Content Warning: references to self–harm from the very beginning
“Nostalgia is Cancer”
Eating Miss Campbell, the sophomore feature from Sheffield-based filmmaker Liam Regan, is a quasi-sequel to his 2014 debut My Bloody Banjo. It ports over several characters from his previous joint, whilst being a standalone film.
It follows Beth Connors (a fantastic Lyndsey Craine), a vegan teen, goth girl who is constantly killing herself, hoping her next life is a romcom. However, she is constantly being resurrected in horror films. Within the opening monologue we already have a self-harm joke when Beth cheerily tells us “remember, kids, it’s down the road not across the street”. This immediately sets the tone for this film and had the sickos in my screening giggling audibly “ooft”ing at its audacity.
Beth attends Henenlotter high school (the name a reference to the director of Basket Case and the ace Frankenhooker). It may ostensibly be a strange version of Britain, but this is very much in the mould of an American high school horror, complete with a clique of Mean Girls and grown adults playing teenagers (the film calls attention to this). The film looks great and very much embraces a 90s aesthetic. Beth’s high school announces it is holding a live-streamed “all you can eat massacre ” competition. The winner will be gifted a handgun to either massacre their fellow students or kill themselves. Meanwhile, Beth is starting to find she has a problematic taste for human flesh, and is starting a romance with the titular new teacher Miss Campbell (Lala Barlow).
If the content I have already mentioned doesn’t give you an indication this film is “not for everyone”, then the Troma title at the beginning should. For the uninitiated, Troma is an independent film studio who specialise in schlocky self-aware genre films that make a virtue of their low budgets. They also, however, have hidden satirical depths. Troma have managed to operate as true independents for decades, and launch the careers of people like James Gunn.
Regan is a Troma devotee and sprinkles the film with homages, including a cameo for Troma co-founder Lloyd Kaufman. Much like classic Troma Films, Eating Miss Campbell revels in its juvenility and “bad taste” humour. Further to what I’ve previously described, there is — and this is not an exhaustive list of offences — gore, date rape, paedophilia and an Alec Baldwin joke that will be the definition of “too soon” for many.
Much like previous Troma Films, however, it is refreshingly self aware and, for me, Eating Miss Campbell also has that scrappy, punky Troma “anything can happen” energy that stops me from ever being bored. Sometimes it feels like Regan’s characters are less speaking dialogue than saying some satirical point Regan wants to make. However, this is very much a cartoonish world separate to ours, so that’s not a major complaint.
Some have found the film nasty. However, I found that the film is very much not a polemic. It doesn’t have any overarching “message” as much as it is making bad taste jokes and poking fun at different elements of our world, without singling any group out.
The performances are all fantastic. Lyndsey Craine and My Bloody Banjo alumni Dani Thompson would be known by horror fans for 2018’s Book of Monsters. Laurence R. Harvey, (who infamously starred in The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence) gives a very game performance. The film is well made, with a fun punkish soundtrack that adds to its 90s vibe.
Eating Miss Campbell has offended or annoyed many people. My friends and I laughed like drains at the Horrorthon screening. Maybe that makes us bad people, I guess? Nevertheless, an independent film like this is an achievement, and one you may really enjoy if you like this very particular strain of subversive cinema.
Eating Miss Campbell was viewed at the 2022 IFI Horrorthon