Sleepaway Camp (1983)

Genre: Horror

Cast: Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tiersten, Karen Fields

Synopsis: After a gruesome boating accident, Angela is shipped off to a summer camp with her cousin Ricky. Angela is shy, borderline retarded, and is relentlessly bullied by other kids and counselors. That’s when the murders start…

I’d heard a fair bit about this movie before I saw it because of its ‘what the fuck’ ending. I didn’t think it would be able to surprise me because of my prior knowledge but my God was I wrong. There were so many ‘what the hell am I watching’ moments tightly packed into this 85 minute disaster-piece that I don’t really know where to begin writing this review. By the way, I’m hereby coining the phrase ‘disaster-piece’ because it’s awesome (if you couldn’t guess it’s an amalgamation of the words ‘disaster’ and ‘masterpiece’).

I think I’ll begin with the acting. Where the hell did the casting director find these people? Some of them (especially Angela’s aunt) act like they’re on crack. Not everyone’s bad though: I thought that the actors who played Angela, Ricky, and Paul were actually quite good…everyone else was appalling though. The characters themselves are really one dimensional: you have the 15 year old whore who got her breasts in over the year, the hard ass counselor who’s banging the really old guy, the jock thug who needed to take ‘a wicked dump’ (eeeewww), and the drooling pedophile. Oh dear God the pedophile. I have to say it was pretty edgy to include a pedophile in the story but the actual performance was just hilariously 1950s. The guy kind of smacks his lips as the kids come running into the camp, calling them ‘baldies’ and ‘chickens.’ Thankfully I’ve never been in the presence of a pedo but I’m pretty sure they’re not so open about their tastes.

The pedo’s death scene though is, without a doubt, one of the funniest kills I’ve seen in a movie. Spoiler alert: he gets a huge pot of boiling water dumped on him in what has to be one of the most easily escapable situations ever. After it happens he just screams at the camera for about 30 seconds while the scene is spliced with shots of his assistant who just stares on in horror. The editing in this is just heinous. It goes like this: burnt man screaming, cut to black guy looking on in horror, cut back to man screaming, cut back to black man looking on in horror, cut back to man screaming, cut back to black man looking on in horror. It goes on for ages and had me in stitches. The other death scenes are equally inventive, including one where a girl gets a hot hair curler shoved up her soft shelled tuna taco. It’s actually pretty vile to think about and fans of gore will be satisfied. If you’re squeamish though then this might not be the best thing to watch.

I have to say, I was on track to give this film a very high score until one scene ruined it. The movie suggests that the reason why Angela is so weird is because she saw her gay parents have sex one night and she therefore became confused about gender. It’s amazing how homophobic the scene was. I guess it just goes to show you that film makers could get away with it about 30 years ago. No film maker would dream of including a scene like this nowadays, especially considering that most people seem to agree that having gay parents won’t confuse a kid about gender. As a gay man myself, I found it pretty distasteful. What’s weirder is that it suggests that this is the reason why Angela is fucked up but then the movie goes on to show what the actual reason was. There was literally no point in including the gay scene in the movie. I guess the whole movie’s pretty transphobic too but I actually thought that the idea of a killer with gender identity issues was a good one (it worked in Silence of the Lambs). It’s just a shame that the execution was just so offensive.

High-lights:

  • The pedo death scene.
  • The movie kind of played out like a really gory version of an R. L. Stein Goosebumps book. I fucking love those books.
  • Bizarre twist.

Downers:

  • The unnecessary homophobia and transphobia.
  • Some of the deaths were too gory for me to handle.

Summary:

I can see why this is a cult classic. I should probably watch some of the sequels now, all of which are supposed to be laugh out loud terrible. Horror buffs should definitely watch this and I would personally suggest watching it with a group of friends. The comedy value is too good not to share.

7/10

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6 Comments

Filed under Good, Horror

6 responses to “Sleepaway Camp (1983)

  1. theipc

    Great post!! I can’t believe I didn’t catch this when I was growing up. That being said, the end of this blew my mind. The sequels are all sorts of bad fun!

  2. First off, R.L. Stein!!! I used to love Stein (and Christopher Pike). Also I watched this with my friend and we were totally WTF at the end. I think we might’ve actually screamed that at the exact same time…Crazy ass movie.

  3. >The movie kind of played out like a really gory version of an R. L. Stein Goosebumps book<

    YES, THIS. I really, really wish I'd thought of that when I was reviewing it…

  4. This is, without a doubt, one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s just so campy (pun intended) and 80s, and nothing beats the ending. I’ve never really thought of it as homophobic, though. The way I see it, the whole “gay parents screwed me up” aspect was just kind of a red herring. Good write-up.

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