Posts Tagged ‘Sleepaway Camp’

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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Summer Camp Pt. 1

August 7, 2017

I have been thinking lately of my summer experiences as a kid. When I drive down the streets of Baltimore City, I see school-aged kids walking on the sidewalk and I suddenly remember that school is still out. When you reach an adult age and you have no kids of your own, you kind of forget that summer is a magical time where school is out and you get to play. Most of my play during summer was structured because my parents believed in not leaving me to my own devices and also believed in having relative adults keeping me safe. So, like a lot of kids, I went to summer camp.

The first camp I went to was called Camp Glencoe situated out in Baltimore County, not far from my home but far enough that it was my first time away from home. I had been to day camp before but this was my first shot at sleeping away from home for longer than a day or two. Glencoe’s specialty was kids with dyslexia or learning disabilities but they also prided themselves on taking care of kids with other health difficulties. At the time, I was having some difficulties with my ADD and I was definitely starting to have a lot of complications from my Double Aortic Arch which had been diagnosed as asthma. So, I do not remember doing a lot of outdoorsy stuff but I did stuff when I could.

One of the most memorable things about Glencoe was that we were told of a camp legend pretty close after arrival. There was a ninja that stalked the grounds of Glencoe. Nobody knew the identity of this ninja even though kids constantly investigated. Some swore they had found black clothing in their counselor’s room but I never believed that the real ninja would be so careless. During large public events at the camp, the ninja would run out of hiding and strike. His weapon of choice was whipped cream pies. He would run out and score direct hits and then he would run away. This was a camp tradition. The first time it happened, I was blown away and kind of scared. The second time I joined in the camp tradition of pretty much every kid in camp running after the ninja, trying to catch him. We never did.

I remember doing a lot of reading. I had daily tutoring sessions where I did math and English with teachers. It was not as bad as it sounds. I am a nerd so I never really hated the actual school aspects of being in school. This is also where I got all of my summer reading done for school. I know some kids do not enjoy summer reading, wanting to play sports, hang out with friends or do anything else. I always loved reading and having the assignments gave me an excuse to spend a lot of time reading and discussing the books with the tutor. I did not have dyslexia so math and reading were easy to me, I just had a concentration problem to work on. So, I remember spending a lot of time doing homework in between meals, swimming and occasionally doing outdoorsy activities.

I had done a few sleepovers at that age but only for a night or two. It was not until middle school when I started to stay over at friends for longer periods of time. As I said, Glencoe was the exception to that rule since it happened before my fifth-grade surgery. We lived in large dorms with rooms packed tight together. The hallways were patrolled by counselors at night, making sure we were not up to anything. I found that I was not really that homesick which was a happy discovery. The only truly bad experience I can think of is the boy’s dorm once had a huge building-wide pillow fight staged by the counselors. It was like a prison riot. I remember a younger boy dropped his pillow and opted to punch me in the face instead. I was stunned and angry and I was still chasing him when the pillow fight came to its natural end. It took me a while to cool off and that incident helps fuel my sense of fair play in a fight.

I also remember a camp-wide water gun fight we had at one point. Everybody had a full Super Soaker or two and there were buckets full of water balloons scattering the camp. Again, we had another riot but this one was a lot more fun. We happily blasted each other with water, running all over the camp to cool off. No points were scored and there was no object to the game besides pure mayhem and pretending I was a cool army of one fighting through the masses. I even remember filling up and firing from within the shallow end of the camp swimming pool, wading chest deep like I was in some eighties action movie. That is a fond memory and I do not remember getting too winded thankfully. I thought, for such a structured camp that catered to younger kids, that this unstructured, chaotic game was an amazing feat by the counselors.

Ultimately, I started to excel more at school now that new ADD medication was kicking in and I had a solid grasp on my studies. I started to enjoy learning for learning’s sake more and I never got poor grades all the way through high school (and only a few bad grades in college). Once I had my surgery, I did not need to go to Camp Glencoe and my folks started looking for other summer options for me. I did not really have any close friends at that camp so I was not really sad to leave it. I was ready for normalcy. An ‘asthma’ -free experience with no homework. I got that experience, sort of. I will talk about it next Monday!


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