Cinematic history is littered with the remains of films that failed to conclude in satisfactory fashion. That’s especially true of horror, a genre that relies, nay depends, on strong endings.

Even such recent(ish) horror hits as The Blair Witch Project (1999) and Paranormal Activity (2007) couldn’t come up with well-done third acts or the kind of resolutions to send their audiences home completely happy – or completely freaked out. (In fact, the latter had its ending changed for its widescreen release, at the behest of producer Steven Spielberg. And ironically, his 1975 classic Jaws has critics who believe the film is much better through its first two acts, before the title character finally emerges. But that’s another story for another day.)

Getting back to the subject at hand, you can’t really blame Happy Camp for failing in that regard as well. Like Blair Witch and the first Paranormal, this horror-thriller does generate a few scares in innovative ways, mostly through use of the “found-footage” gimmick, which is saying something, given how done-to-death that contrivance has become.

And refreshingly, at 75 minutes, it doesn’t even linger too long. That turns out to be a good thing, since audiences probably don’t want to give its somewhat messy finale any real thought — at least not if they’re going to look back upon the movie in a favorable light.

The low-budget, fairly-no-frills effort comes from director, co-scripter and co-star Josh Anthony and some of his actor/producer/writer pals, who set their tale in the title town, a real-life logging community that’s located in northern California’s Klamath National Forest.

Using fake news footage and other filmic re-creations, Happy Camp at least tries to tell the story of Michael Tanner (Michael Barbuto), a thirty-something who’s still haunted by the mysterious disappearance of his adopted brother, Dean, more than 20 years earlier.

The boy was abducted and never found, a similar fate that was shared by a startling number of Happy Camp residents. So Michael returns to the scene of the crime, with the help of his friends Josh (Anthony), Teddy (Teddy Gilmore) and Anne (Anne Taylor), all of whom come bearing questions as well as a digital video camera to record their experiences.

As you’d expect, the remaining Happy Camp residents aren’t exactly thrilled to see them, or to answer their seemingly pesky questions. And once the quartet investigates the nearby woods, they start hearing and seeing all sorts of mysterious noises and presences.

You have to give the filmmakers some points for one thing: They’re smart enough to know that have to lighten the mood with occasional humor, and these interludes are very welcome. Otherwise, the film would have quickly become laughable and silly, though the aforementioned ending may give a few viewers a case of the giggles.

But Anthony and company do set a proper mood, aided by the dark, mysterious forest atmospherics. And the production values are solid, for the most part, despite the obvious shoestring budget. (While Drew Barrymore and producing partner Nancy Juvonen have their names on the film through their Flower Films production company, it’s clear this wasn’t a pricey investment.)

Jeff Michael Vice can also be heard reviewing films, television programs, comics, books, music and other things as part of The Geek Show Podcast (, and can be seen reviewing films as part of Xfinity’s Big Movie Mouth-Off (