Ok, you can totally blame Robot Chicken for my owning today’s movie. But to back track, I first saw this movie years ago when I was spending the night at a friend’s house and we had rented this movie and Predator. I will say that the ending was a bit shocking for me at the time and did stand out but the movie itself was pretty forgettable. Flash forward to about 12 years ago, and one of the segments on Robot Chicken referenced this movie, which made me think back to it and I got an itch to watch this again. The end result of that was that I wound up getting today’s movie, and it’s two sequels at the time, so let’s see if this movie can still hold up as I watch Sleepaway Camp.
The plot: In 1975, John takes his two children, Angela and Peter, out on a boating trip but the two kids pull a prank when he isn’t looking and end up capsizing their sailboat. When John’s friend Lenny tells them that Dr. Martha Thomas, Angela and Peter’s aunt, will be there soon, John tells them that they need to head to shore. Meanwhile, a motorboat from nearby Camp Arawak is towing a water skier and the passenger convinces the lifeguard/counselor to let her drive but she doesn’t pay attention and they end up striking John and one of the kids, killing them. 8 years later, Angela has become a quiet, withdrawn girl and has gone to live with Martha and her cousin Ricky. The two are preparing to go to Camp Arawak, which will be Angela’s first time leaving the house for an extended time since the accident. When they get there, they meet Paul, who is friends with Ricky and see Judy, who was Ricky’s girlfriend last year but now has no interest in continuing their fling. As Angela gets set up in her cabin, the female counselors Meg and Susie introduce themselves but Meg and Judy take a dislike to Angela due to her not talking and staring all the time. As a few days go by, Meg brings Ronnie, the head counselor, over to their table and tells him about how Angela hasn’t eaten anything. Ronnie takes Angela into the kitchen and asks Artie, the head cook, to see if he can find something for Angela to eat. Artie takes her into the walk-in cooler and gets set to rape her but Ricky, who had gone looking for Angela, shows up and stops him and the two make a run for it. Some time later, Artie is boiling some water in order to cook some corn but someone sneaks in and as Artie is standing on a stool and leaning over the pot of water, the push him and cause him to fall, dumping the boiling water all over him and severely scalding him. The camp owner, Mel, is more worried about the camp’s image over anything else and he hurries the ambulance out of there, then pays off the rest of the kitchen staff to say that Artie got another job. As time passes at the camp, Angela continues to be mocked by several of the kids. When some guys ask her to go skinny dipping with her but then start teasing her, Ricky tells them to stop and ends up getting into a fight with one of them, with Paul helping him out before the fight is broken up. As Ricky is taken out of the building to cool off, Paul goes to talk with Angela and offers his condolences for her family, as Ricky had told him what happened. As he goes to leave, he says good night to Angela and she says good night back, causing him to get excited that she actually spoke to him but they don’t notice that Judy had been watching them. Meanwhile, the guys that had asked Angela to go skinny dipping had managed to get several girls down to the lake and while the guys go into the water, the girls refuse. One girl, Denise, is convinced to go on a canoe ride with Kenny but Kenny flips over the canoe as a joke. While Denise swims back to shore and the girls all leave, Kenny had ducked under the canoe to try and play another joke when someone appears under there with him and proceeds to drown him. When his body is found in the morning, Mel wants to say it was just an accident but the sheriff is unsure and says that the autopsy will know for sure. Paul invites Angela to go see the nightly movie with him, which she accepts, and afterwards he pulls her aside to sneak a kiss which causes her to freeze up. As she goes inside her cabin, Paul runs into Judy, who taunts Paul about his new relationship with Angela. The next day as everyone is swimming, Paul talks with Angela, who isn’t swimming, but Judy goes and tells Meg on them. When Meg starts yelling at Judy to try and get her to go swimming, then starts shaking her, Ronnie stops her and tells her to go back to her post. Back at their cabin, Judy blames Angela for getting Meg in trouble and then starts taunting her until Susie has enough and slaps her. Angela goes to see Ricky but she ends up being pelted by some water balloons thrown by Billy and a couple of other kids. Ricky sees this and starts yelling and threatening all of them but Mel holds him back and tells the kids that they lost canteen privileges for a week, including Ricky for his mouth. Later that day, Billy is using the restroom when someone locks the stall and then drops a hornet’s nest into the stall, causing Billy to be stung to death. Mel is upset about what happened and believes he is financially ruined. After asking how many kids are left, Ronnie tells him 25 and Mel says that they need to get them out of there before anything else happens while believing that Ricky is the one responsible for the deaths. Meanwhile, Paul and Angela meet up and head to the lake, where they end up kissing and as Paul attempts to take off her shirt, Angela thinks back to the times that her and her brother saw their father and Lenny in bed together, then tried touching each other, prompting her to push Paul off of her and run off. The next day, during a game of capture the flag, Paul tries talking to Angela but she says she wasn’t ready, then walks away and after she leaves, Judy approaches Paul. Ricky comes up to Angela and convinces her to help him sneak up on the flag but the end up seeing Judy kissing Paul and Angela runs off, with Paul chasing after her while Judy laughs at Ricky. The next day, Paul tries talking to Angela but when Judy shows up, he quickly leaves. Judy then starts teasing Angela about going in the water and Meg shows up and grabs her and carries her to the lake. As this is going on, Mel is talking to Ricky and when Ricky sees what Meg is doing and tries to go help Angela, Mel holds him back and accuses him of attacking the other kids until Ronnie stops him. Meg throws Angela into the lake and her and Judy laugh as the lifeguard saves her, then Ricky comes and takes Angela away. That night, Meg is given the night off from counselor duties and so she arranges a date with Mel for that night. When the line for the shower is too long, she heads to the cabin next door to take a shower but someone sneaks in and stabs her in the back then slices her all the way down. Angela is leaving the rec room and runs into Paul, who tries talking to her but as they see Judy leaving with another guy, Angela asks Paul to meet her by the waterfront after the social. Mel goes looking for Meg and when he heads to her cabin, he interrupts Judy, who was making out with a guy and has him hide under the bed. Judy tells Mel that Meg had gone next door and he finds her body then believes Ricky is the one that killed her and goes to find him. Meanwhile, the guy with Judy leaves and as Judy sits there in the cabin, the killer comes in and slaps her, then proceeds to kill her by raping her with a hair curler, muffling her screams with a pillow, then hides the body underneath the bed. Elsewhere, one of the counselors, Eddie, had taken a group of kids camping but two of them want to go back. Eddie takes them back to camp but when he returns to the campsite, he finds the other kids have been hacked to pieces and he quickly calls the cops. Mel finds Ricky and pulls him into the woods, where he proceeds to beat Ricky half to death. Realizing that he has to get away, Mel starts to leave but as he reaches the archery field, he sees the real killer, just before he is shot in the throat with an arrow. When the sheriff arrives at the camp, Robbie and the other counselors say that Angela, Judy, Paul, and Ricky are missing so they split up to go find them. The sheriff and a counselor find Ricky and carry him back to the camp, just as another counselor finds Meg’s body. Robbie and Susie hear singing coming from the lake and they see Angela sitting there and start to approach her. In flashback, we see the day that Martha took Angela in, saying how she always wanted a little girl, but then learn that it was actually Peter who survived the accident but Martha, saying she already had a boy and another one wouldn’t do, made Peter dress in girl’s clothes and started calling him Angela. Back in the present, Angela stands up, dropping Paul’s severed head, and Robbie and Susie look in horror as they realize the blood soaked Angela is really a boy.
Sleepaway Camp met with relatively high praise from the critics, holding an 83% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, many of the critics felt that the surprise ending made this movie memorable, though some felt it was still an average slasher movie on the whole. This would be Mike Kellin’s (Mel) last film, as he hid the fact that he was sick while filming but died of lung cancer 3 months before the film premiered. The movie would spawn 2 sequels in the late 80’s, which had more of a comedic tone to them, while a 4th movie, directed by original director Robert Hiltzik, was filmed in 2003 and would be released in 2008, serving as a follow-up to the original movie while ignoring the two sequels.
The end scene alone makes this movie one of the more memorable slasher movies to come out of the 80’s. The movie itself was about what you would expect from an 80’s slasher film, but it did have some good scenes. The acting was good, with Felissa Rose (Angela), Jonathan Tiersten (Ricky) and Mike Kellin (Mel) doing good jobs in their roles. The story was interesting to say the least, with the side story of “Angela’s” sexual awakening being a good decoy for the true secret that is revealed in the end. The special effects regarding the death scenes was a lot better than I expected and pretty well done for the most part, though there were one or two that looked a little cheesy. A decent movie with a memorable ending that is worth watching if you are a horror fan.
Rating: 3 out of 5