Sleepaway Camp (1983)
WRITER: Robert Hiltzik
DIRECTOR: Robert Hiltzik
STARRING: Mike Kellin as Mel
Katherine Kamhi as Meg
Paul DeAngelo as Ronnie
Jonathan Tierston as Ricky
Felissa Rose as Angela
Karen Fields as Judy
Christopher Collet as Paul
Desiree Gould as Aunt Martha
Owen Hughes as Artie
Robert Earl Jones as Ben
QUICK CUT: A nice refreshing trip to summer camp, where boys can be boys, girls can be girls, first loves are made, and secrets are shared!
Angela - A shy, quiet young person, who is taken in by her wacky aunt after her father tragically dies. Angela's got a lot to get through, and a lot of walls built up. She probably shouldn't be going to Bullying Camp...
Ricky - Angela's cousin, who's a rambunctious kid, very very protective of his adoptive sister, and a bit of a loudmouth and troublemaker. A pretty typical teenaged boy with a side order of anger issues.
Judy - The biggest bully in the camp, and when she sees Angela's vacant stare, and quiet ways, she targets the girl for a summer from Hell. Oh, and her and Ricky dated last summer at camp.
Meg - Judy's co-conspirator in tormenting Angela, and one of the heads of the cabins, while vying for more power.
Paul - The one person in the camp that seems to care about Angela, and he's a pretty sweet kid, although again, a typical teenager. He's less angry than Ricky, but also easily swayed by girls.
Mel - The owner of the camp, who just wants things to go smoothly. The camp has other plans for that...
THE GUTS: Welcome back, Triskelions! The Summer of Slashers continues, and we have truly arrived at camp this month, after a long trek up the mountains. So welcome to Sleepaway Camp, a movie I have wanted to get around to forever. So, unpack your things, check out the lake, and don't mind Angela, she's quiet...
The movie gets things rolling with two kids, Peter and Angela, out on a small sailboat with their dad, horsing around, and push him into the water for funsies. But it's all fun and games until a speedboat crashes into them, killing dad and one of the kids. And makes one of the girls with the speedboat overact in a most painful way.
We cut eight years ahead and find Angela, now in her teens, and after losing her sibling and father, being taken in by her wacky and flighty Aunt Doctor Martha, and cousin Ricky. I dunno what sort of medicine Martha practices, but I'm not sure I'd want her as my primary physician.
After a few too many minutes of wacky family time, Aunt Martha hands over the kids physicals which sounds pretty dodgy, but then again, everything Aunt Martha says sounds a little dodgy...anyways, we get right to camp, and...hey! It's owned by Uncle Ty! From Just Before Dawn! I guess after the demons chased him down the mountain, he went and skadooted his way over to the lake and opened a summer camp. Good for him!
Ricky shows Angela around the camp, and we meet Judy, the resident spoiled snobby know it all type. Angela makes quite the impression on her with her quiet ways, and blank, penetrating stare. Judy has found the target of her bullying for the summer.
Angela's not settling in well, not eating much, so one of the counselors takes her to the kitchen to meet the chef, get her something tasty, and help her come out of her shell. With the gigantic pot of water in the kitchen, hopefully they don't think she's a lobster for that. But Ronnie gets called away for a moment, and Artie turns on the pervy creepishness.
Ricky interrupts them just in time, shouting at the chef, and getting slammed into the shelves of food for it, before rushing off with Angela.
Later, Artie is putting corn into a ridiculously oversized pot. The cameraman sneaks around and hides out, waiting for Chef Pervardee to get into the most precarious position possible atop a chair, yanks it out from under him, and sendshim into the side of the pot, making everything topple over on top of him. Third degree burns finish the job.
Uncle Ty does his best impression from Jaws and wants no one to say nothing, so the campers don't think anything is wrong. Don't wanna ruin the business.
After a lengthy baseball game, Angela's just hanging out in the rec hall with a bunch of other campers, off on her own though. The rest are talking about the weird kid in the corner, and they try and ask her out to the lake for some fun. But Angela's blank stare and silent treatment just make the kids frustrated and confirm their suspicions that she's weird and *different*. The last thing you wanna be at summer camp.
Ricky shows up and gets another beating when he starts another fight to protect his cousin. Kid's got anger issues, and it never seems to go well...
But all this captures the attention of Paul, who introduces himself to her, and is gasp, shock, calm and caring and understanding, and actually breaks through the shy girl's shell, so she speaks her first lines in the movie.
Down at the lake, the kid that was teasing Angela heads out on the lake with a girl. Kenny's goofing off and flips the boat over, so Leslie angrily swims away. He ducks under the capsized boat to right it, and is a bit surprised when another head bobs up from beneath the surface. Especially when the mystery guest shoves and holds Kenny under water.
The next day, Ronnie's cleaning up the mess the teens left behind, and finds the kayak washed up on shore. He flips it over, and finds Kenny's dead body underneath it.
And yet again, Mel tries to pull a Jaws and keep things as quiet and not a problem at all. Just an accident! La la la! No sharks in this lake!
But life goes on at Camp Thrakazogg, and Paul finds Angela, who's now way more chatty, friendly, and smiley. Funny what a little kindness will do.
Judy spies Angela on the sidelines actually getting attention from boys, and the green eyed monster rears its head. She refuses to have the weird shy quiet girl have any fun, so she sends over one of the counselors, her friend Meg, to give Angela some grief.
Next day down at the lake, Paul and Angela once again draw the attention of Judy and Meg. They take particular interest in Angela's dislike of going in the water. Huh, she really doesn't like the water, wonder why...
Angela sulks off to see Ricky, where kids are playing with water balloons, and oops, one of them just so happens to paf Angela in the face. This sends Ricky into one of the best curse-fueled rages I've ever seen.
And uh, gee, she dried off quickly, huh?
Later, the guy that nailed her in the pancreas goes to take a dump, and gets a bit of a surprise as our Mystery Guest slices into the screen over the bathroom stall, and drops in a handy beehive.
Mel and Ronnie chat after the death about what to do, and they're freaking out, talking about consolidating bunks to save space...uh...two people died? Maybe we're being a bit premature about saving space? Stop talking about this like it's a Summer Camp Massacre.
Uncle Ty worries that maybe he's just imagining that there's a killer on the loose, or maybe the demons from Just Before Dawn have finally tracked you down. You cannot skadoot far enough away from the Logans.
Paul and Angela celebrate another death by heading down to the lake to make out. Hey, kids will be kids. I handled a student in my school dying by buying a Doctor Demento cassette. Ahem, but I digress.
Angela stops Paul before he goes too far, and has flashbacks to her dad and his boyfriend, for SOME reason... But she eventually runs off.
The next day, Judy sees the wedge between the lovebirds, and tries to get Paul to herself, and oh no, Angela catches them kissing. Well, if the pattern so far is any clue, someone has just hurt Angela, so someone is about to die...
Before anyone can volunteer for that, Paul tries to apologise, Judy again intrudes, and drags Angela off to the water. Meanwhile, Mel and Ricky have a confrontation, because Mel is certain the kid is the one responsible for all the mayhem.
As Angela walks away from the dunking, some little kids start throwing sand at her and Ricky, and this is SUCH a tiny moment, and passes by really quick, but is actually important...
With the night off for bad behaviour, Meg makes plans to have a date with Mel and...uh...ew? I'm just gonna move on. Anyways, she goes to take a shower and get ready for something and la la la...
Unfortunately for Meg, she will not be making her date, as our Mystery Guest sneaks into the empty cabin, and stabs Meg in the back through the thin aluminum wall of the stall. They carve her back open in search of hidden pouches.
Out in the woods, one of the counselors is taking his kids out into the woods, and we eventually come back to find them dead and sliced up in their sleeping bags. Now, every dead body has its reason, and like I said, it is SUPER easy to miss these kids throwing sand at Ricky and Angela at her worst moment, and being terrible bullies. It's weak motivation, but it IS there.
Meanwhile, Angela's wondering where Ricky's wandered off to, and Paul again tries to apologise. She accepts and agrees to meet later after the social, going off to find Ricky.
Elsewhere, Mel is looking around for his date, and eventually finds her body in the shower, carved up like the Thanksgiving turkey. And he's sure Ricky did it as vengeance for being mean to him earlier.
While Mel is swearing vengeance, our Mystery Guest makes their way to Judy spending some alone time in another cabin, curling her hair. The Mystery Guest punches Judy out, grabs the curling iron and...well, we don't see *exactly* but we're all in agreement there's really only one place that it could have gone and made Judy do jazz hands.
Uncle Ty finds Ricky, and *beats the holy hell out of him*. It's an epic beatdown, if you take into account it's an older guy wailing on a kid. It's visceral, it's violent, and you would think the kid was dead, but the movie rolls back on that JUST a little by tossing in a line where he barely survives. Surviving a beating like that should make him perfect for a henchman job with AIM or Hydra, being beaten up by Daredevil...
Mel realises that he's in trouble for beating, and probably killing, a kid, one of his charges, no matter how justified, and tries to escape.
Unfortunately, the demons catch up with Uncle Ty, and he might've been fine, but he took an arrow to the neck. Which is about what he deserves.
While the cops arrive, Angela finally meets up with Paul at the lake, and suggests they go skinny dipping, so they start to strip.
Everyone is scrambling around to find the missing kids, because we have reached peak corpse, which means people have finally noticed there's been a TON of murdering going on, and they can't be explained away as pranks gone wrong, or accidents anymore. I dunno, those kids maybe coulda tripped in their sleeping bags and fallen innocently onto an axe just laying around. Seventeen times. Each.
Ronnie hears something, and follows it down to the lake, where he sees Angela cradling Paul's probably dead body.
They try and get her attention, but Angela flashbacks to meeting Aunt Martha after the accident that opened the movie. She's being her wacky self, and saying how she can't have TWO sons, that just won't do, and since she's always wanted a girl, and Angela is such a lovely name, don't you think...PETER??
I am so torn on this ending. I love, absolutely love the twist. The twist isn't that Angela is the killer, or the killer is a girl, but that ANGELA IS PETER. At the same time, it feels SO obvious. Is that just because I've heard so much about this movie for the last thirty years, and I knew where it was going and could see the twist coming? I genuinely feel it's a great twist, so I'm sure it's just because I already knew is the reason it felt obvious.
For the most part, it is still pretty unexpected, and IS very much set up. I think it would work better if the *killer* wasn't so damned obvious. You KNOW it's Angela, MAYBE Ricky, maybe both, from the word go. The twist of who Angela is, is great though.
Anyways, she stands up hissing like my cat in the shower, drops Paul's severed head, much to the shock of the councilors that found her...well, him.
I'm a little disappointed that the movie just *stops* there, and credits roll. But at the same time, while I want a bit of a capper to THAT killer twist...where the hell do you go from there? Angela's actually Peter? ...AND WE'RE OUT!
But be sure to come back in two weeks for our next campout nightmare!
Video: This looks GREAT for a 1980s slasher flick. Once again, Shout! Factory and friends do a great job.
Audio: It sounds just as good.
Sound Bite: Ricky has some truly epic strings of curses.
Body Count: For a kid, Angela's pretty damned good at racking up the bodies!
1 - John dies at the beginning, thanks to a tragic boating accident 5:45
2 - Angela dies as well but shhh, don't tell anyone, you'll ruin the twist.
3 - Artie gets crispy from boiling water, and probably dies later.
4 - Kenny gets drowned and snaked.
5 - Another kid gets stung to death.
6 - Meg gets sliced down the spine.
7 - Judy gets her hair curled where hair should not be curled unnaturally.
8 - A pile of four or so kids are found slaughtered in their sleeping bags.
9 - Mel gets an arrow through the throat.
10 - Paul dies off camera.
Best Corpse: I really like how Meg was taken out, and the wound was pretty cool.
Blood Type - C+: There's not a lot of blood, but the deaths do get pretty gruesome. I mean, look back at Kenny's head with the snake winding around.
Sex Appeal: Everyone is pretty much actual kids, so they keep their clothes on. Perv. What are you, Artie?
Drink Up! whenever you see a hint of who or what Angela might really be.
Video Nasties: Well, since I gave Meg's death a shout out, enjoy!
Movie Review: This is one of those horror movies where...it transcends the perception of horror movies. This isn't just a stabby stabby dead dead bloody dead movie. Sure, it LOOKS like that on the surface, and if that's all you want, or take away from it, that's fine. But scratch the surface, and there is a LOT about teenage behaviour, and the prevalence of bullying, and what it can do to people. Everyone that Angela kills is a horrible person, is a bully, and even in a way, Aunt Doctor Martha is a bully for making Peter become Angela. In fact, while sure, Angela is the killer, she also is truly the victim of the movie. This is very much a revenge plot, and almost a prototype of the genre that would grow into the Crow. She may well be the single most empathetic killer from the 80s. On that same note, this movie has what feels like THE most accurate portrayal, murders aside, of what going to summer camp is like. And a lot of that is down to casting kids to be kids. It's not early 20s type people trying to play teens. They play, they're loudmouthed, and yes, the bullying. It really captures that experience almost perfectly. The effects are great, the story holds together, and some of the acting is pretty solid. This was most enjoyable, four out of five beehives.
Entertainment Value: I really loved this movie. It's a solid movie by itself, in execution, but with some of the acting being a bit over the top, and this movie existing in a weirdly heightened reality that is beyond what you'd expect from, "Well, it was the 80s!", it also ends up feeling strange. Which I actually like, and adds to the experience. The acting gets a but hammy, many of the kills are very unique, and the subject matter, especially for the time, was groundbreaking. One could argue if it's insulting or offensive to trans people, but I choose to think of Peter/Angela as a victim, and that really makes this story a tragedy. Five out of five hair curlers.