As a Brit, the idea of summer camp is so abhorrent to me that I’m pretty sure I’d rather injure myself fatally than spend my least favourite season away from my cosy little world of cyberspace and convenience that is the fine line between me and complete insanity. I freely admit that I’m the sort of person who hates everything about nature from flowers to insects (I mean photographs of outside is pretty and all, but I’m a city slicker whose idea of getting close to nature is braving a garden centre.) So being put in a position where I would be forced become one with leafy greens and mosquito bites, while eating, sleeping and participating in organised fun with a group of people I wouldn’t spit on if they spontaneously combusted, is pretty much what I imagine happens to people like Hitler when they die.
Apparently though, some people get a kick out of that special kind of hell that camp can create and kids in their droves sign up (or are forced to) sleep in dormitories and build memories that psychiatrists everywhere can have a field day with when they hit that inevitable midlife crisis milestone.
Ah memories …
Young Angela is sent to live with her crazy aunt and surprisingly normal cousin after her family is killed in a terrible, if not slightly unbelievable boating accident. Eight years later the still traumatised and incredibly introverted Angela and Paul are off to Camp Arawak to spend a long hot summer frolicking with people in scandalously tight shorts. The camp is rife with bullies, mean girls and your token paedophile who all become rather fixated on the poor messed up teen, until a spate of horrible deaths conveniently takes care of the main offenders.
Sleepaway Camp plays out very much like your average teen horror, albeit with more finesse and likability than its more popular predecessor Friday the 13th, but it is not until the very last frame where why we see why it is streets ahead in terms of shock value. The twist in this film is commonly cited as among one of the best in cinema history, which is no mean feat for a low budget slasher.
Some of the performances in this film are so over the top and absurd, that the character of Aunt Martha would not be out of place in any John Waters film, and among the flash backs and glimpses into the seedy and sometimes deranged side of the human condition, makes for some genuinely disturbing viewing in parts.
Sleepaway Camp is a low budget slasher that looks like it will be every other gory romp you’ve ever seen, but give it a chance and it will sneak up on you, and leave you feeling more than a little uncomfortable after the credits have rolled.
Clever, cruel and with some of my favourite kill scenes in any horror I’ve seen, this one is a classic for a damn good reason.