A nice place for summer vacation – a perfect place to die!
SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983)
This legendary film begins with some especially eerie shots of a deserted summer camp accompanied by the distant sounds of children playing. This immediately puts the viewer off balance, which is where they will firmly remain for the next 88 minutes. The madness begins with a seemingly harmless afternoon on a sailboat. A man named John and his two children Angela and Peter are enjoying some fun in the sun when they suddenly cross paths with some careless teenagers in a motorboat.
Tragedy strikes when a girl takes the wheel (doesn’t it always?) and the motorboat smashes into the family as they happily bob in the water. The boat kills the father and one of the children, although it isn’t clear who survived. This mystery is solved eight years later when we see that the survivor was Angela (Felissa Rose), and that she now lives with her tough but tender cousin Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten) and her batshit insane Aunt Martha.
Aunt Martha is one of scariest characters in all of horror history. She gives the kids a goodie bag full of snacks and ties a string around her finger to remember the kid’s permission slips for camp. The nutjob then implores the children not to tell anyone at camp that she had performed the physical needed for the kid’s admission. No one would understand…even if she is a doctor.
The kids are then shipped off to Camp Arawak. Upon arrival Angela is shy and withdrawn and talks to no one. Ricky runs into his old pal Paul, who excitedly tells him about the massive jugs his ex-girlfriend Judy is sporting. Ricky tries to turn on the charm with Judy but she quickly proves to be a heartless cocktease. She also despises Angela and proceeds to make her life miserable. Angela also refuses to eat, which causes the musclebound main counselor Ronnie to thoughtfully send her along to meet her doom with the perverted head cook Artie. Artie’s mouth waters when he sees the fresh young chicken and he wastes no time attempting to force feed Angela his tubesteak. Ricky catches him in the act and the scared kids run away before anything worse can happen.
Later that day Artie is still steaming from having his cock blocked. He’s also pissed off because his comically oversized pot of water won’t come to a boil. As he fumes over his shortcomings he adds about three pounds of salt into the 200 gallons of water. As the tubby chickenhawk precariously dangles on a tiny footstool a silent assailant makes their deadly presence known. The small person is obviously a child, but manages to push Artie off balance and leave him hanging onto a filmy shelf above the olympic swimming pool of salty molten lava. Artie tries to bribe his attacker with an ice cream sunday, which confirms that the would be killer is a child. The stool is yanked away, causing Artie to tumble and drop the the barrel of toxic waste on top of himself. Artie somehow survives the attack but is very badly burned. The paramedic even remarks that the pain must be incredible. This angers the hideously old and misshapen camp owner Mel and causes him to snap that it must have been an accident. The greedy grandpa decides to cover up the incident to avoid bad press.
Meanwhile, Ricky has his hands full with a pack of meathead jocks that continually torment him and knock his sweet cowboy hat off his head. The goons also have Angela in their sights, and for a couple of laughs they decide to invite her along for a midnight skinny dip. Angela of course says nothing, and stares holes into them. Later that night the boys take the plunge and an idiot named Kenny manages to convince a girl named Leslie to go on a moonlight canoe ride with him. Kenny starts acting like a jackass and both of them wind up in the water. Leslie swims back to shore and for some odd inexplicable reason Kenny decides to swim underneath the tipped over canoe and begin singing a song called “Hey Hey Baba-Re-Bop.” The unseen slayer suddenly strikes again and Kenny is mercifully put out of his misery by drowning.
The next morning a profane lifeguard discovers Kenny’s waterlogged and snake ridden corpse. Police and paramedics are suspicious, especially considering Kenny’s reputation for being “a pretty damned good swimma.”Mel once again interrupts the conversation and swears that the whole thing is an unfortunate accident. The next day Angela is humiliated by Judy in their cabin and then pelted by water balloons by the mean boys. Ricky rushes to Angela’s defense and tells the cocksuckers to stop messing with his cousin. Mel steps in, and the wrinked old dick punishes the boys. He also punishes Ricky for his rotten mouth. The leader of the gang is a blonde doofus named Billy who proudly tells his fellow campers that he has to take a wicked dump and trots off to the shitter to meet his demise. The unseen slasher strikes again, this time armed with a well placed broom and an beehive full of angry bees.
After finding another dead body Mel begins worrying more about the reputation of his camp than the safety of the remaining children. He also begins to suspect that Ricky is the culprit. Things get even more complicated when love enters the picture and Ricky’s good pal Paul falls for Angela in a big way. Paul even manages to almost get to second base with Angela before she freaks out and runs away. The next afternoon Judy gets involved and begins mocking the new couple and coming on to Paul. A bitchy counselor named Meg gets fed up with Angela refusing to swim or shower with the other girls and decides to throw her in the water. Everyone laughs as Angela almost drowns before Ricky can finally break away from the increasingly unstable Mel and once again come to her rescue.
This is where an already off the wall flick goes even further off the rails into crazy town. The bitch counselor Meg has the hots for the rather decrepit and disgusting looking Mel and throws herself at him. The old man then invites the sexy young thing back to his place for a late night meal. Meg then goes off to wash her cootch and get it clean for the elderly man she is planning on having sex with. As Meg showers and hums a catchy little tune that will drive you bananas, the killer shows up to spoil the fun and stick a knife in Meg’s back.
Mel eventually gets a bad case of old man blue balls while waiting for Meg to show up for their hot date and goes looking for her. He discovers her sliced up body in the shower and once and for all goes bananas. He shakes his feeble and brittle fists and rows revenge against Ricky for Meg’s murder. As all this is happening Angela arranges a late night rendezvous with Paul. These combustible elements combine to create one the most thrilling third acts in horror history. Judy gets what is coming to her in a big way, Mel finds out that looking for Ricky will be a pain in the neck, a cop shows up with a mustache that is clearly made out of black masking tape, and just when you think you’ve seen it all, arguably the greatest shock in the history of horror is revealed at the waterfront…after the social. You won’t be coming home!
Growing up as a wee Brain Hammer, I had a wacky lesbian aunt named Aunt Martha (RIP). As you can imagine, the “Sleepaway Camp” films have a very special place in my blackened heart. My cousin beat me to the video store back in the day and snared a used copy of “Sleepaway Camp.” We watched that movie dozens of times in high school. I’ve watched it so many times over the years, with so many different people, I’ve lost count. “Sleepaway Camp” is one of the most entertaining horror movies ever made. A bad time can never be had during a viewing! But don’t mistake this for a “so bad it’s good” sort of experience, “Sleepaway Camp” is a amazingly creepy and disturbing horror film that also happens to be hilarious.
Robert Hiltzig is a genius for making a summer camp movie that shows kids being kids: playing pranks on each other and swearing like drunken sailors. The film is ruthlessly padded with softball, but the non stop vulgarities spewing from the mouths of the players during the game makes the scenes hilarious. Who didn’t tell someone to “eat shit and live” after watching this one? Jonathan Tiersten is a riot in this movie. No one call yell out “COCKSUCKERS! PRICKS!” like he can! Even more obscene is the vomit inducing wholesale hatchet slaughter of a gaggle of little kiddies all tucked into their sleeping bags. You don’t see that in most summer camp slasher flicks. The over the top violence in this movie has a mean spirited edge that I really enjoy. Not only is “Sleepaway Camp” of one the very best slasher flicks, it is also one of the most brutal revenge movies ever made. The intimate and sexual nature of some the killings, particularly the vulgar deaths on the toilet or featuring curling iron violation are far more lurid than your usual horror and exploitation fare.
“Sleepaway Camp” has it all. The perfect summer camp setting. The spectacular death scenes and make up effects needed to make a gruesome slasher flick. The quirky characters and offbeat performances that make it so unique. An unbelievable performance from Felissa Rose. A chilling theme song. I think there is no other slasher flick that compares when it comes to sheer unnerving perversion and horror. The film is full of scenes featuring the violent death of children and young adults and it is laced with a lascivious dosage of homoerotic imagery. Sure, there may have been a lot of other horror flicks in the 80′s that took place in summer camps, but only “Sleepaway Camp” had the balls to feature a leering pedophile who expresses his mouth watering love for “baldies!” The ending packs a wallop that never fails to make jaws drop when seeing it for the first time. The ending of the film is iconic. It has to be considered nothing less than the greatest of all time.
A trio of (almost) equally excellent sequels followed and another is (apparently) in the works. The horrors of Angela and Camp Arawak will never die. The legions of “Sleepaway Camp” fans have kept the series alive for decades and are always thirsty for more. This flick perhaps more than any other I can think of truly defines the term “cult classic.” I think I speak for all Happy Campers when I demand the return of Aunt Martha! Robert, seriously bring her back for the sequel!
SLEEPAWAY CAMP is available on dvd from Anchor Bay Entertainment. It’s a nice looking dvd that includes the trailer and a wild commentary track with Robert Hiltzig and Felissa Rose. The only drawback to this release is the fact that the print is missing some footage, including some gory shots that extend the death scenes. Lovers of hot boy ass will mourn the missing shots of the lads going skinny dipping. Hardcore fans that want a totally uncut version of the film should seek out the Legacy Entertainment release instead. Both are still easy to find online.
SLEEPAWAY CAMP is also available in a collector’s edition Blu Ray/DVD combo pack from Shout! Factory. This 2014 release features two brand new commentary tracks: one with stars Felissa Rose (Angela) And Jonathan Tiersten (Ricky), and another with director Robert Hiltzig. The highlight of the package is the 45 minute featurette “At The Waterfront After The Social: The Legacy Of Sleepaway Camp” which includes interviews with assorted cast and crew…including Aunt Martha herself Desiree Gould! There’s also a short fan-film titled “Judy,” a music video from Jonathan Tiersten, and a Camp Arawak Scrapbook still gallery. All in all, a fantasic release, and an essential purchase for diehard fans (is there any other kind?) of this clas-sick.
KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!