Sunday, February 6, 2011

#184. Sleepaway Camp (1983)

Directed By: Robert Hiltzik

Starring: Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tiersten, Karen Fields

Tag line: "A nice place for summer vacation - a perfect place to die!"

Trivia:  Director Robert Hiltzik dedicated the movie to his mother

I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed Sleepaway Camp. Going in, my expectations were admittedly low; I was anticipating a cheap knock-off of the Friday the 13th series, and hoped for nothing more than the occasional diversion of a kill scene or two. Instead, Sleepaway Camp grabbed me by the throat from the very first scene, and didn't loosen its grip until the end credits finally rolled.

Following a tragic boating accident in which her father (Dan Tursi) is killed, Angela (Felissa Rose) moves in with her eccentric Aunt Martha (Desiree Gould) and cousin Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten). One summer, Aunt Martha packs Angela and Ricky off to summer camp, where the shy Angela has a hard time fitting in. Despite Ricky's protection, many of the other kids pick on her, and she finds herself the victim of some cruel practical jokes. But in this camp, playing a joke on Angela will get you more than a stern lecture from the counselors; simply put, it'll get you killed. 

Even in a genre as vicious as the slasher, Sleepaway Camp distinguish itself with a handful of original kill scenes. One poor camper, while taking care of business in the latrine, gets an entire hornets nest dropped into his lap, and a counselor who's been particularly nasty to young Angela has her back slit open while standing in the shower. On top of the violent kills, Sleepaway Camp also throws some pretty unsavory characters our way. The camp's head cook, Artie (Owen Hughes), is a pedophile who leers at all the young girls. Far from trying to mask his forbidden desires, Artie talks openly about them, even going so far as to brag to his co-workers; when his assistant, Ben (Robert Earl Jones), tells Artie these girls are way too young for him, Artie replies, “There ain't no such thing as too young”. Not to worry, though; Artie doesn't get a chance to act on these urges. 

Sleepaway Camp is a balls-out slasher that's a definite must for any fan of the genre; it is a rough, unflinching movie with one of the most shocking endings you'll ever encounter. Trust me when I tell you: Sleepaway Camp is a film you'll be thinking about for days.


Anonymous said...

Hello Doctor Shock visiting from the Planet Macabre horror movie podcast and really find that show the best in breed for horror fans.

I do have to disagree with you on Sleepaway Camp. Your description here sounds like it is a grisly, gory, vicious movie (using your words). I found it to be quite the opposite and that is where this differentiates itself. Early Slashers focused themselves on lots of killings and they showed them most of the time. I have seen it many times and was a staple in my teenage years.

I enjoy your blog here, especially since you have been focusing more on horror as of late.

Dave Becker said...

Hello, and thanks for stopping by. Thanks also for listening to Planet Macabre. I have a great time recording the show, and I'm glad to hear they're as entertaining to listen to as they are to make.

As for SLEEPAWAY CAMP, I do see what you're saying. The movie doesn't focus on the actual killings as much as other slashers of this era did. Yet what I found grisly (and looking back on what I wrote above, I didn't exactly explain this as well as I should and learn) was the after-effects of each killing, the massive welts on the body of the kid who'd been stung, and the huge wound on the back of the girl in the shower when she's finally discovered. For me, they may have made the kills seem more horrific than they actually were. Another example (MILD SPOILER) is the kid who is drowned under the canoe. The drowning scene itself is not particularly disturbing, but the discovery of his body on the beach certainly was (at least it was for me).

Despite the fact that's it's been around for years, this was actually the first time I'd ever seen SLEEPAWAY CAMP. Perhaps the kills (and their after-effect) may seem less gruesome with successive viewings, but the above is an honest reaction to my first experience with the film. And kudos to the filmmakers if they made it seem a lot more gruesome than it actually was (or is).

Thanks again for stopping by, and for the comment. It is appreciated.

Anonymous said...

CLASSIC cheezie slasher here; my friends and I use to love this movie when we were teens, maybe you can visit this on planet macabre and refresh our memories with the gritty details.


Dave Becker said...

@Clark: Thanks for stopping by, and for the comment.

Yeah, I enjoyed this one a lot...a good old 80's slasher film! I'm sure it'll come up at some point on Planet Macabre!

Thanks again for visiting, and for listening to Planet Macabre.

Gerlof Schaaf said...

Terrible movie, terrible overacting, uninspired story telling, a complete waste of 84 minutes of my life. This movie sucks on all levels of reality, sitting in a dentist chair is less agonizing than watching this piece of crap. The makers should be executed on sight.