Cheerleader Camp (1988)
WRITERS: Story and screenplay by David Lee Fein, R.L O'Keefe
DIRECTOR: John Quinn
STARRING: Betsy Russell as Alison Wentworth
Leif Garrett as Brent Hoover
Lucinda Dickey as Cory Foster
Lorie Griffin as Bonnie Reed
Buck Flower as Pop
Travis McKenna as Timmy Moser
Teri Weigel as Pam Bentley
Rebecca Ferratti as Theresa Salazar
Vickie Benson as Miss Tipton
QUICK CUT: A group of cheerleaders head off into the woods for a nice, friendly competition, but some girls are just dying to be the winner.
Alison - One of her team's star cheerleaders, but also very troubled, and plagued with constant nightmares. She's struggling to do her best, but her sleep deprivation is slowly beginning to affect her judgment.
Brent - Alison's boyfriend, and a friendly, fun loving guy, who is trying to support his girl the best he can.
Cory - One of the shyer members of the squad, and typically reduced to being the one stuck in the mascot suit, hoping to one day have her shot at the spotlight.
Bonnie - Another squadmate, and probably the most average one of the group. She has no major issues or story arc, and is just trying to stand out amongst the crowd.
Theresa - The most typical cheerleader trope. She only cares about winning, is a bit vain and self involved, and assured she's better than everyone.
Timmy - Another of the squad, but pretty much all he does is film the team doing things. And film girls doing...other things.
Pop - The groundskeeper, and somewhere between skeevy and creepy. He actually seems to do a good job cleaning up the place, and keeping things running, but is just a little off putting and weird.
Miss Tipton - The woman in charge of the camp, a former cheerleader, still struggling for relevancy amongst all these younger, prettier faces, and if she can't manage that she'll live vicariously through them.
THE GUTS: Gimmie a T! Gimmie an R! Gimmie an I! Gimmie an S! Gimmie a K! What's that spell? GOOOO TRISK!!
Welcome back Triskelions, as you can see the Summer of Slashers rages onwards, and we need to get our spirit up, because we are off to Cheerleader Camp! Go team sportsball!
The movie gets rolling with Alison rushing around trying to get ready, running late to be on the field. She gets her uniform on, grabs her pom poms, and finds the stadium...empty.
Her mom and dad appear though, and turn their backs on her. Alison keeps cheering into the darkness, until her pom poms start attacking her. I knew those metallic streamers were dangerous!
Aaand it was all a nightmare as she wakes up in a van with the rest of her squad on their way to cheerleader camp and a local competition amongst cheerleader teams. I'm okay with this usage, because it's a good visual treat, has a good nightmare feel to it, sets a tone, and actually the nightmares are very important to Alison and her story.
Oh hey, Alison is Jamie from Camp Fear! She *really* needs to stop going to camps in the woods, this is not going well for her.
The gang arrives at camp, and we do the usual meet and greet the characters, including Timmy mooning them as they drive in. Seriously, there is way too much bare ass in the movies this summer. I know it's hot, but let's put some clothes on, yes?
Roll call intros are always awkward and forced, but at least with this kinda setting, they work. After we meet the crew, Alison gets spooked by Pop, the groundskeeper and...hey, it's Trisk repeat offender, Buck Flower! AND he was the wino in Camp Fear!! What is this, a Camp reunion?! If Lothar shows up, I am *done*.
After the girls get settled in, they head out to swim and take in some sun, and Timmy follows with his video camera. Because every teenaged group needs their perv for wacky hi-jinks!
While most of the girls are being spied on by the Peeping Tim, Alison is trying to get some sleep that doesn't involve nightmares, but then takes a walk to say hey to the girl trying to steal her man away.
She finds the girl, but she finds her dead, apparently the victim of a suicide. Right, sure. That's what happened. This week in murder coverups...
We get some time chilling after the *ahem* suicide, some character beats, Cory points out to Alison that the dead girl was sweet on Brent, and maybe she was jealous... Look, it's never good to accuse your roommate of murder. Because if you're *right*...
After Alison sees her bloody face in the mirror...let's smash cut to the white boys rapping badly about our cheerleaders! Hello, tonal whiplash! Because damnit, we paid for Leif Garrett to be in our movie, we're gonna use his singing ability!
But they drop in more humour as Pop watches the ladies shaking around while he's messing with a water house, very deliberately spraying himself in a parody of premature...excitement. Oh wackiness!
From the silly to the sublimely ridiculous and surreal, we next slide down the cast of mascots all trying to eat their lunches with masks on. Just...just imagine a chicken, an ape, an alligator, and others all trying to squish human food through eye holes and anything else they can find. It sounds like the setup to a bad joke.
Wandering back over to the plot, Alison heads into the kitchen where the creepy silent chef is hacking up meat, and wearing the dead girl's necklace. So, it's at least plot adjacent. Also, the chef is clearly a red herring that never gets explained. Why is he silent? Why does he have the necklace? We see him take it, but just because! Shiny!
But anyways, Alison continues wandering into the walk in fridge, bumps a shelf and finds the dead body just chillin' out in there. Well, they need to keep it SOMEwhere, right? Don't wanna freak out the students. Gotta follow the Jaws playbook.
More wacky hi-jinks ensue as the head of the camp distracts the sheriff with sex, and Peeping Tim films it. He later wires it into a presentation Ms. Tipton was trying to give, for even wackier hi-jinksier times.
The movie keeps things going by having Alison have another nightmare at least, complete with chanting adults, mascots, and pom poms.
Keeping things interesting, Brent's wandering eyes continue to wander to another girl, which annoys Alison to no end. Dude, you have a girl, the last one you eyeballed is dead, slow your roll.
But that doesn't last long, as Pam wanders off into the woods when she hears a noise, and ends up getting stabbed in the back of the face with a pair of shears. SEE WHAT I MEAN? Don't date Brent!!
Alison has yet ANOTHER nightmare, where she finds Brent and Pam in the woods, and slices the girl up again with the pom poms. She died so nice, they killed her twice!
The competition continues that night with the mascot dance off, and then the main event for...I guess cheer queen is what they call it in this movie. Cory loses the mascot crown, because Ms. Tipton made sure of it after the whole video debacle.
But more importantly, everyone's wondering where Pam is, because her whole raison d'etre has been being crowned queen, and she is nowhere to be seen.
The main event kicks off, without Pam, and it goes well until Peeping Tim trips and falls over Pop, manning the sound equipment. Oh, Pop also threatens Tim for it, hoping he dies. GRANTED!
While the queen competition goes on and someone wins, Theresa goes wandering because she's upset that Pam's gotten lost. So let's join her!
Eventually someone notices now *Theresa* is missing too, and Brent Liefs the room, goes to see where she wandered off to. See, this is how horror movies happen. Everyone wanders off separately and dies.
Cory heads off next because reasons, and Alison has flashbacks to all her nightmares, and wanders off to get some air. Tipton sends Pop to follow them and keep an eye on them, because why not have EVERYONE wandering in the dark at once?? Stop splitting up!
In a normal horror movie, we would have reached the point where people are missing, and the cast is wandering the darkened halls calling out people's names. But here, it's everyone wandering in the dark *forest* shouting out names. TOTALLY different.
Theresa trips and falls, but at least it's in the woods so it's not totally implausible, and rolls right up next to Pam's body. She starts screaming when she realises her friend is dead and not just impersonating a parrot.
She finds the team's van coming after her, getting chased and quickly crushed, adding another body to the pile. Finally, the third act beckons.
The rest of the cast wandering the woods all coincidentally finds each other all at once, including Pop. But while he's supposed to be watching them, all he wants to do is smoke and drink, so tells them to skadoot back to the party and be safe.
Haha, safe. Right.
They try and take their concerns to Tippytoe, but she's too drunk and too not caring to bother. Alison decides to call the sheriff, although Liefpeeper wants her to wait, since he's lookin' good as a prime suspect.
Miss Tipsyton does eventually decided to drunkenly stumble in the woods to try and find the kids, but that lasts all of five seocnds, when she gets killed to boot.
Suddenly, Timmy comes in with a bloody hand, and we find out he discovered Theresa's crushed body while no one was looking, including me. I do believe we have reached Peak Corpse, and the presence of a murderer can no longer be denied.
Meanwhile, Alison is waiting for the sheriff, when Miss Tipton stumbles in, and we find out she's been butchered with a chef's cleaver in her back. Plenty of suspects and red herrings in this movie, eh?
Hilariously, Alison has to hold the cleaver, slowly lift it into frame, turn, realise what it is, and scream. That...that really doesn't work! It's not like someone sneaking up on her with it. She's holding it!
Lief heads into the party and announces there's been a murder, and not to panic, so cue everyone without a speaking line getting the chance to get in their cars and run away. Seriously, we literally paired down the cast from all the extras to just a handful of people in three seconds.
Also, this is a good time to mention how the camp doesn't really do much in the way of competition. We see a FEW events, but almost ZERO other students, save for the 'suicide' and a few in the background. There's zero conflict between teams to build a plot on. It's just cheap window dressing.
Cory finds Alison freaking out over the bloody cleaver, and tries to help her, assuring her its real, and not her nightmares, while the girl goes into a catatonic state rocking in the corner.
Our gang of cheerlosers gather at the van to make their own escape, but the something or other has been cut. Look, I don't know cars. All I know is van no go no mo'.
They start walking somewhere, because nowhere is particularly safe right now. Pop finds the body of Pam, and decides to get a little backwoods justice.
He shows up with a shotgun, spooking everyone into scattering, and everyone's assuming everyone's the killer at this point, I guess. Which is not unreasonable. But the kids are zeroed in on Pop being the killer.
Everyone gathers back at the van, except for Timmy, who's too busy filming the woods. Leif runs through the trees, and comes back with Tim's camera, so they head back to the cabin to watch Tim's snuff film.
They watch the film and see as an unseen entity hacks into Tim's guts with an axe, and the pervy guy dies as he lived, with a camera watching everything. Looks like we're gonna need another Timmy!
Lief vows revenge, and rigs up a bit of Rube Goldbergian genius that would make Kevin McAllister proud. Unfortunately, instead of the killer, it grabs whomever first walks in the door, and the sheriff is killed accidentally...WITH A BEAR TRAP TO THE FACE.
He runs off into the forest to find Pop, and nearly takes his head off with an axe, but misses. Fortunately, Pop brought a shotgun to an axe fight, but before he can take out Lief, Cory comes along to save the day.
So the bad guy is dead, there's only a few minutes left, and I guess we're about to wrap up, right? WRONG. Just when you think it's safe to go back for your pom poms, the movie throws in one more twist.
The kids celebrate their victory, and Lief sends Bonnie and Cory off to get help, and he can have some alone time with Alison. He's high on life, but Alison's a little traumatised, so this might not be the time OR place for a romantic interlude.
Cory runs in interrupting Brent getting a little violent, saying she can't find Bonnie, so Lief goes to look for her, and did the movie just loop back on itself?!
Once they're alone, Cory realises Brent has been violent in his advances on Alison, and he must be the real killer, so oh no! They killed the wrong killer! Again!
They hurry outside to find Brent standing over Bonnie's dead body, so he MUST be the killer! Cory hands the gun she used to kill Pop over to Alison, and lets her take care of her boyfriend.
SO the bad guy's dead, there's even LESS time left, so we can go home now, right? WRONG AGAIN SUCKERS!! The cops show up, Alison is losing it, and Cory tells the cops how she saw Alison kill Brent, so she's the murderer that ravaged the camp, oh, and she's had a lot of bad nightmares, and is mentally unstable.
But it's NOT Alison, right? WRO...er, RIGHT! It's been Cory, all along, jealous over always being the mascot, and at Alison's looks and popularity and boyfriends and talent. She's committed the perfect crime spree, and found the perfect patsy. Of course, her entire squad is dead...but minor details!
And isn't this the cheerleader version of the plot from Ripper?!
Video: It's not super great, but I can't complain too much. It looks good enough for what it is. A very solid average grade.
Audio: Also solidly average.
Sound Bite: "He's a geek, but christ, geeks don't kill ya!" Said by Timmy five seconds before said geek kills someone.
Body Count: A very solid amount of death in this one, even though it takes a while to get to the bulk of it.
1 - 16 minutes in, and a dead girl is found.
2 - Pam gets stabbed with shears.
3 - Theresa gets crushed between a van and a tree place.
4 - Miss Tipton gets a cleaver in her back.
5 - Timmy gets an axe to the guts, but at least he got it on film!
6 - Brent accidentally kills the sheriff with a bear trap in the face.
7 - Pop gets shot by Cory, saving Brent.
8 - Bonnie dies off camera.
9 - But Brent we see get shot by Alison
Best Corpse: BEAR TRAP.
TO THE FACE.
Blood Type - B: The blood and guts aren't overdone, but they're fairly well done, and the movie is not shy about throwing red around the woods.
Sex Appeal: Almost everyone gets topless.
Drink Up! whenever Alison has a nightmare
Video Nasties: The look from Alison as she shows herself and somehow freaks herself out with the cleaver is the most bizarrely absurd thing I have seen.
Movie Review: This isn't a great movie. It's low budget, it's campy, the acting is dodgy as hell, but fun overall. The twist isn't terrible, and fairly well set up. The movie's biggest flaw is that the first two thrids are almost blood free, and focus too much on cheering. It does make some good character beats, and keeps things light and fun, but it teases the good stuff for far too long. The balance of goofy humor and bloody horror is a little off. Horror comedy is fine, but this gets too wacky at times. Three out of five slashy pom poms.
Entertainment Value: It gets a surprising amount of mileage out of being a raunchy teen comedy smashed together with a horror movie. The balance isn't perfect, but it DOES work here and there, overly wacky moments notwithstanding. And really, Cheerleader Camp just unabashedly knows what it is, what it wants to be, and makes no apologies for it. I can respect that. In fact, that's a lot of this movie's charm. I actually found myself enjoying things more than I expected, and if not for a few winces or groans, I had a blast. The characters pop, and while the acting leaves a smidge to be desired, it could be worse, and having everyone stand out and have their moments, be they ones of humour, or cheer excellence, or a bloody death, the movie works more than it should. Four out of five alligator mascot heads.