Have you ever wanted to go to summer camp as a kid? Well, thanks to movies like Friday the 13th, Cannibal Campout, and Sleepaway Camp, my mother thought I was going to get sliced and diced during my summer camping retreat. I can’t really blame her for thinking that I was going to get hacked up by some psycho because of all those crazy camp horror movies out there. Even though I never went to summer camp, I am thankful that she scared me into not wanting to go by having me watch all these great films. Sleepaway Camp holds a very special place in my heart among all the other campfire tales, as it is the first movie to make my jaw literally drop.
Written and directed by Robert Hiltzik, Sleepaway Camp hit theaters on November 18, 1983, at the prime time of slasher flicks. During its opening weekend, it ended up grossing $430,000, which is almost double the intake of Amityville 3-D, another horror movie released the very same day. It also has an 83% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, certifying it fresh. But why is it such a cult classic?
Felissa Rose’s performance as Angela is amazing and has received praise from many critics alone. Sleepaway Camp is said to have one of the biggest twist endings in horror movie history. The success of the original launched four sequels: Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988), Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (1989), Return to Sleepaway Camp (2008) and the short Sleepaway Camp IV: The Survivor (2012), released on DVD and Amazon Video. Beyond that, the kills and scenes are what really stand out and are some of the best in horror history, which I’ll indulge in soon. Fun Fact: if you think that you may have seen the last movie but the title doesn’t ring a bell, it might be because there are actually some VHS copies that were released under another name, Nightmare Vacation.
Sleepaway Camp starts off with a bang with cousins Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten) and mute Angela (Felissa Rose) heading off to summer camp. In some ways, Camp Awawak is just like any other camp. You have your typical mean girls – Judy (Karen Fields) and Meg (Katherine Kamhi) – who torment quiet Angela. There’s also the potential love interest, Paul (Christopher Collet) the player. However, shortly upon arrival, campers are quickly starting to get killed off one by one. But who is the killer? You watch the characters deal with your typical teenage angst all the while trying to guess who the real killer is.
Sleepaway Camp delivers epic kills that are completely crazy and don’t lack in originality. One kill, in particular, involves a hot curling iron and will have you squirming around in your seat, especially if you’re a female!
Some of the scenes in this movie were considered to be controversial for that time period. It was the 1980s and this movie certainly serves as a platform for some topics that were not so socially acceptable back then. In my opinion, this is what makes this movie so great – it was willing to go somewhere no other movie had gone before.
The amazing performances, specifically the one given by Felissa Rose, are some of the best parts about this fun film. She plays this sweet, innocent person that everyone bullies, but we sure do get to see another side of her as the story goes on. Her performance will captivate you like no other, every time she is on screen, you can’t take your eyes off. She really owned the character and has become a horror icon because of it.
The above picture pretty much sums up the epic ending and how it will leave you feeling after you watch it. It’s freaking crazy, completely out of left field and nothing that you would ever expect to happen, but that’s one of the reasons why I love it so much.
Thirty-three years after its release, this movie still has quite the cult following. Sleepaway Camp will stand the test of time and continue to drop jaws anytime anyone sees it for the first time. Through the years, this is a movie I continually introduce to people, just to see their reactions at the twist ending that is now and forever buried deep in my mind. A true cinematic masterpiece, Sleepaway Camp is more than just your average “who did it?” slasher movie. So, if you have not seen this true classic that was way ahead of its time, add this one to your summer movie list – it will not disappoint.