One of the first jobs I had was spending all day listening to kids cry as a counsellor at Camp Samac in Oshawa, Ontario. While the job had its ups (pay was pretty good all things considered) and downs (the aforementioned crying kids) the first thing I noticed while there was that it looked familiar.
It took me a while to place it, but I eventually figured it out. This camp was used to record one of the dumbest children’s show of all time, Goosebumps. So years later, I thought I’d look it up for Halloween and see if it holds up all these years later. Spoiler alert, it doesn’t.
The show opens with a scene all too familiar for some, kids on a bus on route to a camp. However, before they make it to the camp ground the fat silent bus driver throws the children out in the middle of nowhere.
While the kids are confused about the situation, they’re soon scared shitless as a werewolf like creature lurks in the woods 10 feet away. While the kids get there first jump scare of the show, the creature is run off by the first character to introduce himself to the audience, Uncle Al. How does he scare this creature off you ask? With a ‘splosion of course. Al informs the kids that the creature is named Wilber, and brushes off their near death situation. Cause if the monster is infamous enough to name then it can’t be too important to their saftey.
Shortly after we’re introduced to our main character Billy. Billy, is a seemingly easy going kid who claims that his parents are scientists and that this is his first time at a summer camp…that probably won’t be important to the plot.
It’s around this point that you realize just how bad not only the acting is but just how dated and lame the dialogue feels. After Billy explains that he spends most to of his summer with his aunt and uncle another camper asks if his parents rob banks, and laughs afterwards amused by a joke so lame that even Dan Cook would be embarrassed. Not only is this not funny but it sets the a scarier tone then Wilber did.
As the show progresses odd things happen to the kids such as a camper getting a snake bit indoors, disappearing kids and comical fog that seems to be EVERYWHERE. While a sane person might think this strange it’s brushed off by the older counsellor who couldn’t care less. This I could related to.
Later a few of the kids make it to an abandoned cabin found on the camp ground. A cabin so ominous that it has friggin’ cobwebs on it. After the kids visit the cabin, Billy’s fellow campers start disappearing.
At this point it’s becoming clear that this camp isn’t as it seems. If the named monster isn’t the first tip off then the fact that the camp is operations without a trained nurse should at least raise an eyebrow. Couple that with the fact that the staff is seemingly trying to kill the kids and this is looking more and more like Sleep Away Camp…minus the fun parts.
As more campers disappear Billy becomes more suspicious about the monster that was lurking in the woods. Was it taking campers? Is it eating them? Why don’t the staff at the camp care? Why did it look so cheap?
It appears that Billy is the only camper left in his group as he starts to investigate the camp further to find an escape. At the abandoned cabin Billy runs into Dawn, from the girls camp who’s shares a similar story. In the cabin they find a collection of letters written from kids to their families. The letters range is age as some of the plea’s are from 20 plus years ago.
But before the two can dig deeper, Billy is called out by the staff. The staff and remaining other groups are seemingly starting a search party for some of the kids who tried to run away. The staff now dressed in military gear…for some reason, start handing out dart guns to kids…again for some reason.
Billy having enough of this crap starts to question just about everything that’s happened and shoots uncle Al. However, from there the story takes another equalling confusing turn.
It seems that this whole camp was just a test, made by Billy’s scientist parents (oh wow that wasn’t obvious at all). What was the test for? To train him for their real mission…a exploration mission to earth (cue dramatic music).
So…they weren’t on earth this whole time?
Even as a child this plot twist made me mad. It was pointless and had little to do with the story that happened before then. It’s whole purpose was to make the audience go “Oh that was different?” and in that case they did a good job.
While the idea of the series was to make a kid friendly version of the Twilight Zone, Rod Serling and his staff of writers crafted stories that explored themes like most science fiction is suppose to do. Camp Nightmare had seemingly too many ideas going at once and ended up throwing the whole alien world thing at us with little cause or purpose.
It was cool to rewatch for the location of Camp Samac but even then, this was a difficult show to make it through. Don’t believe me? Just try and watch it below.
Goosebumps was created by R.L. Stine and developed for TV by Deborah Forte. Welcome to Camp Nightmare was based upon the Goosebumps novela of the same name.