Review: Sleepaway Camp
Directed by: Robert Hiltzik
I don't know why, but the Sleepaway Camp films have always escaped me. Honestly, I have no excuse. I know they have a large following in the slasher genre, but I suppose I just never heard enough things about it to warrant the effort of actually seeking it out. With Netflix offering part 2 for streaming, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to finally go out and grab the original so I can move on to the sequel, which I've heard more than once is most people's favorite in the series.
One of the things that stands out with Sleepaway Camp more than anything is how light and fluffy it comes across. While it's 100% inspired by the Friday the 13th franchise, among a few others, it's almost like a PG-13 rated version of Friday. The tone is a lot more lighter, a lot more sillier, and a lot of the main cast being a lot younger than the kind of age group you expect in a slasher film. Even when it comes to the kills, they're so far and few between, with none of them really going that extra mile to be shocking or gruesome, that you tend to forget that you're watching a horror film because it more often than not comes off as an edgier coming of age tale set in the early 80's. And that's another thing Sleepaway Camp has going for it. Even if you don't particularly like the film in general, it's hard not to be swept away by it's fun retro vibe. Set and release in 1983, the fashion sense is really the one constant thing my screening partner and I took an insane amount of pleasure in. When you stop and look back on the film in general, it was pretty much the one thing, other than the ending (more on that later), that we took away from.
Like I mentioned before, you oftentimes forget you're watching a slasher as it hardly ever plays like a serious one. In fact, in some ways, it sort of comes off as a parody, but it's fun. It's a fun film, whether you take it seriously or not, and when the kills come along, though elementary, do in fact remind you that you are watching a horror film.
That ending though. It really is this film's saving grace. Had it not had that batshit crazy ending, I seriously doubt this film would have been as memorable as it is. While we did enjoy the film overall, it wasn't until that ending that we were completely sold. Hell, we even applauded. No shit. It's fucking great and so WTF? bizarre.
I get the appeal of this film now, and we're glad we finally got to see it. It's not great, or even very good to be honest. It borrows heavily from other better slashers of it's time, and the kills and gore come off as amateurish, but all of it's failures pale in comparison to it's shocking ending, and what a doozy it is. Here's hoping the sequel delivers the goods as it's reputation seems to indicate.