Dir. Robert Hiltzik (1983)
A bunch of kids go to a summer camp where a crazed killer is on the loose.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Sleepaway Camp is a cult classic because it subverts a lot of the expectations that you have going into one of these kinds of movies. Even so, it follows a lot of the formula established by the films that came before it as well, creating a mishmash of tropes and new innovations to the genre as a whole. When Friday the 13th came out in 1980, establishing the “summer camp slasher” in the most cash-grabbing way that it could, it firmed up a lot of the ideas that Halloween had created prior while creating new ones as well, like the twist ending. While the reveal that Mama Voorhees did the killings must’ve been mind-blowing at the time, hoo boy was there a better twist ending coming down the pipe.
Sleepaway Camp is often considered a bare-bones slasher that is only valuable for that twist, but I think there’s a lot more to it than that. It’s disturbing in a Troma-esque way, with horrible people at every twist and turn. When the movie opens with the crazy-ass aunt who is disturbingly campy and belongs more in a David Lynch film than this one, it’s hard to imagine that she will quickly be followed by a much more disturbing character. But followed she is, and it’s a doozy of a character.
What a fucking piece of shit this guy is.
The first “kill” of the movie, outside of the people who die in the accident in the opening sequence, is the camp cook, who is doused in boiling water by the unseen killer. The camp cook is the most disgusting character in any horror movie ever made. He is an overt pedophile, riffing with the other folks that work at the camp about how much he wants to get in the pants of these preteens. He almost immediately tries to pull Angela (Felissa Rose in her most iconic performance) into the storage room to molest her. He’s stopped, thankfully, but Jesus Christ… It’s dark as hell, and you are rooting for his death from the instant he appears on screen.
The movie is filled with interesting kills as well, which is the most you can ask for from a slasher film. Death by bees? Fuck absolutely all of that. I’m not scared of hardly anything, but bees can fuck right off. The aforementioned boiling water dunk is followed with some delightful special effects to show the cook’s burned flesh. Curling iron to the cooch? Ouch to the umpteenth degree.
And, I cannot stress enough, bees.
It’s dumb campy fun, and I absolutely love it. Jonathan Tierston’s Ricky is fucking amazing, and his foul-mouthed antics are laugh-out-loud funny. Just this little dude calling people cocksuckers is something that I didn’t know I needed in my life. He’s got more attitude than anyone else in the movie, and it’s outstanding. The whole damn movie is weird as shit, though. Young teens trying to seduce the elderly camp owner, open pedophiles trying to molest the campers. Camp counselors actively trying to drown their young wards? What the fuck is going on at this camp? Thankfully, there are two more movies to help explain it, and we’re going to dive into them next!
Who this movie is for: 80’s horror fans, Slasher lovers, M. Night Shyamalan
Bottom line: Sleepaway Camp is awesome, and it’s one that is an absolute must-see. More than likely, you’ve already seen it, but if you haven’t you need to check it out immediately. With one of the best and most shocking twist endings of all time, which I won’t spoil here, Sleepaway Camp was an instant cult classic and one that should be watched by every horror fan in existence.