Robin’s First Week #23 Recommendation: Sleepaway Camp (1983)

What was the fascination with summer camp in the 80s? I mean, I attended summer camp then and I don’t remember it being all that memorable — mostly rampant mildew, bad food, and boring singalongs. However, in the 80s, other people obviously found summer camp ripe for serial killings. How else could you explain such horror classics as Friday the 13th, The Burning, and Meatballs?

Add to that list the little known, but certainly original, Sleepaway Camp. The name itself is a headscratcher — all camps are “sleepaway” from home and this camp isn’t actually called “Sleepaway” (it’s Arawak) but I digress. Angela is going to camp for the first time, accompanied by her cousin, Ricky. Angela has, ummmm, issues. First, she was the only survivor in her family oF a tragic boating accident, which was caused by a careless camper FROM THE VERY CAMP SHE IS NOW ATTENDING! She is apparently still traumatized 8 years later and refuses to participate in activities or even talk to people. This, of course, makes her really popular (not), which then results in bullying, predictably. When the bullies start ending up severely injured or dead, the question is, who is doing it? Is it Angela lashing out because her family was killed? Is it her overprotective cousin in a crusade against bullies? Is Jason Voorhees slumming?

While not overly gory, the movie is rather inventive. Death by (apparently man-eating) bees, curling iron, and the more prosaic knife, ax, and arrow, are all present. There’s some weird hints at homosexuality by Angela’s dad, which apparently would be believable in 1983 as a possible cause for psychosis. Desiree Gould give one of the most over-the-top acting performances in history as Angela’s “Mother.” I’m also still trying to figure out why the “hot” teenage counselor has a thing for the camp owner who has both the age and sex appeal of Henny Youngman. But I’m willing to forgive these eccentricities because this film has and unforgettable ending. Who says bad movies can’t be entertaining?

If you really enjoy this film, I have good news. Apparently, some uninventive souls have made Sleepaway Camps 2-4 in recent years. Yikes.

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