Monday, October 13, 2008

#90: Sleepaway Camp


Sleepaway Camp
Written and Directed by Robert Hiltzik
Released 1983

As Sleepaway Camp opens, the audience is presented with the quintessential setting for a 1980's Horror movie: a camp site. Like you can't have Jaws without the ocean, you can't have a slasher movie set in the era of Madonna without a lake and a bunch of cabins.

Unfortunately, you can't have a 80's Horror film without some horrendous acting, and the beginning of Sleepaway Camp has got that in spades. Just watch the way the water skier reacts after her boat drives over the face of a father swimming with his two children. I realize the situation is fucked up, but even in the case of a horrible accident like this one, I can't imagine someone being THAT melodramatic.

By the time you meet the mother of our "heroine" Angela Baker and her cousin Richard, you'll probably find yourself thinking, "They're kidding, right?" If Hiltzik is making an intentionally hilarious flick, he's already knocking it out of the park 5 minutes in.

Part of the marketing campaign for Last House on the Left was the tagline, "Keep telling yourself 'It's only a movie.'" When you're watching Sleepaway Camp, keep telling yourself, "They're trying to be funny."

Angela, who doesn't talk and stares at her more popular cabin mates, isn't exactly quick to make friends. Soon, one of the counselors, who thinks he's doing Angela a favor, introduces her to the beer swilling pedophile cook. She barely escapes being molested when her cousin steps in to save her, and then in the next scene we watch as that same cook is horribly burned by an offscreen "kid." Could the kid have been Angela or her cousin? Is this really going to be that easy?

Regardless, this has to be the worst summer camp in the history of camps. You've got openly hostile pedophiles running the kitchen, kids playing homoerotic pranks on one another, and counselors who spew obscenities at the kids when they aren't wagering on their games or physically assaulting them. At one point during a baseball game, one counselor shouts at a camper, "Fuck a man, asshole!"

What kind of parents would send their kids to a shithole like this? There are virtually no actual adults or authority figures. At one point, a fistfight breaks out between a dozen kids and no one stops it. Almost everyone in this dump is psychotic. It's like Meatballs meets Lord of the Flies up in here! This place is full of so many idiots that I'm only disappointed that everyone didn't get killed.

Sleepaway Camp has a massive cult following, and I can't understand why. It's fucking terrible. The acting is so bad that you have to wonder if everyone just learned to speak English phonetically and never really knew what words were coming out of their mouths. Then, you've got the script, written by a man who apparently barely understands either human behavior (even when a character takes a shower, it's not believable) OR murder. I mean, a guy dies almost instantly from a series of bee stings. Never mind the fact that we don't even see a bee during this entire scene. The budget of this movie can't even produce a BEE.

The only pay-off for the entire film, which also happens to be the only reason why this movie is on DVD it all and not faded into oblivion, is the "twist" at the end. I won't blow it for you, but it's one part obvious and one part mind-blowing. Still, 20 interesting seconds does not make up for 85 minutes of complete ineptitude. And when you really think about it, the twist is totally irrelevant to who the killer is or why they've done what they've done.

Just... crap.

For more on Sleepaway Camp:
- Movie information at IMDB and Wikipedia.
- A Sleepaway Camp website announcing the arrival of a new sequel, filmed by original writer/director Robert Hiltzik.
- Buy the DVD box set. I mean, if you're going to drop coin on this turd, you might as well get something cool out of it.

The Sleepaway Camp trailer:

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