go on to produce something even better.

But today, I’m going take a different tack. I will be constructive with my review, but I will also be frank: Camp Bloody Beach is not good.

Comparing itself to “lonelygirl15 meets Friday the 13th meets Blair Witch,” Camp Bloody Beach uses the attractive-people-talking-into-a-camera format (I’m still not totally prepared to call it a genre) to tell the story of a Canadian summer camp being stalked by a serial killer. A more accurate description would thus be: a Friday the 13th clone, told like The Blair Witch Project, but on the Internet. And not in a particularly exciting or effective way, either.

On a technical level, Beach gets a pass because the show is supposed to look like it’s being shot by people who aren’t pros at holding a camera. But all the other usual amateur complaints apply. The writing is flat, the tone veers so wildly from comedy to horror that it never manages to be either funny or scary, and the acting, while not awful, fails to make an impression. And the attempts at interactivity pretty much boil down to just asking people to email and leave comments — though I will give them credit for replying to the haters on YouTube.

I could go on (doing a web series about summer camp in the middle of winter seems wildly incongruous, for one thing), but the fundamental problems all come down to premise and execution. What made lonelygirl15 initially compelling was that you didn’t know it was a mystery; Bree had built a small fan base before the strange circumstances of her life became more apparent. Meanwhile, every video page on the Camp Bloody Beach site (which is woefully out of date) features a header counting down how many people are dead so far — there’s no attempt to be coy about the subject matter. And what made Blair Witch Project scary was that you could tell the actors were actually scared. No one at Camp Bloody Beach seems very scared — there’s no sense of building tension, even as people start dying in larger numbers.

Beach has close to a thousand YouTube subscribers and 25,000 channel views, which isn’t bad for a production of this scale (it probably helps that they’ve been able to promote the show to lonelygirl15 fans). But there’s a lot going wrong here.

Because I promised this would be constructive, here is a tip for the makers of Camp Bloody Beach and other aspiring web series creators. The “It’s BLANK meets BLANK!” pitch arose in Hollywood because most decisions made at major studios are made by executives looking for easy ways to justify their choices, and “BLANK meets BLANK” is a way to make a multimillion-dollar project seem like a safe investment to men in suits.

But guess what, guys? You’re not making a movie in Hollywood. You’re making something for the Internet, where productions are cheap and the only suit you have to convince is the one in your closet (that is, if you’re prone to talking to your clothes). Don’t be “BLANK meets BLANK.” Go crazy. Take risks. And for the sake of all of us reviewers, who open up every unsolicited email hoping to see the next great show, please be original.

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