It's damned nigh impossible for me to fathom that I could have been a full-fledged horror fanatic in the 1980s, yet somehow managed to miss Sleepaway Camp. But I suppose it's for the best. Sleepaway Camp is a film best experienced in maturity. Had I watched it in my youth, my reaction would have been:
(Dismissively) "That was fucking stupid."
Whereas, when I watched it recently, my reaction was:
(With boundless enthusiasm) "That was fucking stupid!"
Sleepaway Camp is a film best enjoyed with a roomful of noisy, drunken friends, but is so over-the-top ridiculous that you can watch it solo and have a blast, provided you act as your own noisy, drunken friend.
In fact, you won't be able to help it. Even without access to alcohol, Sleepaway Camp is so intoxicatingly dumb that you'll feel like you've downed a sixer of PBR (the downside is that even if you're drinking good beer, you'll still feel like you've downed a sixer of PBR).
Sleepaway Camp is a bad horror film that is bad in all the right ways, so it becomes great. All the performances are amateurish and grotesquely over-acted, but you can tell everyone is completely giving it their all, which renders it charming.
|Young actress totally going for it.|
Fast forward a few years and Angela and Ricky are teenagers headed to summer camp. Ricky's mother has become completely unhinged by her husband's death, as evidenced by her strange habit of commenting on her own statements and, more tellingly, her outfit.
Once at camp, we learn that Angela doesn't speak, due to acute quietness, which makes her an instant target for the mean girls clique, consisting of Ricky's busty last-summer-girlfriend and Meg (M-E-G) the bitchy camp counsellor. When Angela won't eat, a kindly counsellor takes her back to the kitchen to see if there is some food she likes better, and introduces her to the pedophile head chef, who promptly takes her into the pantry to molest her. Luckily, Ricky intervenes just in time. Mysteriously, some time later as pedochef is throwing corn into the world's biggest stockpot, someone pulls the chair out from under him, sending the pedophile and the stockpot tumbling to the floor and resulting in some nasty burns. Since, Ricky and Angela were the only two characters to have witnessed pedochef's transgressions, 20 minutes into the movie, the killer's identity is narrowed down to two suspects.
|"I got something you'll like real good."|
|You play with chicken, you get fried.|
|Awww, ain't they cute?|
The rest of the film follows a predictable pattern. Campers taunt and abuse Angela, Ricky freaks out and threatens to rip their heads off, then the killer catches them alone and takes them out. There are no scares whatsoever, and the kills are pretty tame, but somewhat imaginative. What's hilarious is the motivation behind each kill. While revenge for attempted rape makes a certain amount of sense, revenge for a water-ballooning is just plain awesome.
|The aftermath of a vicious water-ballooning.|
Just when you think Sleepaway Camp is going to be utterly predictable, it flips the script and blows your mind. Don't get me wrong, it's fairly obvious that Angela is the killer, but it turns out to be for an entirely different reason than you'd been led to believe. In an atrociously asinine and offensive turn of events, it is revealed that is wasn't her uncle's death that warped young Angela's mind, but rather than her aunt was transgendered man who forced her young nephew to live as a girl. The final shot of the film, in which Angela's true sex (i.e. her wee-wee) is revealed is truly astonishing. Not only does she go from a seemingly normal, if painfully shy, teen girl to a raging psychotic cradling Paul's severed head, she also apparently turns into Sasquatch, if her unearthly growling sounds are any indication. The icing on the cake is the final line of the film when one of the counsellors says in disbelief, "How can it be? She's a boy!" Yeah, never mind Paul's severed head dropping into the sand and the fact that she's channelling Bigfoot while wielding a knife. For God's sake, she's got a penis!
Had the final scene not caused me to laugh convulsively for a solid half-hour, I might have been highly offended at the completely ignorant and hateful depiction of transgendered people. Were I a member of the LGBT community, the homophobic twist ending would have likely ruined the entire film for me. As it was, the offensiveness only added to Sleepaway Camp's schlocky charm. I definitely recommend this film to everyone with a highly-refined taste for terrible movies.