Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sleepaway Camp (1983, Robert Hiltzik)

The '80s brought us a slew of slasher movies, a few of which were summer camp based (most notably Friday the 13th)... Possibly the strangest is 1983's Sleepaway Camp.

The strangeness lies not so much in a divergence from the slasher film genre, but in the varied and more summer camp appropriate age of the characters. Most of these films have characters of the 18 and older variety, mostly so they can include nudity (a genre staple), but Sleepaway Camp is populated by the 12-to-14 year old set. Therefore very little in the way of mature themes, and I believe the only nudity is fully prosthetic (more on that later).

Note: I am not overly sensitive to announcing spoilers, particularly from a 30 year old film, but as I had never seen this one, and it has a rather shocking ending, if you do not want to know the end I will sum up: you like '80s slasher films? Get this one. Stop reading now, if you want. Also, don't look for the movie on Tumblr, as the ending is copiously displayed.

For the rest of you, here goes.

Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten) and his cousin Angela (Felissa Rose) are leaving for summer camp, being seen off by the, let's say "quirky", Aunt Martha (Desiree Gould). This is Angela's first time at camp, though Ricky (who is a bit of a dick, but protective of his cousin) is an old pro. They soon run into Ricky's pal, Paul (Christopher Collet), and old flame who has since out grown him, Judy (Karen Fields). Judy, in many ways, is the highlight of the film. Fields' acting is superficially bad, but when you observe her it is as though director Hiltzik said "play it like Joan Crawford in a high school drama adaptation of a telenovela," and it works. Judy is smarmy and obnoxious, playing way over-the-top which juxtaposes nicely with the mostly silent Angela.

Karen Fields as "Judy"

Soon, th obligatory killing starts. That's why we're here, right? It seems that everyone who wrongs Angela, from the super-pervy head cook, to the shirtless teen douchebag. They killings are not of the typical hatchet and/or machete type, but tend to be more of the Doctor Phibes variety; the cook is killed by being boiled by his corn pot water, and the shirtless douchebag is killed by bees.

Meanwhile, Angela and Paul are becoming an item, which infuriates Judy and her crony, Meg. They decide to make life hell for Angela, and pay the price. Cousin Ricky is considered a suspect, as his protection of Angela is verbal and public. The camp owner takes out some aggravation on Ricky, which invites Angela's wrath.

In the end, we discover Angela's secret. She has been taunted by Judy for not showering with the other girls, and when she is finally comfortable with Paul, she decides to go skinny dipping with him. We can assume that Paul is shocked by her secret, as he soon winds up dead, a naked, prosthetic Angela astride his corpse. The reason Angela is a prosthetic dummy, is because a) the actress is too young to appear naked, and b) because Angela is a boy. This reveal is very effective and surprising even though I was aware of it before seeing the film.

EDIT: I have heard that this was a male actor with a mask to look like Felissa Rose. Unconfirmed, but from a reliable source.

I found this to be a great little film. It is more interesting than many of its contemporaries. The only problem I had was in hating almost every character, even if you were not supposed to. For me, it is one where you are constantly saying "I hope he's the next one," even cousin Ricky who comes off as a complete asshole and bully in many ways. Definitely worth watching, and as is often the case, this is the best of the three films. Those reviews coming tomorrow and Thursday.


Tim Knight said...

Really enjoyed this movie, even though I, too, was aware of the "twist" - having seen the sequel first ('cos I'm dumb like that). It still holds up despite its age.

Darius Whiteplume said...

I watched #2 first out of convenience; it was on Netflix. "Angela was a boy," I could deal with. A tumblr search finally gave away THE image... Really though, it did not ruin it for me.

BTW, The Cinema Snob's review is a hoot. link

Cherry7Teen said...

It has been confirmed many times. It was in fact an uncredited college student wearing a plaster mask of Felissa Roses face, for the climax. There are photos to prove this, as if testimony from cast and crew doesn't seem to be enough for some people. Nice tumblr by the way. Always nice to see someone getting creative with Sleepaway Camp. Another interesting fact..Originally, the young girl playing Angela was to wear a prosthetic penis. That obviously didn't work out.

Darius Whiteplume said...

I did not really research the film before the review. I am a rather slap-dash blogger, to be honest :-D I first heard about the stand-in on The Greatest Movie EVER Podcast. Thinking about that, it is very likely that a combination of the cinematography and the sheer shock of the scene (even if you had, like me, seen the results) makes it feel unreal enough that you don't know what is real...? Or something like that. :-)

Glad you like the Tumblr. I am a fan of the niche-Tumblr, and think anything with fandom that does not have a Tumblr (typically a "Fuck Yeah ______") is a wrong that must be righted! My main Tumblr is here.

Nathan said...

In the Friday the 13th movies, they usually focused on the counselors, which was presumably their excuse to use teenagers instead of younger kids. There was at least one movie where you did see the kids, but they didn't come into it that much.

I've seen the first Sleepaway Camp, but not any of the sequels. I have to wonder how they could HAVE a sequel after the reveal at the end. What, in the second movie it turns out the penis is fake after all?

Darius Whiteplume said...

The on;y Friday the 13th I have seen recently was Part 3, which was not so much summer camp based.

They get around the "Angela is a boy" thing pretty easily. They gave her a sex change; or at least that's what Angela says.

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