The Sleepaway Camp series

The mid-80’s were a tough time for a horror movie, it was a very crowded genre with a new release coming out almost every other week, or so it seemed.  It took a lot for a movie to look different from the others, which all look alike after a while.  One movie tried to be a little different, that was Sleepaway Camp.  Those that have seen it, remember it.  After the original, the series continued on in the even more crowded direct to video shelves.  If you were looking for boobs and blood, they were more than happy to help out with that.  Then the series disappeared for almost 20 years, finally returning in 2008 with the original creator coming back to his baby, and apparently the series will continue as there are a couple more films in development.  So read on if you don’t have a clue what Sleepaway Camp was or for a reminder if you forgot.

sleepawaycamp.jpgWritten and Directed by Robert Hiltzik

Starring Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tiersten and Paul DeAngelo

Review:  This was a bit of an oddity back in the 80’s since many slasher movies were cranked out assembly line-style, all wanting to be similar to the ever popular Halloween and Friday the 13th franchises.  Sleepaway Camp borrows the setting from Friday, but the story goes in a completely different direction and tries to be just a little different from the other “me too” pieces of shit.  Whether it works or not is up for debate, but there’s no doubt that anyone who has seen Sleepaway Camp remembers it.

Ricky and Angela get sent off to Camp Arawak by their batshit insane mother for the summer.  Ricky is a normal kid who is looking forward to going back since he had a little fling with one of the girls the year previous, but she rejects him because all sorts of guys hang off her because she’s “matured” faster than other girls.  And she’s a bitch.  Angela is quiet and shy, barely speaking to anyone and keeping to herself most of the time.  She gets picked on a lot and Ricky has to rescue her.  Typical camp kids, really.  There’s just something wrong with Angela, she has a habit of staring a hole right through some people, she doesn’t say anything but you can definitely tell what’s going on just by how she looks at you.

Things start to go wrong when the camp cook, who gets his jollies by going after the younger campers, gets hot water used for boiling corn dumped on him, burning his face and arms.  The camp owner is quick to figure that it has to be one of the campers doing it and figures on Ricky.  He keeps his eye on Ricky while trying not to let the news get out or else he’d have to close the camp.  Meanwhile, Angela starts to come out of her shell and has found a boy that likes her and they start a relationship, which pisses off the bitchy camper for some reason and she tries to steal him away from Angela.

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However, the strange occurances keep coming and once one of the camp members is killed, almost everyone goes home except for a small number of campers who for some reason decide to remain, or their parents want them to stay.  The camp owner makes his move after Ricky while the girls decide to make aquaphobic Angela swim.  The remaining campers and counselers start getting killed off and near the end of the movie we see the killer and their dark secret.

Typical 80’s slasher, really, though it does what it can to be different.  There are a few goofy scenes, mostly involving with Ricky and Angela’s crazy mother.  She’s so crazy you know someone would have complained to child services about her, but that would completely take away from the reasoning of the killer’s secret.  And that secret was the big hook for this movie being so memorable…Angela was born a boy but her crazy mother wanted a girl so she pretended that he was a she!  Angela is shown completely naked at the end as she cut off her boyfriends’ head and you see that she has all the dangly parts….bleh!  The movie ends abruptly with that discovery.

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Spoiler warning:  She’s a dude!

Would the movie be that memorable without that twist?  Probably not, but as strange as it sounds, its a reason to watch the movie.  The kills are limited but they go from the usual stabbing to creative use of a curling iron.  It’s probably one of the few movies where you’ll see the aftermath of what happens to a group of young kids who get hatcheted to pieces, although I would think it a little tame by today’s standards.

The acting is what it is and everyone does their part well, I don’t remember any corny acting (aside from the mother, but that was her job.)  With so many child actors, someone had to be an overactor but there was none to be found.  I guess kids were better actors in the 80s?  Felissa Rose deserves special mention as she plays Angela very well, quiet and shy but also having to act like she’s a boy pretending to be a girl?  Yikes!

Overall:  It still holds up well, though it may be too slow for movie watchers these days.  The movie features kids who can act, some interesting kills and a big honking twist of an ending.  In the golden age of slashers, it did what it could to stand out from the rest.

Story:  6 – You’ll be familiar with a lot of what’s going on throughout most of the movie until it starts throwing its curves.

Blood:  5 – Most of the kills are tame by today’s standards, but there’s still a couple of good ones.

Boobs:  3 – Shower scene!

Rating: 6 – Still holds up today but it’s not for everyone.

SleepawayCamp2.jpg Directed by Michael A. Simpson

Written by Fritz Gordon

Starring Pamela Springsteen (Yes, Bruce’s sister), Renee Estevez and Walter Gotell (evil Russian Bond villain for many movies)

Review:  Not going to pussyfoot around this, after years of therapy and a sex change that made her a female, (I guess it was easier than to just get her to act like a dude?) Angela is hired by her uncle John to be a counselor at the camp he runs, Camp Rolling Hills.  The movie actually opens with the male counselors telling scary stories and one of the girls who sneaked in tells the tale of the she-dude killer of Camp Arawak, Angela.  I know it’s a common name, but she really should’ve changed her name, it kinda makes it obvious.  Angela comes around to take the girl back, but instead just beats her head in with a big stick.  Years of therapy and she loses it that quickly, the kids don’t stand a chance.

With SC2 being an even lower budgeted sequel, the story’s pretty bare.  There’s the “falling in love” subplot thrown in, but it really comes down to the campers doing something wrong and Angela killing them off because they’re not nice and they ruin the image of the perfect camper for her.  The only other major plotline is Angela’s relationship with Molly (Renee Estevez, guess what family she comes from), seemingly the only person Angela deems a good person.  Angela gets along with her just fine but has a hard time keeping the horny girls from running wild.  While the first movie had a brief voyeuristic shower scene, the girls just love showing off the goods this time around.

Taking a cue from the original with some of its strange kills, Camp 2 ramps up the weirdness big time.  Burning the stoners to death?  Yeh!  Drowning someone in an old outhouse?  Bleh!  Battery acid in the face?  Damn!  She’s not used to being on the rag, I guess.  She even takes out a couple of little peeping toms by poking their eyes out!  There’s some dark humor to be had in some of these scenes.  The movie also takes a shot at the big boys by having Angela kill off a couple of campers dressed as Freddy and Jason while she’s dressed as Leatherface.  A lot of movies tried to say they were better than the major players in advertising (”Mikey,” “Milo,” and “Sleeping Car” to name a few referenced Freddy and Jason in their taglines) but at least this one had fun with it in the movie…and on the cover art.  I don’t know who that is on the cover, but it’s not the actress portraying Angela.

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The acting is pretty standard but that’s a comfort when it comes to direct to video titles, it can be a chore to get through a movie when there’s a bunch of newbie actors.  There aren’t many kids running around this time, the campers don’t look much younger than the counselors themselves. Always a strange decision, but it probably looks better than having a bunch of dead 8-year olds lying all over the place.  Pamela Springsteen must’ve loved doing this movie, looked like she was having fun.

Overall:  The movie lives and dies by the, well, death scenes.  They’re wacky and there’s plenty of them, but you’ll be bored in between.

Story:  3 – As basic as it can get.

Blood:  8 – Some crazy stuff going on.

Boobs:  5 – The camp slut likes to show it off, but she pays for it.

Rating:  5 – This is one of those movies you’d rent just to see how gory it can be.

sleepawaycamp3.jpg Directed by Michael A. Simpson

Written by Fritz Gordon

Starring Pamela Springsteen, Tracey Griffith and Michael J. Pollard

Review:  After killing off a potential camper with a garbage truck and assuming her identity (all before the opening credits!) Angela returns to camp to kill again.  She’s actually going back to Camp Rolling Hills which has been taken over by new management and rechristened Camp New Horizons.  The intention of the owners is to get well off rich kids to get along with down on their luck urban teens by having them camp out.  Yeeeeeah…

A third counselor is brought in, Barney, a police officer whose son was killed by Angela in the last film.  Don’t think working at the camp your son was decapitated at is a good way to get over it.  But it’s a small thorn in Angela’s side.  It’s not too long before she starts taking everybody out, because everyone is an asshole.  There’s just enough character development to let you know which horror stereotype they are.  The all-American American jock, the rich bitch, the black guy who listens to his boombox, the slut, etc.  Even the camp owners aren’t very nice, one being a lazy bitch and the other (Michael J. Pollard) is a horny old man shaking his junk at the slut.  She gets turned on by that?  Bleh.  At this point though, it’s all secondary to the weird violence that was really established in the last movie.

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Shouldn’t there be blood or something?

Some of the kills are good, some aren’t.  The good ones are really creative, though.  Firecracker in the nose, running a lawnmower over someone’s head, dropping someone tied up on a flagpole, those were cool.  You get disappointed when you see a stabbing or beating.  I was really let down when she beat down one of the counselors (Pollard) with a branch after trying to screw the slut in their tent.  She hits him like a dozen times and it doesn’t even sound like it’s doing anything.  She eventually stabs it into his mouth but it’s off camera.  Only took two shots for the girl though, oh well.  This doesn’t deserve an entire paragraph, but her tits were very nice!  There really isn’t much more to say about this flick.

Overall:  All in all, it comes off a lot like the second movie, but that’s probably because they were filmed back to back.  If you liked the previous one, you should like this one.

Story:  3 – A few wrinkles to make it not seem exactly like Part 2.

Blood:  6 – The good kills are great, but there are some lames ones too.

Boobs:  8 – I was a big fan of what was on display.

Rating:  5 – Still not on par with the original, but probably better than some of it’s video store brethren.

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Written and Directed by Robert Hiltzik

Starring Vincent Pastore, Isaac Hayes, Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tiersten and Paul DeAngelo

Review:  Almost twenty years later, the creator of Sleepaway Camp, Robert Hiltzik, returns to where we started and tries to bring Sleepaway Camp back from the dead.  The old camp has been renovated and taken over by a new owner (Vincent Pastore) and hopefully no crazy killer will show up to ruin the fun.  Wouldn’t be a movie if that didn’t happen, right?

Alan is a shit disturber, he picks on the kids his age or younger and loves being a bully.  Unfortunately, the older cool kids always pick on him so he turns into a whiny prick about it, telling on them and then going back to being a bully, usually in the same scene.  Things reach a boiling point after the cook’s assistant picks on Alan and eventually he’s killed, almost in the same fashion as the cook in the original, only with fry oil.  It’s not long until some kids start getting killed off in brutal fashion and one of the counselors, a survivor of the original outing, begins to think Angela has somehow come back.  Everyone else seems to think it’s Alan though, so is he acting out and copying what Angela did or could it be someone else?

Well, I’ll just come out and say it, this movie sucks.  Pretty much every character is unlikeable or you just don’t care about them.  Alan, especially, grated on my nerves.  As much as he’s put into a sympathetic light, the fact that he’s a whiny bully who reacts when things don’t go his way works against the character and I was hoping he’d get killed off at some point.  There’s just no liking a guy who gets picked on, tells on someone, then immediately turns around to tell them their ass smells?  Really?  They try to work in some of the dark humor from the previous movies, but it just doesn’t gel this time around.

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A killer with a message, don’t see that often.

The story is just a retread of what we’ve seen before.  Camp opens up, bad kids get killed, rinse and repeat.  There’s no character you can get behind other than the killer, but unlike the previous movies, you can’t root for someone hidden in the shadows.  Like the previous movies, there’s one or two recognizable characters (Pastore was in The Sopranos, this is also Isaac Hayes’ last movie) who try bring some class to the movie, but the acting in this film runs from good to grating (…Alan again.)  It was good to see Felissa Rose return in a small cameo, wish she could’ve been in the whole movie.  Jonathan Tiersten and Paul DeAngelo also return from the original, kinda making this movie a bit of reunion, which makes it all the more disappointing with the final product.

If there’s anything good to say, it’s that they keep the trend of the weird kills coming.  Pumping gas into a stoner’s stomach then lighting a doobie, someone driving into barbed wire strung across the road?  Good stuff, but it can’t save this mess.  With Hiltzik coming back, I was expecting something special, something different from the rest of the movies, but it actually turns out to be the worst of the bunch, sadly.

Overall:  Easily the worst of the bunch, you’ll wind up turning the movie off before it’s over.

Story:  3 – It’s the same as the rest, really.

Blood:  6 – The only good thing to say about the movie.

Boobs:  1 – I might’ve fast forwarded past something?

Rating:  2 – Bleh, horrible.

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