Sleepaway Camp (1983)

...you won't be coming home!
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Sleepaway Camp - ...you won't be coming home!

The 1980's was the decade for slasher movies and, among the big hits such as Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street were a few hidden gems that have been elevated to cult status as more and more horror lovers discover them. Sleepaway Camp is one such hidden gem and although it bears a few too many similarities to the original Friday the 13th it can hold it's own as a horror movie and has paved the way for many more due to it's contribution towards defining the template that has allowed so many movies to be pigeon-holed as a slasher flick.

Angela Baker and her cousin, Ricky, are sent to Camp Arawak for the summer. Angela lives with her cousin and her obviously-not-the-full-ticket Aunt Martha, as she lost her family in a boating accident eight years previously. Due to the traumatizing experience Angela is extraordinarily introverted and because of this she becomes the obvious bully victim of the bitchy self-righteous girls at the camp and the hormonally charged boys.

Angela takes the bullying in silence only to be recurrently rescued by Cousin Ricky. Due to her oddities, Angela is excused from most camp activities which only infuriates the others more, especially the early blossoming Judy who is not only infected with teenage-girl self-importance but also has previous romantic connections with Ricky from the previous years camp. The bullying intensifies against Angela from not only the teens but a few dubious workers at the camp who should definitely not be responsible for teenagers.

Starting with the lecherous head-chef, the camp residents begin to die in horrific accidents, all suspiciously happening not long after inflicting some wickedness towards the withdrawn Angela Baker. Even though accidents such as drowning and mass bee attacks must be common at summer camps, the camp owner begins to grow suspicious and, more concerned with the reputation of the camp than the death of his customers; he sets out to stop the killer. Putting two and two together he gets three and suspect that Ricky is protecting his timid relative.

It turns out that the killer is in fact Angela who is doubly traumatized, firstly due to the loss of her family but more so because of the way that she has been raised by crazy Aunt Martha. Although I am dying to explain how the movie ends, the main reason for the movie's cult status is what has been described as one of the most shocking endings in the slasher genre. So I won’t spoil that.

Sleepaway Camp seems quite corny compared to a lot of modern horror movies but it encroaches on a number of taboo subjects such as paedophilia, homosexuality and obviously the death of kids from teens to much younger children. This was probably quite daring for a movie in 1983 and I also agree that the ending of the movie is quite disturbing due to a combination of subject matter and the nightmarish image of Angela (possibly due to poor special effects, but this makes it even more surreal).

Definitely a necessary addition to any slasher fans collection and should be respected as one of the original movies to make the slasher flick what it is today.
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