Posts Tagged ‘Cruel Summer’

Sleepaway Camp (1983)

October 9, 2017

90 minutes – Rated R for gruesome deaths, language, and brutal violence

I remember when I first went to a summer camp that required that I sleep over. It was Camp Glencoe but we slept in dorms and we spent most of the days reading and writing so it was not much of a camp experience. The second camp I went to was Camp Shohola which was very much your standard sleepaway camp. There was definitely room for fear at summer camp. I especially dreaded doing the deep water swim test every year. We had to do so many laps without touching the sides of the dock and it made me so tired. I thought I would end up like one of the unfortunate watersports campers from Wet Hot American Summer. It was also so dark each night. Sure I had plenty of people around me but as a city boy, the sounds of just nature were unnerving. It was not just the sounds of nature either. Out beyond the concrete, there were far more wild animals and insects. Bears were sighted near the dining hall dumpsters and bees and spiders were sighted daily. I even saw a poor little mouse that had been overtaken by a swarm of bees once. That particular image has stuck with me.

There were bullies there too, the kind of person that makes a short kid dread certain parts of life. I was lucky enough to not have to deal with bullies too much but they were always there, the sharks out in the deep water. I remember the older kids at camp playing pranks from harmless to troubling. One summer, they snuck into people’s cabins while they slept and took their trunks and stacked them around the flagpole. My trunk’s lid was a little warped and was not closed so I was skipped and there was suspicion of collusion which was ridiculous. I was never that popular. Back in high school, I was guided to be an early adopter of the personal computer because as a freshman, there were seniors who came down to our hall and pushed people up against the lockers. My friends and I opted to have fun tinkering in the computer lab rather than loitering in Freshman Hallway. I think that ended well since I have an intuitive sense of how to work computer programs and very high typing speed. I did not like getting pushed around but we all survived and I harbor no ill will. After all, they did not try to kill me.

This is a horror story with a mystery to it. Up until the end, you are not sure who exactly is doing the killings. It felt kind of like the first Friday the 13th film in that respect. Of course, there are way more suspects than in that film. This movie is set in a rundown summer camp full of rough customers. The counselors and staff are either power hungry monsters or simply stand aside and let those jerks push people around. The campers also have the worst kind of teenage impulses. They are constantly playing mean-spirited pranks on one another and pushing each other around like prison inmates. This also leads to there being a lot of potential victim as horror films of any decade seem to like setting up victims that you want to see get punished. Is each death vengeance for something horrible happening or is it somebody who can no longer stand by and let the jerks rule? As people die, they recognize the killer but we never see them until the end.

The acting is very interesting, at least it is to me. A lot of the time the acting is pretty standard for an eighties horror film. By this, I mean that people act like normal people but maybe a little bit exaggerated because it is a movie. Guys razz other guys, girls pick on other girls, there is flirting and bullying and all sorts of normal behavior. Then every so often, there are performances that are either purposely or unintentionally hyper-exaggerated. Those performances are unnerving because I sat there trying to read into them and the cadence was all wrong like something written by David Lynch. This is especially true of Angela, the girl with a tragic past that the film is centered on. Mostly mute, she spends her days getting bullied by the girls in her bunk and teased by the guys in camp. The pacing is really good as we see the frustrating experiences that Angela endures as the weird girl and that is punctuated by creepy horror and gruesome deaths. We also get to see some really creepy flashbacks through Angela’s eyes.

Overall, it was definitely a good eighties horror movie. The movie is creepy throughout both the actual killings and the cruelty kids can exhibit toward each other. The tension builds steadily through the movie and there are plenty of red herrings if you do not know the actual ending. Do yourself a favor and stay away from spoilers on this movie because the ending is well worth the mystery. The movie also gets bonus points for looking somewhat similar to summer camps I went to.


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