By Carol Ellis.
Rachel is one of a group of teen counsellors getting Camp Silverlake ready to welcome its summer guests. Whilst Rachel is a stranger to the camp, Stacey, Mark, Steve, Jordan and Paul know each other from attending as kids. Although they haven’t stayed in touch, Rachel notices a palpable tension between them.
Creating a display of photos from the 20 years the camp has been in operation, Rachel includes snaps of her fellow counsellors as children – prompting strangely negative reactions from them and from the shifty janitor, Mr Drummond. Rachel is baffled, until Paul tells her about a boy – Johnny – who died at the camp when they were kids: the boy in the photo which Rachel has placed in the middle of her display. Paul reveals that Johnny was teased mercilessly by Steve, Mark, Jordan and Stacey… until he was found one day with a broken neck.
Good-natured rivalry between the girls and boys turns sour when Steve finds a rattlesnake in his sleeping bag, triggering his crippling phobia, and on a trip to a nearby island, someone scuttles Stacey’s boat and she is narrowly saved from drowning. Rachel starts to wonder whether someone is seeking revenge on Johnny’s bullies, by using their worst fears against them. But when she is targeted too, Rachel realises no one is safe.
Camp Fear meanders around the characters and the mystery for a long time, before finally gathering pace towards the finale. The interactions between the teens are occasionally entertaining, though some of the characters are more interesting than others. Rachel herself has very little personality. Despite being the protagonist, she is mostly a witness to proceedings, and is frustratingly never in any real danger. Because of this, it is difficult to feel invested in, or scared by, what happens. We are introduced to the perpetrator early on, via anonymous, first person snippets interspersed throughout the chapters. As the story progresses, these reveal a plan which is coming to fruition, building the anticipation ahead of the finale. There is potential for suspense here, but at the end, too much remains unexplained and unresolved.
Camp Fear is a damp squib. The campsite setting is ideal for building tension and creating scares, but the isolated, tragedy-struck Camp Silverlake location is never used effectively. There is little sense of actual danger until the very end, and by that point, we have no investment in any of the characters, including Rachel. As it fails to deliver even a basic scare, Camp Fear gets a fear factor rating of…