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October 3, 2011

Sleepaway Camp

by Franz Patrick


Sleepaway Camp (1983)
★★★ / ★★★★

Angela (Felissa Rose) and Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten), close cousins, decided to spend their summer in Camp Arawak which was located next to a lake. Angela was very shy so she kept to herself most of the time. In fact, she rarely spoke to anyone which led to her peers into believing that she was weird. Others bullied her like lascivious Judy (Karen Fields), a fellow camper who grew a nice pair of bosoms over the past year, and mean-spirited Martha, one of the camp counselors. Angela only learned to open up when Paul (Christopher Collet), Ricky’s best friend, showed her a bit of kindness. But there was something wrong. Campers started to get killed as the summer drew closer to its end. Written and directed by Robert Hiltzik, “Sleepaway Camp” was actually a glistening gem despite the bad dialogue, laughable acting (especially from the aunt played with eeriness and great fun by Desiree Gould), and weak storyline. It was supposed to be a horror film but it wasn’t particularly scary. Sure, the murder scenes were gruesome but they were hilarious, too. I appreciated that it wasn’t afraid to experiment and get creative. Unlike most slasher flicks in the 80s, not everyone who was attacked by the murderer died. Some simply suffered serious injuries, like getting doused in very hot soup, while others were attacked in typically uncompromising situations. I also had fun with the fashion. The girls had a penchant for big hair and ugly floral patterns, while the guys just couldn’t help but wear short shorts, sometimes too short to the point where we can actually see what they’re carrying. There were some serious undertones, however, especially the scenes when Angela was bullied by other girls and some older guys who really should have known better. Luckily, she had a cousin who loved and defended her when she was backed in a corner. I couldn’t help but love him and his foul-mouthed proclivities. The picture relished its purposefully offbeat tone. It seemed as though the filmmakers were aware that it was relatively easy to guess the identity of the killer. But then I questioned maybe the answer was too transparent, that maybe there was a curveball up ahead. (The campers did play baseball.) I was consistently curious with what would happen next. Lastly, the picture hinted at a possible psychosexual trauma but it wasn’t explored in a typical manner. In fact, it was rarely explored at all. But I thought it worked because the ending became that much more sinister and memorable. “Sleepaway Camp” was unexpectedly strong because it embraced its campiness without blushing. I have to give an approving nod to the final shot because it ended at the perfect moment even though nothing was truly solved.

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