By: Katy Kleinginna (Four Beers) –
What is there to expect of a 1980’s slasher film other than witty comebacks, corn starch blood, and loads of side ponytails? Director/Producer/Writer/One Man Show Robert Hiltzik guides viewers through a time when slasher/gore films were in their heyday with his graphic twist on a summer camp experience turned game of survival of the fittest. Other than the defining factors of the campy genre, expect lots of slap fights, cold stares, and a vulgar script despite the film‘s youthful cast. Sleepaway Camp is a wild ride of uncontrollable hormones and a “killer” secret. (Okay, so that pun alone deserves a beer.)
Despite its low budget production and even lower budget casting choices, the film pulls itself together into what is considered to be one of the most shocking endings of a horror flick. The execution toes the line between cringe-worthy and frightening, but there are moments where the creativity overpowers what might fall flat without the ability to suspend reality and the power of sheer imagination.
Actors bring life to their characters by channeling emotions from events they have lived through. Not that I expect every cast member to have attended what can only be described as the summer camp from Hell, but the film would breathe easier if the cast mates didn’t look half starved and half asleep through the majority of the flick. The purpose of the big banged, baggy tee wearing females of the film was mostly to taunt Angela for her introverted mannerisms. While the backstabbing, jeering alpha gal works for some characters (i.e-Regina George; Mean Girls), the role requires strong, sexy women rather than bored, sleepy preteens. Much of the acting left viewers clinging to the little scraps of talent sprinkled through out the film, but those side ponies left us praising the heavens that the world broke free from the chains of 80’s fashion.
According to the film, making a pass at a camp mate or ridiculing the creepy loner is subject to a very gruesome and very, very cheesy death. The mode of murder changes with each death, but many of the visuals are reminiscent of silly pranks children pulled on one another during the sweet freedom of summertime, each with its own deadly twist. If you feel nauseous at any point during the murder scenes, take solace in the fact that you were not in charge of the props department of the film. Between the gallons of watery ketchup blood and horribly overacted death scenes, you are left wondering who put a young child with their sticky hands on a new science set in charge of directing the film.
Credit where credit is due for the wardrobe department. Though the screenwriter was responsible for the laughably crude dialogue, those in charge of clothing the stars could only imitate the current fashion of the time period. Between the shortie shorts and topless volleyball scenes (think Top Gun with less testosterone) and tees tucked roughly into high waisted jeans, the audience is left wondering if they’re watching a film or a Kenny Loggins music video. Either way, the wardrobe is a blast to the past you wanted to forget, but your yearbook photos constantly remind you of. (And no, those Cyndi Lauper bangs and lace gloves did not work. Your mother was just being nice.)
Sleepaway Camp stands alone as one of the cult classics of the slasher 80’s, but for very ironic reasons. The film provides good fodder for those bored, college nights when you can’t scrape together enough couch coins to visit those greasy drive thrus and dive bars you love to frequent, but might not be good material for a parent’s weekend. The film spawned two completed sequels, each slightly more ridiculous and horrifying than the previous and enough footage to produce a few trailers for a third sequel, which was more than Hollywood box offices cared to fund with a “straight to VHS” release for each. Whether or not this diminishes the quality of the first is up to the viewer, but the first film of the series deserves a solid four beers of its own.
Take a Drink: every time a friendly comment is answered with a “fuck you” or equally vulgar arm gesture
Take a Drink: every time teen queen Judy attempts a sultry stare at someone else’s man
Do a Shot: if you are more embarrassed than shocked over the way a murder takes place
Do a Shot: whenever an attempt at romance in the script reminds you of your acne-scarred, short shorts middle school days