REVIEW: Sleepaway Camp (1983)

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1983, American Eagle Films

Director:
Robert Hiltzik
Producers:
Jerry Silva
Michele Tatosian
Writer:
Robert Hiltzik
Cinematography:
Benjamin Davis
David M. Walsh
Editing:
Ron Kalish
Ralph Rosenbaum
Sharyn Ross

Cast:
Felissa Rose (Angela Baker)
Jonathan Tiersten (Ricky Thomas)
Karen Fields (Judy)
Christopher Collet (Paul)
Mike Kellin (Mel Costic)
Amy Baio (Brooke Warner)
Katherine Kahmi (Meg)
Paul DeAngelo (Ronnie Angelo)
Susan Glaze (Suzie)
Tom Van Dell (Mike)
Louis Sallahain (Billy)
John E. Dunn (Kenny)

As if Friday the 13th wasn’t enough to make you scared of summer camp, this horror film truly becomes the icing on the cake, with one of the most shocking endings in slasher film history.

Angela Baker is a young girl who witnessed the death of her brother and father eight years ago in a boating accident. Still traumatized from the incidents, she has become extremely shy when he and her cousin Ricky head to Camp Arawak, run by Mel Costic. Her introversive manner has made her the target of bullies. However, when the head cook attempts to molest her, Angela escapes and shortly after, the cook ends up in a situation when a mysterious figure arrives and pours boiling water on the cook. The camp owner deems the incident an accident.

Meanwhile, Ricky’s best friend Paul helps Angela from the torment of a few more local bullies. Angela, still extremely shy, learns that Paul has taken a liking to her. Meanwhile, another of the bullies, Kenny, drowns in what is deemed another accident. Another bully is found dead by beehive stings, the cause of the mysterious figure trapping him with a beehive. Mel soon realizes that the incidents are not accidents, but rather someone is killing the campers. As the body count continues, a search for the killer is on and one thing is for sure, the killer must be found before there are more “accidents”.

During the 1980’s, the slasher movie was on the rise and Friday the 13th set the standard for the camping horror film, which would later be seen in films like The Burning, Madman, and this film. With the previous films, the victims are mostly counselors and not the campers themselves. However, writer-director Robert Hiltzik decided to make the campers the victims alongside two staff members. For what it is, it is pretty ingenious to go this route with some pretty inventive ways of killing, such as the beehive death and a death by curling iron?!

The cast of mostly newcomers make the most of their roles, with the breakout being Felissa Rose as the very shy Angela, whose constant bullied nature makes her even more introverted. Jonathan Tiersten is also pretty good to watch as Angela’s protective cousin Ricky, who from the fact that the campers who are killed in the film are those who bully Angela, seems like a likely suspect. The film also marked the final performance of Mike Kellin, a Tony-nominated actor, as the camp owner who deems the first few deaths an accident until more pop up and soon learns the horrible truth. The film also has one of most shocking endings in the film with a twist to the revelation of the killer.

The film would go on to spawn two sequels that starred Pamela Springsteen (yes, Bruce’s little sister) as Angela, a fourth film that was completed in 2012 with archival footage and 34 minutes of new footage. However, the official sequel is Return to Sleepaway Camp, which brings Rose, Tiersten, and Paul DeAngelo (who plays camp counselor Ronnie) back with a new cast.

Sleepaway Camp may make one think twice about going to summer camp, as it takes a bit of a twist of the victims as well as the shock ending that made the film the cult classic it is today.

WFG RATING: B+

DVD/BLU-RAY

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