It’s July, which means the time is ripe for those boiler plate activities reserved for the full-swing of summer. Unless you’re me. For a troglodyte such as myself, this is the perfect time to shack up in the air- conditioned bliss of my house and watch some good ol’ fashioned early 80’s slasher flicks. Robert Hiltzik’s 1983 “Sleepaway Camp” is quintessential no matter what the season, but I figured it’d be amusing to run with the theme of horrible experiences at youth-oriented summer camps, whilst being thankful I’ll never be shipped off to one ever again. Let’s just say that vomiting on the steps of a rec-hall does not a good memory make. Not that I should be complaining; public puking is nothing when compared to a summer vacation chock full of grisly murders, awkward adolescent sexuality, and horrible 80’s outfits.
It’s a cruel, cruel summer…
So the movie opens up like any other self-respecting slasher, with an establishing shot of an abandoned police-taped campsite. Cut to the prologue, in which a tragic speed-boating accident kills off one hairy-legged father and at least one of his two destined-to-be hairy-legged children. The story then continues 8 years later as cousins Ricky Thomas (Jonathan Tierston) and Angela Baker (Felissa Rose) prepare to leave Ricky’s ridiculously creepy mother for, you guessed it, sleepaway camp- a place where the boys like their shorts short and their shirts cropped, and the sexual rivalry between the teenage girls is as petty as it is unfathomable. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you see attractive young Meg (Katherine Kamhi) go for the 1000 year-old stogie-sucking Mike Kellin, who was quite literally on his death bed during the making of the film. That poor, poor actress.
Anyways, it is eventually revealed that Angela is the sole survivor of the aforementioned incident, which explains why she isn’t all that thrilled to be spending her holiday beside a lake (not exactly the most well thought-out plan on her Aunt Martha’s part, but then again the woman does wear coordinated hats and neckties). Angela’s silence may be creepy, but the kid is just trying to cope with the overwhelming atmosphere as insensitive campers persistently harass her and one unsavory cook even attempts to molest her. At least she has her loyal cousin to look out for her, and things even begin to look up when she catches the eye of his friend, Peter. However, any hope of Angela’s recuperation quickly comes crashing down when a series of murders begins to taint her already crappy vacation.
At this point the fun truly begins as viewers enter into a slightly compelling game of “whodunit.” The rules go something like this, each time a hapless victim is killed, the point of view switches to the killer’s perspective and the audience is allotted one new clue. Alright, so this isn’t the most groundbreaking technique ever, but it does invoke the audience’s interaction in the special way that only slasher movies can do. And sure, the identity of the killer is fairly predictable, but the plot twist revealing the motivation is actually not so bad. I implore you to close that new browser window and not spoil the ending for yourself, since it’s really the only thing that makes this movie truly satisfying. Without it, all you’re in for is basically a more violent and less funny “Meatballs”; all that remains will be an hour-and-a-half-long flurry of unconditioned hair, grossly cliched characters, and, if you’re watching the uncut version, a veritable series of buttock shots.
“Eat Shit and Live!”
Considering how obviously low the production values are, it is mildly impressive that there is a reasonable possibility for genuine scares, or at least some shaking up. “Sleepaway Camp” is not exactly an Oscar winner, and it’s certainly not original, but it’s fun. And isn’t that what the summer is all about? Isn’t it? Beats me. The fact is that there’s nothing wrong with an evening of demented diversion every once in a while, and this film is the perfect destination for a mental holiday. So lay back, relax, and enjoy. After all, you’re on vacation.
My Rating: 5/10