For about twenty minutes or so, Sleepaway Camp fights like a champion to be the greatest slasher movie ever made. We open with a dedication to "Mom, a doer", then get this classic production logo.
Creepy-eepy music simmers over incongruous shots of cabins and rubbish. Are we supposed to be scared now?
The next scene hits and that question still lingers. Meet kid cousins Ricky and Angela. Meet his mom/her aunt, Martha (Desiree Gould). Gould's performance is without parallel. She barks lines of dialogue like "Look what I did! I packed you and your cousin some goodies for the ride up to camp! Wasn't that nice of me, hmmm?" I can't express how odd the delivery is here, and Gould's trans status is probably the linchpin for everything Sleepaway Camp is trying to do. Let's dive into the depths of gender dichotomy!
Angela and Ricky head to camp with snacks in tow. Upon arrival, they're overseen by the filthy kitchen help, one of whom drools openly over the new "chickens". "Where I come from, we call 'em baldies!" he says, as the other adults chuckle in a "that's-our-pedo" way. WHAT. THE. FUCK.
Somebody should really write a dissertation on the treatment of sexuality in this film. The seeds of molestation sprout in a brief kitchen scene, in which the tubby pedo-cook menaces Angela, with only boxes that say TOPLESS and TUBBY between them.
Don't worry, the cook presumably dies. As does almost everyone else who is mean to Angela. It's unfortunate that Sleepaway Camp has to become a slasher movie, since its relentless insanity gets ditched here. Sometimes the movie steers us to weird places again, but the middle section is mostly standard-fare slasher stuff.
Thankfully, there's an angel of mercy named Judy (Karen Fields), whose scenes are always just around the corner. As lead camp bitch and Angela's best antagonist, Judy earns our adoration. She makes the Earth's best disgusted faces and stuns with her omnipresent side ponytails and transparent shirts. This movie is full of trans! Enjoy this photographic history of Judy braless and sideponied at Camp Arawak.
IMDB makes me sad by reporting that Fields didn't do much acting after Sleepaway. She's so great here, easily outworking the rest of the kid cast. The kills in the film are done by a kid, so we don't get a lot of the heavyweight pounding that a Jason or a Cropsy might dish out. Some of the murders are pretty creative, though, and the effects go admirably overboard.
Felissa Rose as Angela sits at the film's center, but she really doesn't get to do a lot. Mostly, Angela sits there looking autistic or lobotomized as Judy and her Amazon girlfriend Meg haze away. I'm sure that most of you know how this film ends, but let's just say here that the last scenes mark a return to Sleepaway Camp's batshit youth. We get an utterly unbelievable plot twist, one that was probably staggering enough to make viewers forget about the rather generic middle section. If you know anything about horror movies, you've probably at least heard of Sleepaway Camp and these scenes are why.
A mixed bag that you basically have to see, for historical reasons and for its first and final scenes.