Summer Camp Slaughter!!!

This RED HOT edition of BRAIN HAMMER’S PICKS FROM THE CRYPT features three of the all time greatest summer camp slasher flicks from the 80’s that don’t have the words “Friday The 13th” in the title! It’s going to be a sizzling Summer Camp Slaughter!

Meet me by the waterfront, after the social…and LET THE BLOODSHED BEGIN!!!

 

THE BURNING (1981)

A mischievous group of young campers assemble under the cover of darkness and prepare the biggest number that Camp Blackfoot has ever seen. The kids plan to scare the shit out of a cruel and sadistic summer camp caretaker named Cropsy. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the bizarre prank involving a rotting skull and candles backfires in a big way and Cropsy’s bedding catches on fire. The flames ignite a can of gasoline and in seconds Cropsy’s shack is engulfed. Tragically, Cropsy wasn’t familiar with the “stop, drop, and roll” concept and instead ran around screaming while trying to make his way into the nearby lake.

Cropsy survives the fire, but is very badly burned. He looks so bad that hospital orderlies describe him as “a fucking Big Mac, well done.” Five years of unsuccessful skin graphs leave Cropsy horribly disfigured and more than a little pissed off. Once he finally regains his strength he leaves the hospital with a burning hatred raging in his mind. Cropsy makes one final attempt at regaining his humanity by hiding his burns and picking up a hooker, and the whore’s eventual and inevitable repulsion and rejection of Cropsy is enough to make him finally snap and shove a pair of scissors into her abdomen.

Now completely deranged, Cropsy grabs his trusty pruning shears and returns to Camp Blackfoot to have his revenge. As Cropsy prowls around the camp, we are introduced to a number of campers including the wisecracking and porn peddling Dave (Jason Alexander, best known as George from “Seinfeld”), fast talking ladies man Eddy (Ned Eisenberg, who stole the show as a horror flick freak in “Moving Violations”), shy and misunderstood Alfred (Brian Backer, who also proved in both  “Fast Times At Ridgemont High” AND “Moving Violations” that he can play a geek with the best of them!), junior jerk off champion Woodstock (Fisher Stevens aka the comic relief Indian from “Short Circuit”), a menacing meat head named Glazer (Larry Joshua, who went on to play…Pong, in his underwear), and Glazer’s incredibly hot virgin girlfriend Sally (Carrick Glen, who also appeared in the Brain Hammer approved slasher clas-sick “Girl’s Nite Out!”).

Cropsy bides his time until a large group of campers and two counselors leave the camp for an overnight canoe trip. Cropsy tags along for the ride and when night falls the bloodshed begins. Not in the least bit concerned about who he kills, Cropsy makes mincemeat out of any unhappy camper that crosses his path. This legend of terror isn’t just a campfire story anymore. The pain is all too real to Cropsy, and he uses his wicked shears to hack life and limbs away from those who enjoy a normal existence. Don’t look, he’ll see you. Don’t breathe, he’ll hear you. Don’t move…YOU’RE DEAD!

I consider THE BURNING to be a true masterpiece of 80’s horror. It was written by Harvey Wienstein shortly before “Friday The 13th” turned the world of horror on it’s ear and was released just afterwards in time to cash in on the booming slasher market. This is truly one of the very best slasher films set in a summer camp. Few flicks, horror or otherwise can rival this film when it comes to capturing the madcap spirit of camp. A lot of quality time is spent getting to know the characters, and I think it ultimately adds to the impact of the film. The kids are all sympathetic characters, which makes their wholesale slaughter at the hands of Cropsy even more potent. It also gives us a chance to enjoy an extended shower scene with Carrick Glen and her beautiful soapy chicken breasts.

Tom Savini’s gory special effects were the major selling point of the film. Tom already had a well deserved reputation as a wizard of gore thanks to his fantastic work on films like “Dawn Of The Dead” and “Friday The 13th.” Interestingly, Savini turned down a lucrative offer to do the effects for Steve Miner’s “Friday The 13th Part II” and chose to work on “The Burning” instead. Tom Savini has created many incredible effects over the years, but “The Burning” perhaps more than any other film is the best showcase for his brilliant work.

The multiple stabbings, slicings, skewerings, and shearings are about as bloody and over the top as anything ever splashed upon the screen. The incredible “raft massacre” scene is the highlight of the film and is the stuff of legend. Much credit must also be given to director Tony Maylam, as well as editor Jack Sholder (who later helmed the clas-sick “Alone In The Dark”) for knowing how to use these special effects to their fullest potential in the film. The numerous death scenes are tightly edited for maximum impact. The effects are spectacular and still look great today. All around, “The Burning” is an 80’s slasher flick that more than stands the test of time.

It’s well known that “The Burning” is one of the all time great slasher flicks. Sadly, for far too long a decent looking, uncut print of “The Burning” was something of a “holy grail” for slasher completists. The original R rated vhs releases, and most of the region 2 dvd releases were all heavily edited and therefore worthless. Several years ago I paid $25 for a murky looking bootleg vhs copy of the uncut Japanese print – and thought it was quite a bargain. Looking back I could kick myself for such a foolish purchase, especially when I watch the beautiful looking remastered dvd print of “The Burning” that MGM officially released in September of 2007.

After several years of having this one tucked up their ass, MGM went the extra mile with this dvd release. First of all, they were wise enough to present the UNCUT version of THE BURNING with all of the juicy splatter intact. The dvd features beautiful picture quality and is much clearer looking than any previous release. Best of all, we get several brand new bonus features – including a 17 minute Tom Savini special effects featurette entitled “Blood N’ Fire,” a commentary track with director Tony Maylam, a photo gallery, and the theatrical trailer. After years of anticipation, this dvd release wound up being well worth the wait and was my DVD PICK for 2007. No respectable horror collection is complete without a copy!

 

 

MADMAN (1982)

As the opening titles tell us: “It all started during a campfire at North Sea Cottages, a special retreat for gifted children.” An asswipe named TP (get it?) sings a creepy campfire song that scares the children and viewers with how bad it is. Then the resident old fat fuck of the group tells the morbid tale of Madman Marz. Marz was a farmer who once lived in a house next to the camp. He was a big nasty bastard who loved pounding booze and then pounding his wife and children. One night Marz snapped and slaughtered his entire family with an axe. The madman then walked to the local tavern with the bloody axe still in his hand and ordered a beer. A lynch mob captured him and proceeded to hang him from a tree. The next morning his body had mysteriously vanished. The dead bodies of his family also turned up missing.

Legend has it that if you ever dare yell out the name of the Madman in his woods he will come for you. A snot nosed punk named Ricky decides to show off and loudly dares Madman Marz to come and get him. He even has the nerve to throw a rock at the old deserted Marz house, breaking a window in the process. Old man Max jokingly warns Ricky about the consequences of his actions, and then breaks into a speech wishing the kids the best of luck in the future. Everyone laughs this off as good natured fun.

Unfortunately for the campers and counselors, the legend of Madman Marz is nothing to laugh at. Richie finds out the hard way when he hears a noise and follows a dark shadowy figure back to the Marz house. The Madman is alive and on the prowl. He quickly makes chop suey out of the camp cook “Dippy.” The counselors are an annoying group of spaced out and horny weirdos that spend their time lying on the floor all in a row with their heads together having inane conversations, so it’s hard to work up much concern for their safety as the bloodletting begins.

TP eventually discovers that Ricky never came back to camp and goes looking for him. He finds Madman Marz instead and is viciously hung from a tree. Then Marz begins showing his flair for creative decapitations and swiftly beheads an ugly pair of camp counselors. The night of savage death degenerates into a fiery climax that seemingly eliminates the monster once and for all. The survivors cling to the last shreds of their sanity and are forced to accept the fact that MADMAN MARZ IS REAL! They thought they were alone, but deep in the woods lurks a hideous evil. Don’t even whisper his name!

Interestingly enough, MADMAN was originally going to feature the “Cropsy Maniac” as the killer instead of Madman Marz. Writer and director Joe Giannone and his partner in crime Gary Sales wrote an original story based on the infamous upstate New York urban legend. Unbeknownst to them, the Weinstein brothers were also doing the exact same thing at the exact same time. The casting for “Madman” had already begun when Giannone discovered that another film called “The Burning” was being shot and featured Cropsy as the villain. The script had to be immediately changed and the concept of Madman Marz was born. It’s a similar storyline in the proud tradition of a cautionary campfire tale, punctuated with then-cutting edge violent death scenes.

“Madman” came out at a time when similar slasher flicks were flooding the market and manages to stand out from the bunch for possessing the darkest atmosphere, a fantastic score, and one very impressive looking monster. Madman Marz is one of the very coolest 80’s slasher icons, and his death scenes are almost unparalleled in brutality. This flick contains possibly the greatest decapitations and hangings of any slasher flick ever! The effects are very convincing looking and really add to the impact of the film. It also helps that Paul Ehlers is simply amazing in the lead role. When Paul’s wife went into labor he rushed from the set and actually went to the hospital in full Madman Marz makeup. Imagine the terror this must have caused at the hospital!

Fans of George A. Romero’s clas-sick “Dawn Of The Dead” will enjoy seeing Gaylen Ross (appearing here under the name Alexis Dubin) in a steamy hot tub sex scene. Gaylen looks great in this movie and turns in a good performance. The opening scene featuring the haunting ballad of Madman Marz and the telling of his horrifying legend never fails to give me chills. My only real complaint is that I would have enjoyed seeing that little bastard Richie get killed. The fact that none of the bratty rich kids get snuffed is kind of a bummer, but the mind boggling scene where a tiny chick hides inside a refrigerator more than makes up for this. “Madman” has a well deserved cult following, but it also often gets overlooked when 80’s slashers are discussed. I think the incredible death scenes alone make this flick one of the all time greats.

Code Red recently released a very nice looking 30 year anniversary edition dvd of MADMAN. The bonus features include tv spots, the theatrical trailer, a commentary track with Joe Giannone, Gary Sales, and Madman Marz himself Paul Ehlers, and a new featurette: “The Legend Lives: 30 Years of Madman.” There’s no excuse now for not having a copy of the essential summer camp slasher in your collection.

 

 

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 fun and harmless afternoon on a sailboat. A man named John and his two children Angela and Peter enjoy 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 insane Aunt Martha. Aunt Martha is one of scariest characters in 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 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. 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 gets old man blue balls 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 batshit insane. He shakes his feeble and brittle fists and rows revenge against Ricky for Meg’s murder. As 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.

Ah, the “Sleepaway Camp” series. These films have gotten me more ass than any other. Every girl that I watched Sleepaway Camp with fell in love with me. I’ve had wild sex while listening to the soundtrack to Sleepaway Camp II. I even 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 movies ever made. A bad time can never be had during a viewing!

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. 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. 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 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. 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 easy to find online. Your collection – Sleepaway Camp = garbage.

 

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

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