5 Jun 2014

Review - 'Sleepaway Camp' Proves to be Unworthy of its Cult Status Despite its Shocking Final Act

Director: Robert Hiltzik
Writer: Robert Hiltzik
Stars: Felissa Rose, Jonathon Tiersten, Karen Fields
Running Time: 88 mins
Sub-Genre: Slasher
Release: 2014 (Blu-Ray) 1983 (Original)

After a horrible boating accident kills her family, Angela, a shy and sullen young girl, moves in with her eccentric aunt Martha, alongside her protective cousin Ricky. One summer, Martha sends the kids to Camp Arawak. Soon after their arrival, a series of bizarre and increasingly violent accidents begins to claim the lives of various campers. Who is the twisted individual behind these murders? The disclosure of the murderer's identity is one of the most shocking climaxes in the history of American cinema.

Beware as this will contain Spoilers

The cult status has clearly been tossed about for the past few years, and horror films from 70's and beyond in which not many liked to begin with are starting to be brought back onto everyone's radar, and are now a few steps away from being called a "classic". The most recent cases of this is Sleepaway Camp, the trashy teen slasher from the 80's that due to the recent Blu-Ray release is starting to be on every horror fans mind once again. Sleepaway Camp is the marmite of the slasher sub-genre, you either love it or you hate it, it's as black and white as that. I for one found this to be one of the most derivative and mind-numbingly tedious acts of slasher horror in a long time, and quite frankly, I find its growth in popularity baffling. In saying all that, I have never experienced an ending in a horror of this type so shocking that it was forefront on my mind the rest of the day, and has still left me shocked right to this very moment; I mean it is something that I don't think I will ever get over, and something i have to tell my friends about. But, a final 5 minutes isn't enough to save the other 75.

Revolving around a central character who's sympathetic posture collapses under the weight of teen despair and sex, we watch the story unravel around a character who is deprived of so much development that is she is as one-dimensional as a daily victim from Saw who is better a screaming than they are at thinking. However, this lead sweetly named Angela is a little bit more than that, and just before the credits role, you will realize she is a lot more than that; but before that we have to endure a sympathetic mute who after a while begins to irritate whilst her charm fades. However after watching her endure a series of unfortunate events from fellow camp members (both young and old) it starts to deflate and the overall tone is distinguished, leaving for an extremely predictable reveal with a contrast for an ending that is likely to make you forget about the terrible 75 minutes that followed it. I couldn't forget, hence why i despised the viewing.

Cliches were made from this sort of film, but looking at it in this day and age it just reeks of unoriginality with a lack of invention, and despite the ending there is no denying that the rest of the film stumbles along hitting from one cliche to the other surviving on cheap thrills that come with the slaughtering of bitchy teens and deserving adults. Luckily, Sleepaway Camp gets its thrills off the deaths, and as few as they come, they're still enjoyable to watch due to the outrageous violent display which strikes enough craft to appreciate; but the time you spend waiting for the next one is too long to manage and to tedious to applaud.

The acting is tasteless but exploits teen depravity well, regardless of how unbelievably 80's the acting of the cast is (if that makes sense). The real horror however lays behind the dress code of the individual campers, especially that of the male residents who take the word "camp" to the next level with their tiny belly-button high tank tops and there itty-bitty jean shorts that are tighter than latex and gayer than Boy George. The whole image was awful but it unintentionally added a comedy element that I welcomed with open arms.

Sleepaway Camp may have one of the most baffling and outrageously shocking endings in the history of the horror genre as well as a few admirable traits, but ultimately it relays too hard on flaccid cliches and poor character development to drive its illogical narrative.  

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