This review was requested in the Random Reviews Incorporated Fan Club. If I'm being honest, I was reluctant to fulfill the request. I had never seen Sleepaway Camp, but I felt like I had. I knew all about the twist ending. How could I not? I've been perusing horror message boards ever since our household became endowed with an Internet connection. I've pounded the pavement on every site, every mailing list, every portal...you name it, I've exhausted its resources. So it should come as no surprise that I spoiled this slasher for myself along the way to transfusing my cerebrum with as much horror/sci-fi knowledge as humanly possible.
Sleepaway Camp has a lot in common with The Sixth Sense. The ending is so shocking, that it leaps off of the celluloid and dissolves into pop culture. Usually, you can circumnavigate spoilers, but not with this flick. You have no choice, unless you saw it in theaters in 1983. Does this infamous "body count" cash-in hold up without the advantage of using its secret weapon? I'd say so. I didn't enjoy it as much as Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers, but it wasn't as stale and vapid as I thought it would be. And yes, I've welcomed the sequels into my home (well, except for Return to Sleepaway Camp, which I have zero interest in).
A couple of things caught me off guard. For starters, Aunt Martha walked right out of a John Waters movie. The fact that she looked like a drag queen was both ironic and discommoding. Secondly, the bulk of the characters were likeable. By and large, the script avoided the stratum of stereotypes that commonly populate genre doodles of this ilk. It was refreshing to find a woodsy slasher that focused on campers, as opposed to camp counselors. Felissa Rose is sweet and unassuming as Angela. I dug her, although I'm not sure that this role justifies her appearance at every single horror convention on the planet. Then again, I could say that about dozens of cult actors.
Setbacks? Maybe it's just me, but apart from the mean-spirited death sequences, Sleepaway Camp doesn't feel like a horror film. Eighty percent of the action is shot in the ugly refulgence of daylight, and there is no atmosphere to speak of. Granted, the final frames are disturbing. I can't account for Angela's peculiar case of lockjaw (was someone taking her picture?), but she definitely creeped me out. Stronger doses of gore and suspense would have elevated Sleepaway Camp into four-Z'Dar territory. Overall, it's an agreeable film. Hell, it's better than the original Friday the 13th. That's right. Bring it.
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 9:54 PM