October is probably my favorite month: Reread Ray Bradbury, catch Teatro Dallas' "Day of the Dead" festival (pushed back, sadly, to November this year), watch The Simpsons Halloween special, and rent the excessively bloody horror films I loved as a kid. I was hoping that Pocket Sandwich Theatre might add to my gore-smeared seasonal bliss with Camp Death, a popcorn-shooting spoof on teen slasher flicks. Playwright Kevin Michael Fuld seems to have a love of the genre too. It shows in his knowledgeable spoken introduction (read by Marvin Muff-Edward Evans as The Old Man Whom the Kids Ignore and Die Regretting It), in the fact that all his characters bear the surnames of fright-flick directors, and in his use of sound snippets as punctuating gags (a chainsaw, and most hilariously, that chee-chee-chee, ha-ha-ha from Friday the 13th).
Yet, however critic-proof the Pocket's popcorn comedies are, Camp Death wasn't exactly critic-friendly. This was a perfect example of audience enthusiasm propping up a script's attempts at comedy rather than interfering with it. Fuld knows how to pay a kind of frat-house respect to the formula, but that's not the same as tweaking it or poking fun at it or even wallowing in its excesses. The killer, Joey Manchester (Jonathan Trammell), wearing a brown paper bag with a jack-o'-lantern on his head and muttering about how he don't get no respect (he's always being confused with other movie maniacs), is pretty much reduced to chasing people in circles around the stage. Director Dennis Millegan and choreographer Lisa Cotie keep the scenes swinging along, but when everyone's just spouting scary-movie trivia instead of clever dialogue using scary-movie trivia, the pace starts to grate on you. Full disclosure: I left during the second intermission, after almost two hours, because the Pocket Sandwich wasn't building toward anything with Camp Death. Although I couldn't stay the whole ride, they did remind me why I love October: I walked down the sidewalk to Premiere Video and perused their horror-film shelves.