Sleepaway Camp Reviews
All jolts aside, though, "Sleepaway Camp" is nothing more than a paltry slasher that gets more credit than it deserves simply because of its conclusion. Had it gone the "Halloween" or "Black Christmas" route, leaving the identity of the killer ambiguous one way or another, it would be a rote, boring even, foray into the genre, not necessarily because of its lack of blood but because of its lack of genuine suspense or interest as to what's coming next. Most who view the film as an important moment in the history of horror better think again - if it didn't have that final gut punch, would it be so infamous, so renowned? I don't think so.
It introduces itself with a laughable sequence set in 1975, with a family out boating for the day. It is a warm summer afternoon, perfect for familial bonding - laughs abound as father and his two kids, Peter and Angela, frolic around the starboard, pushing each other playfully into the water when need be. But such picturesque sun-soaked fun cannot last in a 1980s slasher movie, so it comes as no surprise when a couple of reckless teenagers with a motorboat fail to pay attention to what's in front of them for a good two minutes and crash into the family, instantly killing father and Peter.
Eight years later, Angela (Felissa Rose) is living with her quirky aunt, Martha (Desiree Gould), and spends every waking moment reliving the traumatic incident that destroyed her childhood. She hardly ever speaks, her overprotective cousin Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten) doing most of the talking. As the film opens, the kids are being shipped off to Camp Arawak, where they will spend the next month or so. Ricky is familiar with most of its goers, but Angela, shy and innocent, is mercilessly picked on, particularly by the melodramatically bitchy Judy (Karen Fields) and her sidekick, Meg (Katherine Kamhi). So you could say that the atmosphere reaches unfathomably tense heights when mysterious attacks and murders begin occurring left and right, the person responsible impossible to guess as a sleepaway camp holds hundreds of inhabitants.
Though it bears a concept worth a great deal of interest, writer/director Robert Hilztik does not have quite enough filmmaking skill to provide "Sleepaway Camp" with the self-referential tone it would so greatly benefit from. It feels like a parody in itself, with body builder counselors, sexually thirsty (and disgusting) camp head honchos, aggressively mean girls, and virginal youths as stereotypes that never seem to be in on the joke. What's more, the deaths, though a bit more inventive than its slasher peers (consider slaughters that involve a stickily situated beehive and a vomit inducing use of a curling iron), feel like a chore the film had to endure in order to stay in place as a dead teenager movie. They lack any sort of excitement, coming by hastily and without much payoff.
Perhaps I'm in the minority - its cult fanbase considers "Sleepaway Camp" to be even better than "Friday the 13th" - but the film is, in truth, a run-of-the-mill slasher that just so happens to be christened with a great ending. Take away its gimmick and what do you have? A snoozer.