Campfire Tales (1991)


Written & Directed by: William Cooke & Paul Talbot


Gunnar Hansen .... Ralph
Robin Roberts .... Jason
Tres Holton .... Billy
Courtney Ballard .... Danny
Lora Podell .... Susan
H Ray York .... The Hook
Johnny Tamblyn .... Jim
Jeff Jordon .... Chris
Michael R. Smith .... Frank / Satan Claus
David Avin .... Larry
Kevin Drane .... Martin
Paul Kaufmann .... Steve
Barbara Jackson .... Mother
Josh Craig .... Chucky
Sara Craig .... Suzie
Lawrence E. Campbell .... The Pirate
Harold Oldham .... The Black Man
William Cooke .... The Cabin Boy

Release Date: Direct-to-Video: 1991




A town drunk named Ralph (Gunnar Hansen) whom he encounters three teenage boys on a chilly autumn evening while they have a campfire and he tells them four different stories.

The first one The Hook is about a crazy man who escapes from a mental institution who bares a hook for a hand who attacks and kills people turning them into jack o lanterns on Hallows Eve.

The second one Overtoke is about a group of potheads who wants to score some marijuana and hooks up with all the marijuana they want which has something special in it and they can't get enough of it and they slowly turn to moldy themselves and end of dying a gory death.

The third one Fright Before Xmas is about a greedy son who comes home for Christmas from an unsuccessful business venture which his greed gets the best of him as he kills his own mother in order to get more money for his business but then he is haunted by mean spirited demon on Christmas Eve named Satan Claus an evil version of Santa who kills people who do deadly and sinful deeds.

The fourth Skull and Crossbones and final one is about a pirate who washes himself on a unknown island and meets up with someone who claims he knows where a buried treasure as he finds it he also finds a bunch of undead people before actually leave the island.


The beginning looked cheesy but impressive when we have the kids getting ready for a bonfire and the youngest one out in the woods to get stuff to prepare their fire along with the drunken Ralph apporaching him as things looked good and dark but yet done in a conry fashion too. There's cheesy discussions with Ralph talking to the kids when they are bringing out their Fangoria magazines and is about to tell them a tale which phony types of reactions on the kids when he discusses his first story but yet that's what made this moment so much fun at the same time.

The first chapter The Hook seemed like an exciting one with a teenage couple Susan and Jim making out in their car and having cheesy one liners about the legend of the killer attacking on Hallows Eve in which there's interesting dark camera shots on the two of them in their car in the woods which is a perfect setting for a horror flick. It can seem a bit spooky but at the same time corny by how everything was written and performed here.
There's also a good moment when Susan goes into her home to call for her parents but there is silence with just the TV blaring as well as things looking messy and a bloodied looking jack o lantern as this leaves a perfect spooky effect for a horror story especially taking place during that time of year. Also good shocking moments when she discovers what's underneath her parents sheets in their bed too with the TV on. This showed some perfect class here.
A cheesy fast camera shot closing in on the car with Jim in it and seeming obvious that the killer is about to attack him. However this does look spooky with close up shots on the killer's face and good gruesome results and the slaying that happens here.
There's cheesy situations with Susan trying to struggle from the killer as this seems pretty rusty but yet entertaining for what it was here when we keep watching this moment. It looked exciting at the same time too and shocking when we spot on what goes on with this horror type of battle. One of the best chapters in this anthology.

In the second one Overtoke looked fun to watch with two potheads named Chris and Larry driving and trying to look for marijuana as their discussions seemed unnatural but like a partying type of environment when we see what's going on here.
Also there's a nice presence with the drug dealer Frank being tempting as well as good shots on the others at his suite with nice light shots on them looking like a 70's enviornment along with their tattered faces which draws to your eye big time making this moment look truly eerie and mysterious too.
Also there's good shots on Chris and Larry smoking up as well as exposing an x-rated show on their TV which also looked well focused. Plus good close up shots on them waking up and their faces tattered as the effects looked pretty good here.
Then we have the situation with them going back to Larry's home as he looks more tattered as well as his friends too in which this looked perfectly creepy and giving off a bad feel to all of this.
Also there's good close up shots on them putting marijuana in their meals and baking it which looked truly gross by spotting all of this.
Also we spot shocking situations on what is happening to the two of them which can truly gross you out to see what it is and is not a pretty sight to see if you have a strong stomach but hey in a horror film we do expect gross out situations regardless. It looked well done with good effects due to the budget this anthology was made out of.

The third chapter Fright Before Xmas is my favourite one of them all in which the story strongly stands out and is quite psychological spotting a greedy man named Steve acting evil as well as his Mother trying to be cheerful to him as this for sure looks very disturbing especially seeing a parent going out of their way to try and make him happy as you get a dreadful feeling that thing's are going to be worst here and they just do when he attempts to kill her and she tries to plead to him. This scene looked well done and can make it very hard to watch this.
Plus we have a moment when he visits his sister and gives presents for the kids and they viciously open their gifts like greedy little brats as this was a nice attention grabber too. Also a good interaction between the kids when they discuss a Santa who brings presents to good people and an evil one for people who do bad things along with this one killing people who do evil stuff as this certainly grabs your attention a great deal and well written in for a horror flick which should please all you fans out there as well as getting a good feeling that this prick will get something in the end.
There's a perfect silent moment when Steve is in his home and it's dark and then gets a knock on the door and discovering a stocking full of coal as this gives you the chills since on what we heard of Steve's niece and nephew discussing the tale. Plus a nice dark figure lurking towards him and the results later on which had a cheesy but yet a perfect dark horror feel to it all.
All of this was brought together nicely for a horror story.

The fourth and final chapter Skull and Crossbones was very slow and my least favourite in which we do spot the lead character of the Pirate acting violent and obnoxious near the oceanside for not finding his gold.
There's a good camera shot zooming up to approach him as this seems to leave a suspenseful moment on what will happen but then it ends up as a disappointment to see who it is.
Also we seem to have a powerful discussion with him and a character named the Black Man in a fort discussing some plans. Yet this seemed a little too trite and boring too. But it does pack a punch when the Pirate murders him adding some decent terror.
The best scene is yet to come as we spot some zombie's rising up from the ocean with perfect camera shots on this as well as nice choreography on the sowrd fighting scene's between them and the Pirate along with nice close up shots on the deadly scene's too as well as a zombie rising from the ground so this chapter does have it's effective moments regardless.

Bottom line is that this was a made for video indie anthology made on a grindhouse type of budget but a good one regardless and although alot of it seems a bit trashy and cheesy here and there it fits into what we see here making this a very good one regardless and well done too. A flick that is considered obscure and what made it available in rental stores back in the day was due to the fact Leatherface starred in the wraparound story. But hey it worked in well. This one should please anthology fans who liked Tales from the Crypt. Worth checking out if you can find it.

The acting is fairly bad and wooden as it seemed like these people were friends with the people making this film. Lead actor Gunnar Hansen (Ralph) whom we all remember as Leatherface in Texas Chainsaw Massacre needed some acting lessons as he seemed a bit too goofy when he socialises at the campfire in the wraparound story. However at the same time can be quite a ham too. He didn't sound intimidating at all when he was discussing one of his scary stories with the downfall on that. Yet his presence and looks did a bit of the talking at the same time.

In the chapter The Hook lead actress Lora Podell (Susan) seemed to have the perfect pretty looks for the part in a horror flick and seemed to try her best by acting nervous and too freaked out by the tale that she's told with good facial expressions while doing this. However, she was a bit over the top in her role by being too much acting like this. Also she seemed to lack energy when she is shocked by spotting deadly situations and her screaming needed some improvements too. She shows okay blocking though when she struggles from the killer.
H Ray York (The Hook) pulled off his role quite well as the killer with his maniacal laughter and expressions along with showing some good energy while attacking. There were some spots however in his performance that seemed quite lacking nonetheless. He wasn't overly terrible and looked like he was having fun in his role.
Johnny Tamblyn
(Jim) who portrayed the boyfriend showed his stuff with his sarcasm and acting like a total clown but he got a little too carried away by doing this and acting too over the top within this. Yet when he is attacked seemed to do well with his shocking reactions.

In the second chapter Overtoke lead actor Jeff Jordon (Chris) had the perfect long haired looks to portray a guy who likes porn, rock and smoking weed and yet does his best to do this. At the same time his energy was low key and he needed to take lessons as you can tell here. He had a hard time portraying a character. He does do well acting out of it though and coming across as an airhead.
David Avin (Larry) seemed to be a wee bit rusty in his performance by portraying the other friend but still passes on his job as the more level headed one who seems a bit wiser which shines off here. Plus does a good job when acting aggressive letting out his energy. Also seems impressive when he reacts shocked to what has happened to him as well. Seemed to study his part in an okay fashion here.
Michael R. Smith (Frank) certainly shows off an effective supporting role as the drug dealer drawing in a hip type of attitude as well coming across very strange and mysterious within what he says to them. Plus another good shot on him the next day and acting out of it as he seemed to come across as a perfect zombie type of person.
Kevin Drane (Martin) was another fine supporting cast member as someone who is clear minded and seems to speak very well along with having a nice assertiveness to his part in the film. Also does a good job when he gets demanding as well showing off some good energy within all of this along with showing good facial expressions too.

The performance in Fright Before Xmas was not too bad at all with the lead actor Paul Kaufmann (Steve) as someone who is perfectly cold hearted along with his expressionless attitude and emotionless speaking too. He just comes acorss as someone who is perfectly negative in which he seems very disturbing while doing this along with his good physical blocking coming across as perfectly violent showing some good adrenaline as well. He also does a nice job when he sneers while speaking espeically to his online cast members playing his niece and nephew. Plus does a nice job sobbing on the phone acting perfectly deceiving. I found him to be the best throughout the cast members here.
Barbara Jackson (Mother) was a bit over the top like most of the cast mentioned here by trying to act as a loving type and trying to act uplifting as this wasn't convincing at all. She does a nice job though when she reacts scared while being forced to do something and comes across as someone you want to feel sorry for indeed.
Michael R. Smith (Satan Claus) returns in this chapter to play the evil character in which he does a great job with his deep and cold speaking voice along with doing well with his menacing blocking towards his main actor as he seemed almost Freddy Krueger like by doing this. Hats off to this guy indeed.

In the final chapter Skull and Crossbones lead actor Lawrence E. Campbell (The Pirate) is fair in his role but he can overdo it at times with his aggressions. He does well with his blocking like swinging his sword around and so fourth. Also does a nice job with his menacing attitude while killing someone as he put some nice force into this too.
Harold Oldham (The Black Man) added some nice spunk into his part of the film and seemed to show some good strong force especially when he starts to get into a conversation along with acting a bit wild which also shows off nicely here. Plus showed a perfect wide eyed expression when he gets stabbed as well as his reactions. He can pass a bit by being a sort of character actor.
William Cooke
(The Cabin Boy) had an effective supporting role as someone who seems disturbed along with acting cowardly on stuff as this shines off nicely here whenever he does this and is quite energetic whenever he does all of this. Just his silent attitude really draws in a perfect mystery to what he does here.

Posters of nude women are revealed on a pothead's wall in the chapter Overtoke.

In the chapter of The Hook a person is slashed in the stomach and then his headless body is revealed
Two bloodied people are slaughtered in a bed
Some bloody stabbing with a hook
The killer has his fingers cut off and his insides slashed as well as chunks of it spewing out

In Overtoke people's faces are mangled as well as their bodies being torn off with green goo exposing

In Fright Before Xmas a guy's heart is torn out along with his front cut open

In Skull and Crossbones a person's stomach is bloodily stabbed
Many zombie's are sliced and diced during a sword fight

The music was very toned out which seemed intentional for a grindhouse anthology such as this one as we hear some ghostly synthesizer music in some parts of the chapter like The Hook along with cheesy organ type music too along with some interesting heavy guitar riffs too. Also there's more rusty sounds in other segments along with a toned out "Jingle Bells" deep piano sounds for the Fright Before Xmas with more screechings which got to be a bit annoying too. Some good jungle beat drumming during a jungle battle with a pirate against some zombie's in the Skull and Crossbones chapter so some of it sounded fairly decent here. Plus we hear some army soldier drumbeats for the closing credits in the flick which sounded nice and clear along with more cheesy Z-grade synthesizer playing too. All of this was put together by Kevin Green and Stan Lollis.

Ralph: You boys know I ain't gonna hurt you.

Larry: This has all natural ingredients, so just shut up and smoke!

Steve: Now that I'm grown up, I *still* want everything!

The Pirate: I curse you! I'll be there on the other side, waiting for you!