Written by: Matt Molgaard
Directed by: Christian Duguay
Cast: Mila Kunis, Gregory Smith, Peter Stormare
If anyone attempts to sell you the idea that Christian Duguay’s Boot Camp is a horror film: punch them in the face, really hard.
The idea behind the film, which is (very) loosely based on factual events, boils down to child manipulation, isolation, some torture and of course, murder. The problem with Boot Camp is that screenwriters Agatha Dominik and John Cox are too damn afraid to push the boundaries far enough to even pretend to be horror. Maybe they never felt the feature should be considered a horror picture, but rather a drama, while the production company behind the release seemed to feel it would be a fine push as a genre offering. This isn’t the first time it’s happened, and it sure as hell won’t be the last feature to be improperly marketed.
The story follows the lives of three or four troubled teenagers, who are violently ushered from their comfort zones, transported to the Fijian islands (it’s already sounding so horrific!!) and put through an abusive boot camp-like regimen. The boys are frequently beaten, and the girls are sexually assaulted on the a regular basis (the closest the film comes to risqué, though the few scenes of this nature are more B-movie bad than A-class astonishing), all the while the smug “Dr.” Hail relaxes and watches, allowing the madness to unfold, as he seems to feel it all jives just fine with his idea of effective “treatment”.
There’s a detectable Lord of the Flies influence at work here, but unlike Peter Brook’s early 1960’s rendition, and Harry Hook’s 1990 retelling of William Golding’s famous tale, there’s absolutely no heart or passion detectable within Boot Camp. Not even a little bit of passion. It’s just an extraordinarily flat production from beginning to end.
Rather than bringing a potentially terrifying tale to a roaring rate of speed, pedal to the metal with the stick stuck in fifth, Boot Camp stays perennially confined to second gear, following the motions of a great film without ever taking a single risk by stepping outside of the box and making motions reality. There are numerous opportunities to shock the hell out of viewers, ratchet the terror up to ten and give genre fans a dose of genuine horror, but it never happens. It never even comes close to happening. Boot Camp starts as a watered down piece of cinema and ends just the same. How you can explore territory of this nature and turn up nothing but PG-garbage (that is entirely predictable) is far, far beyond my grasp.
Every scene that should crash into the heart and spark emotion sputters and dies, hindered by subpar performances anchored by forgettable dialogue. I began to suspect that this one would find its way back on to the tracks with a shocking climax, but apparently that was also too daring a maneuver for Christian Duguay (who, for the record has actually made some decent films in his time, including the awesome sci-fi/horror mash-up Screamers) as well: He eases off the gas just as the film finally seems to begin gaining a little momentum. Rather than a big, dynamic finish, we get a soulless paint-by-the-numbers wrap. Just miserably disappointing.
It’s a shame to see the talents of Mila Kunis, Gregory Smith and Peter Stormare thrown to waste, but that’s exactly what happens in this instance. Truth be told, I don’t think any single one of these performers would have climbed aboard for this one had their careers and places in the industry already been firmly established (okay, I have no idea what Stormare’s excuse is). Regardless of who’s involved though, there aren’t any redeemable qualities to find here. This is a picture that could have been left as nothing more than a brainstorming idea. Trust me when I tell you no one would have missed it.