What happens when the counselors take over a summer camp and start a revolution? All hell is set to break loose in this adaptation of William Butler’s novel The Butterfly Revolution.
Donald Poultry is a tech whiz and nerd who is excited to go to Camp North Pines. He instantly bonds with counselor in training Chris Wade. The new director of the camp is Mr. Warren, a former high school principal known for his strict methods of instilling religion and discipline. He seems likable, but he’s not well-liked. When some of the counselors begin to complain about having fun and even go as far as wanting to see the girls at the camp next door, Warren ultimately refuses it.
After head counselor Franklin Reilly learns that Warren may have inappropriately touched a young camper during a butterfly hunt, he decides enough is enough. He leads the counselors and campers in a revolution against Warren and the other head counselors. While Donald is at first supportive of the revolution, which now includes the girls, things begin to unravel when Franklin takes things too far. Soon enough, when Donald is accused of being a traitor, it is up to he and Chris to find a way to stop Franklin and his “army” once and for all.
William Butler’s 1961 novel The Butterfly Revolution involved a revolution at a summer camp. 25 years later, this film was made and is seen more of a loose adaptation of the novel. There are certain characters from the book into the novel, such as Franklin Reilly and Stanley Runk are in the film. However, screenwriters Bert L. Dragin (who also directed) and Penelope Spheeris (who would later direct Wayne’s World and The Little Rascals) decide to take the important elements of the book while modernizing the film with having the protagonist skills in technology.
Charles Stratton is pretty good as the eventual antagonist Franklin Reilly, who at the beginning of the film seems like a likable fellow. He gets along with the young campers as well as help Donald in a time of need. He just has an issue with authority who prove to be just a little too much. It is when a young camper tells Franklin about an incident with camp director Mr. Warren, played by the legendary Chuck Connors, that we see Franklin’s slow transformation into our antagonist. The beginning of “the revolution” with him in charge begins to solidify the transformation.
Ultimately, there are two main protagonists. First, there’s Adam Carl as Donald Poultry, who also serves as the narrator of the film. He is based on the character of Winston Weynes in Butler’s novel, but since the film is an 80’s film, they changed the name to Donald Poultry, who is nicknamed Duck due to the incident that has him initially earn Franklin’s support and they make him an expert in technology. The other main protagonist, Chris Wade is a character not based on anyone in the novel. However, considering Donald is only a 14-year-old nerd, they came with a counselor in training who from the beginning seems to act like a big brother to Donald. Played by the late Harold Pruett, Chris is the first to be against the revolution and eventually when Donald comes through, they plot together to end the insanity.
Two characters based from the book, Stanley Runk and John Mason, are well played by Stanley Rogers and Tom Fridley. The former is the main camp bully who soon serves as one of Franklin’s right hand men with Mason, an absolute creep, being the other. While in the book, Reilly and Runk have a power struggle, in the film, Runk knows Reilly is in charge and is willing to do what it takes to get on his good side after an isolated incident occurs. As for Mason, the importance of his character, the rape of a female camper does lead to his eventual demise. Seems like Fridley had a knack for getting killed off in films back in the day. Between this, Friday the 13th Part VI, and Phantom of the Mall, he couldn’t seem to get a break. And trivia fans will want to know the actress playing Mason’s victim is Samantha Newark, who is best known for her iconic voice role as Jerrica Benton and her alter ego on this hit cartoon Jem and the Holograms.
Summer Camp Nightmare may be a loose adaptation of The Butterfly Revolution. But the duo of Bert L. Dragin and Penelope Spheeris played it smart by taking some of the most important elements of that novel and putting them in a modern day setting for 1980s. Definitely worth checking out, even with the marketing making it look like a horror film.
WFG RATING: B+
A Crow Productions film. Director: Bert L. Dragin. Producer: Robert Crow. Writers: Bert L. Dragin and Penelope Spheeris; based on the novel “The Butterfly Revolution” by William Butler. Cinematography: Don Burgess. Editing: Michael Spence.
Cast: Charles Stratton, Harold P. Pruett, Adam Carl, Stanley Rogers, Tom Fridley, Melissa Reeves, Nancy Calabrese, Samantha Newark, Chuck Connors.