Sleepaway Camp (1983)

Sleepaway Camp (1983)

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The best thing about this movie. Simples.
The best thing about this movie. Simples.

Twitter Plot Summary: Years after her Dad is killed in a freak boating accident, Angela goes to summer camp, gets bullied, then people suddenly start dying…

Genre: Horror/Thriller

Director: Robert Hiltzik

Key Cast: Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tiersten, Desiree Gould

Five Point Summary:

1. Aunt Martha – ye gods, that’s BAD acting.
2. Sorry, HOW old is that guy running the place?
3. And why has he insisted on hiring a paedophile as the chef?
4. Who could the killer be?!
5. Brace yourself for the ending.

The 80s are well known for giving us a vast number of cheesy films across multiple genres. Fantasy and horror are the two genres that stand out as far as Edam levels are concerned. Sleepaway Camp is the first in what became a series of films based around a killer at a summer camp.

We start off with a family outing to the beach, but this is no ordinary family – the two kids, Angela and Peter, have two Dad’s! An accident involving a jet ski happens and we then move forward a few years where Angela and her cousin Ricky are being sent off to summer camp by Aunt Martha. Aunt Martha is in my top 10 favourite characters in cinema history, certainly my favourite character in this film. That’s despite having less than five minutes screen time. No offence to Desiree Gould who plays her, but it’s a masterclass in bad acting. It comes as no surprise that she only has 6 acting credits on IMDB, the most notable of which is Under Surveillance where she reunites with Sleepaway Camp alumnus Felissa Rose. Aunt Martha is deliciously terrible and is one of the many reasons people should see this film.

Anyway, back to the plot. Angela is understandably a bit shy and awkward after seeing one of her two Dad’s killed. She’s bullied by pretty much everybody else, but is protected by her cousin and a boy named Paul who takes a shine to her. Yet more bad acting ensues, and everybody who badmouths Angela is bumped off in grisly fashion. By grisly I mean it mostly happens offscreen. There’s an inventive use of hair straighteners, you’ll know the scene when you get there.

Sleepaway Camp is also notable for more than just the bad acting and the death scenes. The script and casting choices also come under scrutiny. The script because the camp chef (that is, the chef who works at the camp, not a camp chef) slobbers over the young girls and even attempts to rape Angela before he gets his comeuppance. I can see why they put a character like that into the story, but even so it’s a tad disturbing.

Such a strange, weird old man...
Such a strange, weird old man…

Fashion. This being the 80s, everybody has mullets or big hair, and some of the outfits worn by the apparently straight men are either indicative of the era or they’re secretly in the cupboard. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. We do see Angela’s parents in bed together during a flashback, but there’s nothing to see except two straight actors awkwardly stroking each other’s arms.

And finally – in what world does a 60 year old man get a date with an 18-20 year old girl? Note that he isn’t rich, he isn’t a very nice guy, and he isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer.  I think the script called for a younger man running the camp yet the director/casting director went for this guy instead. Another incredulity on top of everything else.

You would never call this film a classic, but the shock ending did enough to guarantee a cult following. You’ll probably guess who the culprit is after the first death, but stick with it. I won’t spoil the ending as that’s not what I’m here for, all I can say is watch the film, enjoy how bad it actually is, and then brace yourself for the final five minutes. It gave me the willies.

Favourite scene: THAT ending.

Quote:

“Artie: Look at all that young fresh chicken. Where I come from, we call ’em baldies. Makes your mouth water, don’t it?
Ben: Artie, they’re too young to even understand what’s on your mind.
Artie: There ain’t no such thing as being too young. You’re just too old.”

Silly Moment:  Aunt Martha sending the kids off to camp. A perfect example of bad, bad, bad acting.

Score: 3/5

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