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Sleepaway Camp
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Sleepaway Camp (1983)

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Plot Summary:
"A young girl is adopted and molested by her adopted "mother." Years later she and her cousin go to camp Arawak, run by a conscientious manager named Mel. When the girl is mocked and brutally teased and abused by the staff and other campers, her cousin tries to protect her. Then people start dying. Mel tries to protect the camp's name after campers and staffers start to die. He's on the right track, but the mystery hasn't been solved yet."

Review by
Phil Davies Brown
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Review Date: 19 June 2004 My Rating: out of 5


I finally got to check this out thanks to the excellent Anchor Bay, and I have to say that whilst I knew all about the film including the shock ending, it still had a great effect on me.

When little Angela Baker's family are wiped out in an accident, she is sent to live with her eccentric aunt and cousin Ricky. Years after the accident Angela attends sleepaway camp for the first time and finds it hard to fit in with the other campers.

Not realising that Angela had been traumatised at a young age, they belittle her for being shy, day dreaming and for her reluctance to go in the water.

Someone however, doesn't like it when the bullies and bitchy girls taunt Angela, and decides to take matters into their own hands by offing the staff and campers. Who could it be? Is it Angela's overprotective cousin Ricky? It would appear so.

The film could easily be mistaken for a 'Friday the 13th' rip-off but is actually very different. I liked the fact that the film shows summer camp from the point of view of the kids, after all when you think about it, you are afraid of being away from home and having to deal with bullies, and being forced to go swimming etc so it made perfect sense to show how awful camp can be as opposed to showing what the naughty counsellors get up to after hours.

The film's only flaw is that it spends too much time on character development and not enough time scaring the audience. On the plus side, I loved the game of guess who the killer is that unfolds in front of the audience and the conclusion did actually freak me out.

Sleepaway Camp deserves its cult following, and hopefully with the new movie coming out and the excellent Anchor Bay re-release of the film, it will find a new and much larger audience.

Reviewer: John Dedeke @horrorasylum
Review Date: 31 October 2001 My Rating: out of 5

SLEEPAWAY CAMP has become something of a legend among enthusiasts of s schlock horror. Certainly not the greatest of the post-FRIDAY THE 13TH slasher genre, nor the most original, it has nevertheless etched its own special place in the minds of those who've seen it, and is a film not likely to be easily forgotten, despite its shortcomings.

On the surface, SLEEPAWAY CAMP really is nothing more than a FRIDAY clone. Teen angst runs amok at a summer camp, and quickly the kids discover that they've got more to worry about than their raging hormones. The killings are all done FRIDAY-style, keeping the identity of the killer a secret and focusing more on throwing as much blood as possible into the film on the smallest budget possible. That said, there is a lot more to SLEEPAWAY CAMP than initially meets the eye.

For starters, SLEEPAWAY CAMP places much more intrigue into the identity of the killer, giving out numerous red herrings to throw the viewer off track throughout the film. While FRIDAY simply just ignored the identity of the killer until the final moments of the film, any one of the numerous and slightly off-kilter characters in SLEEPAWAY CAMP could be the killer, and the film exploits this fact by pointing continuingly pointing the blame in different directions. It's also worth noting that unlike FRIDAY, the focus in SLEEPAWAY CAMP is on the kids at camp, not the counselors. True, there are counselors that figure into the story (the old nice counselor/mean counselor theme is somewhat over-emphasized, in fact), but the majority of the main characters in the film are just on the cusp of their teenage years. The concentration of preteens seems to make the film's already eerie ending seem even a little more twisted, but we'll deal with that in a bit.

There's also some interesting subtext to the film -- though much of it comes across a bit over-dramatically. While the film is pretty much a by-the-book slasher film, there's interesting subtleties to the story and so many characters with bizarre quirks that SLEEPAWAY CAMP actually somewhat resembles a sort of half-baked early Argento flick; like PROFONDO ROSSI (DEEP RED) without the intelligence. It's almost as though writer/director Robert Hiltzik was trying to do something more than just make a slasher movie, but didn't have the canvas or freedom to properly create it. As a result, there's some really strange hints and notions to the film that are never fully developed, but nonetheless give SLEEPAWAY CAMP a very peculiar slant that separates it from the rest of the FRIDAY rip-offs spawned in the early s.

There's a decent amount of blood in the film to keep the gorehounds happy, and a number of fairly creative death scenes, which is more or less what most folks look for in a slasher movie. People will be looking for those elements. What they WON'T be looking for, what they might not expect at all, is the rather disturbing ending that brings SLEEPAWAY CAMP to an unsettling close. Few endings in cult horror history are as infamous as the conclusion to Angela's sordid summer camp nightmare. There's many people who claim their appreciation of the movie comes solely from its ending, regarding the rest of the film as little more than a trite FRIDAY THE 13TH wannabe. While such praise for the end of SLEEPAWAY CAMP may be a bit exaggerated, it does give at least an idea of just how warped and perverse the finale of the film is.

Though quite obviously an attempt to cash-in on the success of FRIDAY THE 13TH, SLEEPAWAY CAMP does have a few aces up its sleeve, and packs in enough bizarre subtext and goofy characters to make for an enjoyable and somewhat disturbingly offbeat slasher viewing.

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