SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983)
Directed by: Robert Hiltzik
Produced by: Jerry Silva, Michele Tatosian
Written by: Robert Hiltzik
Starring: Mike Kellin, Katherine Kamhi,
Paul DeAngelo, Jonathan Tiersten
Felissa Rose, Christopher Collet
Released: November 18, 1983
*Portions of this review were originally posted in HOUSE OF HORROR Presents: Essay Series – The Slasher Film!
**I’m putting up a major SPOILER ALERT! for this one folks!**
In Sleepaway Camp the viewer is introduced to the film (via a flashback story) in which a little girl’s brother and homosexual father are killed in a boating accident. Orphaned, Angela is re-located to the guardianship of her peculiarly disturbed aunt. Several years later, Angela attends a summer camp with her over protective older cousin Ricky. A string of murders occur at the camp and all paranoid suspicion, both by the camp director and the viewing audience, leads to Ricky as the prime suspect. Ultimately, it is revealed that Angela is the killer but not before the audience is shown her shocking secret……”she’s” actually a dude!! This eye-opener is revealed simultaneously in the narrative real-time of the movie, and in a flashback sequence eight years prior to Angela’s first arrival at her Aunt’s house. The Aunt is ecstatic to finally “have a girl around the house”. The Aunt continues a dialogue with the child throughout the flashback stating that she always wanted a girl and since there was already a boy in the house with Ricky that “there was no need for two boys now is there…Peter“. It is then that the audience comes to the chilling revelation that it was not Angela who survived the boating accident, but her brother Peter – who was now forced by his nutjob Aunt to be raised as a girl and assume his sisters’ identity. The scene then continues in real-time where two of the camp counsellors encounter a naked Angela embracing young camper, Paul, on the beach. When she rises, and turns to face the counsellors (and in-turn the camera), the audience sees Paul’s severed head in Angela’s hand as well as ‘her’ penis!!
Much like Norman Bates in Psycho (1960), Angela’s altered gender role is a result of an irregular childhood with a disturbed matriarchal figure. Add in a homosexual father who Angela walked in on while he was in the embrace of another man (as seen in flashbacks) for extra scarred trauma motive. Angela murders the males who sexually advance on her, and the females to whom Angela is attracted to. Angela’s homicidal activity is a resultant effect of her cross-gender and confused sexuality. It can be surmised, then, that Angela is a sexual other. She has both elements of masculinity (which is genentic) and of femininity (which has been instilled upon her). Although Angela exhibits both of these elements, she was not fully either and as a result her sexual rage was unleashed on the clueless victims of the camp.
Sleepaway Camp is actually pretty good. The acting is of a Community Centre Christmas Pageant calibre, but the make up and technical effects look really good — the kill scenes are done well — and the final reveal sits with you after the movie is over. The film was a moderate success and spawned two immediate sequels and a return to the camp in 2008. The sequels amped the sarcastic clever quips to 11, the murder scenes were more creative and over the top, but the original was on a scale where it hangs out with the 80’s slasher cool kids. The sequels sat at the corner lunch table all by themselves with that kid that smells like extreme body odour.