Monday, April 19, 2010

Sleepaway Camp (1983): Or Can 80's Fashions Make A Comeback?

*spoilers beyond this point*

Friends, countrymen, lend me your beers! (seriously, I drink a fuckton of beer) It is I, the Duke of DVD, strolling out across the fallow fields of the world, stepping daintily around you as you mewl and grovel on the ground, begging for cinematic awesome. Dare I let you kiss the bejeweled rings on my fingers? Surely, you may. Come, let us drag your moldering carcass into this nearby inn. Please, sit with me and drink this gruel while I dine on roasted pheasant stuffed with garlic cloves and drink 50 year old port.

Hearken to my words, bedraggled creature! Please don't soil thine-self until we have finished our repast. I must tell thee today of a wondrous movie. A movie so beyond the realm of the vast majority of slasher films that it transcends them and becomes something new, something fragile and beautiful. Careful! Hold it gently, touch it to your trembling lips so that it might impart some tiny mote of greatness to your shattered frame.

Long have the Vicar and I laboured to educate the masses on brilliant films that might otherwise escape notice. For all the hubbub around the Friday the 13th series, and the slasher genre in general, Sleepaway Camp often times doesn't get its due.

I am here to rectify this, my friends. Let us explore, shall we?

Sleepaway Camp was released in 1983, right in the middle of the hype surrounding Friday the 13th and others of its ilk. Seeking to capitalize on the mad money getting thrown around, director Robert Hiltzik and crew went all out in their attempt at making a good slasher film, and in my humble opinion, succeeded wildly.

The movie opens with a father and his two children, a boy and a girl, out on a lake in a small boat. Horseplay ensues, causing them to capsize. While they are laughing and still floating in the water, a nearby group of teens in a ski boat are zooming around the lake, not really paying attention to what they are doing. Before you can say "Watch out for that fucking boat!", the teens barrel over the top of the floating family, killing the father and one of the children.

"Perhaps I shouldn't have mixed that bourbon and cocaine..."

We cut to 8 years later, and meet Angela (the surviving kid), played very well by Felissa Rose, and her cousin Ricky, who are being ushered out the door by Ricky's mother, Angela's aunt, a creepy lady who acts like she's on enough Prozac to fell a musk ox. Soon, they arrive as summer camp along with tons of other kids, all screaming, laughing, and talking as they disgorge from several buses.

"You got any weiners?"

Quickly we meet the principal players in our little film. On the staff side, we have Ron, the hunky muscle-bound dude with the tanned body and penchant for wearing short-shorts. We have Mel, the manager of the camp, who likes to wear ugly plaid shorts and black socks that he pulls all the way up to his knees. We have a couple of female counselors, including Meg, who is a bitch, but more on her later. There are many others, but those are the major ones.

"Everyone, please tell me if you can see the outline of my nutsack through my shorts!"

We mustn't forget Artie, played magnificently by Owen Hughes, who is the head chef and resident pedophile. He doesn't bother to disguise his cravings either, commenting as he's watching the kids run past that where he comes from they call 'em "baldies". Artie isn't in the movie for long, but he makes the most of it.

With teeth like these, the aversion to pubic hair is perhaps understandable.

Ricky immediately tries to hook up with the previous-year's flame, Judy, who has suddenly developed breasts and so she thinks she's above Ricky. Ricky is a good kid, though, and is quick to stick up for his cousin Angela. Angela is near mute due to the trauma of watching her family die, and so is an instant target for all the mean kids. The kids are ushered into the lunch room, where Angela immediately starts freaking out the other girls at the table with her silence and wide, staring eyes. Like saucers they are!

In the land of the prepubescent camper, the B-Cupped Girl is Queen

Ron, wearing shorts so short that they should be illegal for males to wear, comes over and tries to help Angela, offering to take her into the kitchen to see if the cooks can rustle up something for her. He does so, introducing her to the hungry eyes of Artie. Ron gets summoned away for a phone call, leaving Angela at Artie's mercy. He corners her in the walk-in freezer, but barely gets his pants unbuckled (this dude wasn't wasting time, was he? First fucking day... sheesh) when Ricky walks in, looking for Angela. They both flee.

After lunch, Artie is left alone in the kitchen, standing on a stool in order to salt the contents of a boiling pot of something or other. The cooking pot is literally 5 feet tall or so, I have no idea where they got such a monstrosity! This scene begins a long line of point-of-view murders, a la Halloween, in which the viewer is left wondering who exactly is doing the killing. Honestly, it isn't much of a mystery, but we'll explore that later.

"Dear god, I'll never try Oxy Clean again!"

A tanned hand reaches out and pulls the stool out from under Artie, causing him to pull the pot over onto himself, giving him horrendous 3rd degree burns over his face, arms, and hands. Paramedics arrive and cart Artie away, sexually unfulfilled.

Here the movie goes off into normal camp affairs for a while. Angela is taunted, but finds solace with Ricky's best friend Paul, who slowly coaxes Angela out of her shell by simply being nice to her. Soon, they are holding hands and exchanging chaste kisses, and Angela even begins talking, although in truth she doesn't have much to say.

"Does it bug you when I do this?"

She's still picked on, however, mainly by Judy the Bitch and Meg the Slut. They form a tag-team of taunts and ridicule, slamming Angela every chance they get. Judy even sets her sights on stealing Paul away from Angela. Ricky defends her every chance he gets. At an evening mixer, Ricky causes a giant scrum after defending Angela from a douchebag named Kenny wearing a "Blue Oyster Cult" shirt and sporting a wicked Camaro mullet.

"I don't understand how this rockin' look isn't attracting more girls..."

Later that night, a large group of guys who are what you would term the "cool dudes" (read: douchebags), try to get the ladies to go skinny dipping with them. Fortunately, the girls are too smart for this and don't join in. However, mulleted Kenny manages to talk one of the girls into a canoe trip out on the lake. He of course fucks it all up by messing around and dunking them both into the lake. As the girl swims to shore, Kenny swims up under the boat to gloat at his awesomeness, when someone comes up under it with him, then proceeds to drown him.

Mystery killer: 2 Campers: 0

Kenny's body is found the next morning, and finally Mel is starting to realize that someone might be offing campers. Does he send everyone home? Nah! Later, a group of the homos lounge up on the roof of their cabin, tossing water balloons at passers-by. Angela happens to wander into range, and of course gets soaked, causing her to freak out and basically shutdown, sitting on the ground holding her knees to her chest. Ricky comes to the rescue once again, hurling insults and curses at the laughing boys.

"You're pretty cute, in a might-be-a-guy sort of way."

Mel interrupts, holding Ricky accountable for his potty mouth, and chastising the boys on the roof. One of the balloon-throwing d-bags announces he has to take a "wicked dump" and heads off to a stall. Our mystery killer shows up, puts a broom handle through the door handles, effectively baring the dumper in, and then proceeds to throw a hornet nest into the room. The boy is killed by the amount of stings.

When Guinness World Records Go Wrong

At this point, it's pretty obvious that Angela is the killer. I mean, she was the lone survivor of trauma, and the only other person it could be is Ricky, who comes to her aid, but hurling curses is a long way from doing foul murder. Angela it must be. However, just to be sure, let's go through the possible killers and their motives, if any:

Age: 14 or so
Sexuality: ???
Killer?: Yeah, probably so.

Age: 15 perhaps?
Sexuality:Like an arrow, baby
Killer?: Nah, probably not.

Paul, Ricky's friend
Age: 14-15
Sexuality: Likes the womenfolk
Killer?: Paul couldn't harm a fly, what with his frail, pasty body and all.

Age: 50-ish
Sexuality: Likes women, a lot.
Killer?: Nope, he cherishes the kids, and would only kill in their defense.

Age: 35-ish
Sexuality: Poon-hound, all the way
Killer?: Nope

Vicar of VHS
Age: 900+, prolonged with beetle grindings and dark magics.
Sexuality: Anything, alive or otherwise, with a hole.
Killer?: Most certainly, but not at Camp Arawak.

Age: 25-ish
Sexuality: Likes the cock, particularly old-man cock
Killer?: Nah, she's a bitch, but not a murderer.

Age: 15-16
Sexuality: Like's other women's boyfriend's johnsons.
Killer?: No
Cunt?: Yes

So you see, folks, it's gotta be Angela. So, if that isn't the movie's twist, then what is? If you haven't been sub-letting Madman Marz's cabin since 1983, having no contact with other horror-movie loving peoples nor soap, you probably know. Otherwise, stay tuned and find out, Stinky!

Paul and Angela hook up for a late-night tryst, which involves Paul getting to first base--meaning that Paul must have sacrificed a lot to the God of Skinny Punks. His breast massage freaks Angela out, causing her to have a childhood flashback. We see a little boy and little girl, giggling as they spy on their dad, who is in bed having naughty sex with another man. Intriguing, to say the least!

"That'll do, pig."

Angela comes out of her funk before Paul can run his hand up her shirt, and shoves him off, then flees. The next day, Paul tries to apologize, but Angela is still hurt. This gives Judy the opening she's been waiting for, and she convinces Paul to walk off in the woods with her, presumably to give him the opening he's been waiting for. All she does is basically force him to kiss her, though, and of course Angela walks up and sees this whole spectacle.

Later in the day, Judy and Meg team up to throw Angela in the lake, which causes her to become nearly catatonic with fear. Ricky tries to intervene but is accosted by Mel, who accuses Ricky of being the one who is doing all the killin'. Ricky of course protests his innocence, but Mel is convinced. Later, for some reason unknown to mankind, Meg asks Mel if he'll cook her supper at his house. How she could be attracted to this troll of a man is beyond me.

Scientists announce a cure for Scoliosis.

Meg goes to get showered up, but seeing the long line in her own cabin, she goes next door to an empty cabin and uses the shower there. Here we get another point-of-view killing as the killer runs a large hunting knife through the steel wall of the shower, cutting Meg in the back from the top of her shoulders all the way down to her ass! Such strength Angela has! Mel, looking around for Meg, finally finds her body, and goes off in a fury to hunt for Ricky.

Meanwhile, Judy is alone in her dark cabin, when the killer shows up and kills Judy with a curling iron whilst simultaneously suffocating her with a pillow. The killer then dumps the body underneath the bed so it'll be a while before someone discovers it. Elsewhere, the counselor Eddie (who really hasn't been featured much), takes a group of kids out camping (weren't they already technically camping?!) in the woods for some inexplicable reason.

Very soon, some of the younger kids are complaining about being cold, so Eddie takes a few of them back, leaving 4 of them in their sleeping bags. Eddie returns to find them all hacked to death with an axe! We don't see these murders take place, unfortunately. We cut back to Mel, who has found Ricky, and proceeds to beat the shit out of the poor boy, nearly killing him. Mel then takes off and wanders onto the archery range, where he immediately gets shot through the throat with an arrow!

"Could someone... hand me... a lozenge."

The counselors are now all alerted to a murderer on the loose thanks to Eddie. They begin searching the grounds and find poor Ricky, who is still clinging to life. They also stumble upon Meg's body. Meanwhile, Angela and Paul hook up for a touch-n-feel down by the lake. Angela, suddenly uninhibited, possibly feeling a rush due to all of the murders she's committed that night, suggests that they skinny dip. Paul likes this idea, naturally.

We cut back to the counselors, who have now accounted for all of the kids except for Paul and Angela. They finally decide to check down by the lake. Arriving by the shoreline, they see Angela, naked, singing softly, with Paul lying beside her, his head in her lap. She runs her fingers through his hair. We cut to another flashback, this time of a young Angela standing before her aunt. The camera pans around and we see that Angela is really a boy! "Her" aunt refers to him as Peter, but says she already has a boy, and instead has always wanted a little girl. She holds up a dress.

Back at the lake, as the counselors look on in horror, Angela stands up, Paul's severed head rolling onto the ground. Her eyes wide and pushed to the side, Angela growls like a feral beast. As we are chilled by her manic appearance, the camera pulls back to a wide shot and we see the biggest shock of all: Angela has a penis! In fact, Ron exclaims "My god, she's a boy!" in what has to be one one of the most awesome understatements ever.

Dude looks like a lady.

Needless to say, this movie is awesome on many fronts. Sure, it doesn't have near the amount of tits it should have, but honestly I didn't care, it's just so damned entertaining. I love how the creators put one over on the audience, using the misdirection of figuring out the who the killer is (which is pretty obvious) and instead dropping the "she is really a he" bomb at the end. I love it! The actors do a fine job, too. A lot of critics site bad acting, but for me the way people behaved in the movie lent it a degree of believability.

Angela does spooky really well, and her face coupled with the growl at the end truly is chilling. Ricky plays the foul-mouthed cousin to a tee, and the rest of the douchey hunks do just fine. I was constantly laughing at what the cool kids wore during this time period. Short belly shirts and hyper-short cutoffs, it's like modern-day San Francisco's Castro district. Snug plum smugglers combined with baby-ts. On a straight guy! Oh, 1983, never change!

In the end, the movie exceeds on all fronts. There's lots of creative death. There's an openly pedophile cook. There's an overload of mullets. And finally, there's a girl who is really a boy, who likes kissing other boys, whose dad was gay, and (s)he is also a killer. Sleepaway Camp, I lurv you! 3+ Thumps Way The Fuck Up!


Inspector Winship said...

Well done Duke! Your previous transgression with regard to Sleepaway Camp 2 is forgiven :) Every time I see a freeze frame of "Angela" screaming with her little "Peter" exposed, I remember how freaked out I was the first time I saw the film. In my opinion, the psychological "mind screw" of the ending pushes this film passed Friday the 13th.

JamiSings said...

First off, give you my beer? Sorry, Duke, you can have my Guinness when you tug it from my drunken fingers.

Second - the whole Angela's Peter thing - okay, here's a kooky question - I remember when The Crying Game came out people kept saying how it was "the first full frontal male nudity on the big screen." But TCG was in 1992, SC is from 1983. So isn't it really the first FFMN scene? Or was that just a fake penis strapped onto the actress rather then a male body double so therefore doesn't count?

Anonymous said...

The way I understood it, a young crew member did the full frontal. He was wearing a mask of the actress's face, which was molded in that open mouth, howling position.

This film is right up there with the original Bad News Bears in portraying kids as real kids, not some sub Spielberg suburban stereotype. That makes the horror (and the sleaze factor) even more disturbing. Will never forget seeing this thing for the first time. Within minutes I knew this would be a little rougher than I anticipated, not the usual Friday the 13th knock off. That ending stuck with me forever and seriously freaked me out.

The Duke of DVD said...

However they did the full frontal, it's still creepy as heck. I was ready think "fake" since his/her dong looks like a Vienna sausage tucked into a nest of boar's hair, but that's just me.

I have no idea whose idea it was (probably the director!), but whomever is responsible for the sideways eye look and howl idea deserves an Oscar. So fucking creepy. Everyone I know who has seen this film at an early age (or even older) says that the ending has stayed with them.

@Winship - I'm glad to accept your forgiveness, sir! I was having a bad day that day, perhaps, or maybe it was just the awesome of the first one clouding my words. Stay tuned as I rip part 3 a new one!

@Jami - I shall not take thine beer, woman! Stay thy hand! I see it creeping down for the dagger at your belt.

@david - I totally agree, the kids were especially believable, especially the way the taunting worked. I also loved Ricky's extremely foul mouth. I was that kid at his age.

The Vicar of VHS said...

I always thought that final scene was a rather poorly-done photo composite--a still shot of Angela's head cut-and-pasted on top of the non-Angela body. Strangely, I thought the disconnect of it at the neck (whether mask or photo) only added to the surreal, creepy effect of it. To say nothing of those wicked animal grunting sounds, which give me the chills every time.

WRT the kids being like real kids, of course it helps that the actors are ACTUALLY kids, and not the 20- or 30-somethings movies of this era usually called upon to play the juvenile roles. It adds that layer of difference that makes the movie stand out, and makes it better than most 80s slashers, imo. I also remember being shocked by the carnage of the sleeping-bag murders--we don't actually get to see the kids killed, but just the fact of the 4 or so dead bodies of CHILDREN--again, most flicks of the era wouldn't have gone there, I think.

And how about a round of applause for the actress playing Angela's aunt? She's in it for less than 3 minutes, I'd wager, and yet she makes a HUGE impression. I wanted more of the Aunt, and would have paid money to see the prequel about HER psycho adventures!

Anonymous said...

Here you go,

At the bottom of the page are a few pics of Ed French casting the face of Felissa Rose for the final scene mask.

The Duke of DVD said...

That's awesome, David! Thanks for the link. I love practical effects like those seen in Sleepaway Camp. All this modern CGI shit is for the birds. The Birds I say!

Anonymous said...

If you look over the site you will find even more interesting things. In the Sleepaway Camp section (under Movies) there is an awesome scrapbook with snapshots taken behind the scenes. It has a few more shots of the mask. Also there is a scan of the Femme Fatales article about Felissa Rose. She said they had a to find a really slender guy to fit the mask. He also had to have a bit of liquid courage before revealing himself to the world!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
evilgenius333 said...

I always thought this blew the pants off Friday the 13th (bah-dum-dum-chish!). Speaking of which - BEST closing shot ever - creepy as hell. Agree with the Vicar on this one - I too thought it was crappy composite, and also agree it does add to how eerie the shot is. And yeah - the fact that I thought the Feral Kid had leapt out of Road Warrior and straight into this savage flick added to the effect.

Now, more on topic - I love the half shirt and wish it would come back into style - just so I could make fun of anyone wearing it.



john said...

pamela springsteen took over the role for the sequels. she is no longer an actress. she is now a photographer. she did some on set photography for...the crying game. the documentary 'going to pieces' has an interview with ms. rose about the filming of this movie's finale.

The Duke of DVD said...

Thanks for the info, John! Interesting stuff. Too bad she didn't stick with acting.

I definitely need to check out that documentary.

john said...

you are very welcome + thanks for the reply. it is a really interesting documentary. i think you will enjoy it.

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