By Don Simpson | March 24, 2014
Director: Josh Anthony
Writers: Josh Anthony, Michael Barbuto, Anne Taylor
Starring: Michael Barbuto, Anne Taylor, Josh Anthony, Teddy Gilmore
Deep within the Klamath National Forest is a backwoods trailer park community called Happy Camp. This is where Michael came to live when he was adopted at the age of 9 by Walt and Sandy Tanner. Two years later, when Walt and Sandy’s biological son disappeared mysteriously, Michael was the only eye witness but had no recollection of what happened. The Tanner family quickly disintegrated and Michael was shipped off to yet another foster household.
Two decades later, Michael (Michael Barbuto) has agreed to return to Happy Camp with his girlfriend, Anne (Anne Taylor), and her two-man documentary film crew, Josh (Josh Anthony) and Teddy (Teddy Gilmore). They pile into a rickety old RV that barely makes its way to Happy Camp, making it pretty clear that the foursome will not be driving away from Happy Camp in this vehicle.
Presented as found footage, Josh Anthony’s Happy Camp assembles the video footage from the documentary crew’s cameras as well as the cameras affixed to the RV; in doing so, Happy Camp admirably maintains the authenticity of the visual perspectives throughout the film. Questions may arise considering the sources of the audio, however, since it seems fairly clear that the RV’s cameras do not have microphones (perhaps the characters are wearing wireless lavaliere microphones at all times?). It also seems somewhat unlikely that none of the protagonists would try to watch the footage from the RV’s external cameras after the vehicle is vandalized. Lastly, the computer-generated images appear way too fake, especially for a genre that purports to achieve a higher level of realism. That seems to be the problem with Happy Camp, it utilizes a filmmaking approach that demands a certain amount of authenticity in all aspects of the production; but Anthony is overly fixated on keeping the visual perspectives in check, while allowing other qualities of the production slide.