Daily Schlock Vol. 2: Sleepaway Camp

Sleepaway Camp is a film from the glory days of slasher films that has one of the most shocking endings in history. It’s quite infamous and there’s a chance you’ve already heard of it. So, is the movie worth the time, or is it just a pile of crap that’s only redeeming quality is its twist ending? Your answer is here!

First off, I am not going to spoil the surprise ending in this review, even though chances are you already know it if you care enough to read this.

Sleepaway Camp’s plot is pretty standard: kids go off to summer camp, people get stalked and killed. It’s very difficult to go much more in depth on the plot without ruining a few things, but the plot focuses on quiet, shy Angela and her protective cousin Ricky as they deal with all the typical things in a summer camp. There’s reuniting with friends that Ricky hasn’t seen in a year, blossoming romance, underpaid camp workers, and obnoxiously douchebaggy teens.

In many ways, Sleepaway Camp is just a very standard slasher film. It rarely deviates from the formula, and is incredibly similar to Friday the 13th. Everything from the setting to the way the movie is shot harkens back to F13. Just replace a mostly empty summer camp with a fully functioning summer camp. But this isn’t to say it’s just one of the many ho-hum films that filled up the genre. The greatness of Sleepaway Camp lies in the details and subject matter touched on. It has a part relating to pedophilia, and while it’s a very brief scene, it also crawls into your mind and makes you question how many times similar instances happened in past summers that weren’t stopped so early on. The fact that you see young teenagers being slaughtered along with the adults is also quite unnerving, since the children are usually spared in these types of stories. The cruelness of the kids and some of the camp staff is also dead on. Remember when you were a young lad or lass and you were first learning all those fun cuss words, so you used them any chance you got, no matter how awkwardly it sounded? Yeah, writer/director Robert Hiltzik portrays that perfectly in this film. The children have the pottiest mouths you could think of, and it almost always sounds natural, at least if you knew people who went through that phase as a teen. The children can be incredibly cruel, but it rarely feels like a caricature. The portrayals of the camp staff are also very dead on. You have a few counselors who obviously love what they do, and enjoy the children, and then you have the rest of the staff who feel underpaid and show it. The attention to these details make the characters and situations feel quite genuine and really make the film shine more than it would otherwise.

And on the subject of the characters, I have to make a special mention about one of the actresses. While most of the actors do a solid job (surprising when 80% are children), Desiree Gould steals the very few scenes she’s in. She plays Angela’s incredibly quirky and creepy Aunt Martha. Her two scenes basically involve her speaking to Rick and Angela in monologues, asking questions and answering them herself. Her delivery and expressions are just so perfectly quirky that it’s a shame she’s not in the movie more.

But the most important thing in most slasher films are the kills! So you might be wondering if Sleepaway Camp lives up that part of the slasher legacy… The answer is kind of mixed. Some are good, some look GREAT, and some are obscured in a manner that makes the budget constraints a little obvious. Overall, I would say they average out to being passable enough to keep you interested, specifically with the addition of some of the better effects, including glorious bubbling blisters on a face that is covered with 3rd degree burns after being dunked in boiling water. The best of the effects show up when you see the corpses after the fact, rather than during the kills.

When all is said and done, the ending is what makes or breaks this movie. If you don’t know what it is, you’ll probably wind up with your jaw on the floor. I knew the ending going into the movie, but it still made me incredibly uncomfortable when it happened. Making me uncomfortable is a very difficult thing, so I have to give major kudos for that.

While Sleepaway Camp might lack some originality on the surface, it makes up for it in the genuine way the characters and environment are portrayed, a few above average kills, and the incredibly shocking ending. This is definitely a movie that should be required viewing if you’re at all interested in the horror genre, and specifically the slasher sub-genre.

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