SLEEPAWAY CAMPAnchor Bay Entertainment
1983
R

“If she were any quieter she’d be dead!”

Ricky and his introverted and shy cousin Angela (who has been living with Ricky and his whacked-out mother since her father and brother were killed in a boating accident in the first reel) are sent to camp for the summer. It’s Angela’s first time there, and once she and Ricky arrive, she’s immediately picked on left and right because she’s introverted and shy (damn kids). Despite all the unpleasantness, little Angie manages to fall in puppy love for the first time. Oh, and someone on the camp premises is on a killing spree, giving new meaning to the phrase “Disposable Teens”. Wackiness, and one hell of a twist ending, ensues…

In the pantheon of cheesy 80s teen slasher flics, the original Sleepaway Camp ranks as one of my all-time favorites. It’s got pretty much everything you’d expect from a slasher horror movie set in the early 80s: The hilariously dated fashions (this was a time where guys could wear cut-off midriff t-shirts and still retain their masculinity…and don’t get me started on the body builder guy), a basic “whodunit” mystery, the unseen killer POV kill shots, one-dimensional teenage a-holes, cheesy dialogue, a setting in the woods, the token slut…basically your by-the-book post-Friday The 13th slasher horror. Ah, but before you shrug this off as another generic sub-genre film (which it is, in a sense), there are little touches that sets this one apart from the pantheon of Friday The 13th imitators…

First of all, unlike most slasher flicks, the kills aren’t the highlights here. The writer / director of this movie was aiming a little higher than just a meaningless slaughter, and quite frankly, he succeeded. First off, the character of Angela is novel, as you don’t usually see shy little girls in slasher flicks…usually the girls featured are promiscuous and chemical-happy. Here, though, there are young teens and pre-teens acting like…well, kids, instead of foul-mouthed and unbelievable teens played by twenty-somethings. Don’t get me wrong, you still get those, but they’re notably not the entire focus. There’s also a couple of cute little side plot involving little Angela’s budding interest in Ricky’s friend Paul. It’s sweet, portrayed in a realistic light, and quite frankly it was refreshing to have an innocent little “crush” instead of just getting smutty. Also, the bond between Ricky and Angie was solid and was played up with credibility. This made me care about the characters on a different level rather than, “Who’s going to get offed first?” It added a layer of humanity to an otherwise heartless and exploitive sub genre. And, let me tell you, Felissa Rose was perfect as Angela…she’s probably the most intense character, and she barely says anything throughout the movie.

But, before you begin to think this is merely a 90-minute After School Special, rest assured, the carnage is there. You get a creepy pedophile cook get boiled alive, a bunch of nasty teen campers dispatched in a variety of ways (including a bee’s hive, and I’m still wondering where that hair curler was stuck…don’t ask), and at the end, two people loose their heads. One literally, one figuratively.

SPOILER WARNING!!!!
…and when it comes to shocking plot twists, Sleepaway Camp has The Crying Game beat by a good decade. Think about that…

In the end, I’m still shaken with that ending. I don’t know why. I think it’s a combination of the “big revelation” and the look on the character’s face…I can honestly say, even though I knew of the big shocker ending, it still caught me off-guard, and it still unsettles me, no matter how many times I watch the movie. That should say something (other than, “I need a life”). Think of this as an episode of Degrassi Jr. High with a body count…