As I sit here and write this, I feel shame. After a quick search on the site, I am quite honestly horrified that I never took the time to write about one of my favorite Horror movies of all time: Sleepaway Camp. What a special, special movie, and I showed it almost zero love! That changes today.
After this week’s viewing, all of the reasons why I love Sleepaway Camp have come flooding back into cognizance. For those who have never had the privilege of meeting Angela Baker and her cousin Ricky before, Sleepaway Camp is the story about two cousins who go away for the summer to a sleepaway camp, hoping to have the best summer ever! Angela (Felissa Rose) is a survivor of a horrible boating accident that occurred earlier in her childhood. Because of that experience, she is withdrawn and socially awkward, while Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten) is a camp returnee and fits in well among his friends. Shortly after all the campers arrive, a string of murders terrorizes the camp! And to keep it spoiler-free, well, that’s all I can really tell you.
But this isn’t just some Friday the 13th rip-off, spin-off, or offshoot. Sleepaway Camp offers so much more than meets the eye on a surface level. This movie is even more of a cult favorite than Happy Birthday to Me is. Fans of Sleepaway Camp, I think, appreciate its multifaceted nature. One one hand, it’s a shitty 80’s slasher with a healthy dose of cheese. On another, it’s a twisted, dark and unbelievably demented take on the rest of the slasher flicks that were slicing their way through theaters at the time.
You can love Sleepaway Camp for its surface level cheese, 80’s flair, laughable dialogue and questionable acting. Even if you stop there, you’re in for a treat. Digging deeper, though, I think the movie really sets a perfect tone. It’s dark and dismally shot, and has a chilling score that perfectly accompanies the gritty look of the film. Sure, it’s low budget, but it totally works given the landscape and setting of the movie. The deaths also deliver, with some a little more effective than others. There’s an accident with boiling water, an all-the-way-down-the-back knife slicing, a drowning and even a decapitation. Oftentimes, the movie gives viewers a first-person angle for the stalking and murder scenes, which also adds to the edge and tension of the movie.
And that ending. Holy. Hell.
If you don’t know what I’m referring to, do yourself a favor: Stay off the Internet. Netflix Sleepaway Camp immediately. It’s the surprise ending to end all other surprise endings. Not only will it completely shock you, but it’ll also give you a compelling reason as to why Sleepaway Camp is in a class of its own.
In my opinion, you’re not a true horror fan unless you have at least seen this movie once. (And purchased the Sleepaway Camp Survival Kit box set. And watched it a zillion times. But I’m a self-proclaimed weirdo.) This is truly one of my genre favorites. There’s a special place in my heart dedicated to this series and I’m thankful for the joy these movies bring into my life upon every viewing.
For newbies diving in, if you’re hungry for more, there are three more films which vary in schlock-level, tone and effectiveness. Although I have a deep respect and love for number two as well, the original film simply can’t be topped.