42nd Street Cinema

Sleepaway Camp (1983)

Returning with another one of my personal favourites, a film that in my belief shares a dignified stature alongside Friday the 13th (1980) and The Burning (1981) for Summer Camp themed slashers. Robert Hiltzik's Sleepaway Camp has gained an amazing cult following over the years and it's not surprising why. Unlike other slashers and most notably their sequels Sleepaway's plot is considerably interesting and through a combination of good direction, script and above all acting. You actually begin to care about the kids involved. That aside the film's sequels; Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988, directed by Michael A. Simpson) and Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (1989, directed by Michael A. Simpson) are pretty dire. Pamela Springsteen, younger sister of the legendary Bruce Springsteen, assumes the role of Angela in both films. Sadly she doesn't do the role justice and her performance flops. Felissa Rose will, in my mind, forever be remember as Angela of Sleepaway Camp. In regard to the more recent sequel; Return to Sleepaway Camp (2008) which was also directed by Hiltzik, it is a direct sequel to this one and has nothing to do with 2 & 3. The ending to that is rather predictable but still an enjoyable film none the less, it's also interesting to see how much the returning cast members have aged.

Opening in the summer of 1975, a sequence which is absolutely crucial for the development of Angela's character, played by an incredibly young Felissa Rose. The scene involves Angela, her brother Peter and her dad John at a lake. Their boat capsizes throwing the trio in to the water. As they're beginning to make their way back to the shore we begin to notice the teenager's boat heading towards them, obviously failing to see the trio it hits them, killing both John and Peter. Angela is then sent to live with her creepy aunt Martha (Desiree Gould) and her son Richard/Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten).

Eight years pass and Angela and Ricky are sent to Camp Arawak by Martha. Ricky and Angela have formed an almost brother/sister bond and upon arrival to the camp Angela begins to get bullied because of her introverted and borderline mute personality. There's a lot of subjects dealt with in this film through Angela. For instance, she loses her father and brother in a boating accident. When she goes to camp she suffers extreme ridicule and exclusion from fellow campers and a controversial event that kick-starts the violence in the film, an attempted sexual abuse/attack by the camp's cook.
It appears that those who pick on Angela turn up dead, including an interesting sequence when one of the bullies is locked in a washroom stall and a beehive is dropped over the top. Suspicions arise as to who the killer is, and Ricky is the prime suspect.

A film dripping with blood and controversy as it's primarily kids being picked off in various gruesome fashions and a twist ending that could be considered one of the most shocking and iconic endings in cinematic history. Making this an important and defining staple in the slasher sub-genre.


Jordan in Texas said...

I love this film. It's the best of the four Sleepaway Camps, for sure, but I have a special place in my heart for 2 and 3 as well. "Return" is actually pretty enjoyable and I recommend you give that one a viewing as well.

In between 1980-1983 somehow they were able to capture something so innocent and yet so brutal in these summer camp slashers. That's why they work so well for me, I think. It's this dichotomy that the films contain (F13, F13 II, The Burning, and Sleepaway Camp) that draws people in.

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite horror movies of all time. 2 and 3 were good but I didn't like Return. It was way too predictable.

James said...

@Warfreak i'll get round to Return as soon as.

@starmummy i personally struggled to get into 2 and 3 and i'll bare in mind the predictability when watching Return.

Post a Comment

Scream, shout & heckle here...