Friday, January 22, 2016

Film Review: Sleepaway Camp (1983)

Sleepaway Camp (Review)
United States/1983
Format Viewed For Review: Amazon Instant
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...with today's state of horror, you surely won't find any films taking as many chances as Sleepaway Camp."

After a horrendous speedboat accident, Angela Baker (Felissa Rose) and her cousin, Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten), are sent to Camp Arawak. Soon after their arrival, the bodies begin to pile in a string of 'accidental' deaths...

Sleepaway Camp is a slasher film. In terms of plot, there really isn't much more to say. Angela and Ricky arrive at camp and people start dying – the menacing camp staff, the obnoxious camp counselors, and the campers. Angela is picked on for being quiet and Ricky constantly gets into trouble for fighting – often while trying to defend his cousin. Anyway, people linked to Angela and Ricky suffer violent deaths. The staff try to sweep them under the rug as accidents, but it eventually worsens. It's nothing out-of-the-ordinary, but that's not too bad. The movie released during a bustling time for the slasher genre. Okay, maybe I lied a bit. Wait until you get to the ending and you'll be hit with quite the surprise – wow!

I actually watched the sequels before watching the original, so it sort of spoiled the surprise, but it was still very effective – especially the execution. I mention the sequels because this is clearly a superior film. Whereas the sequels embrace the b-movie phenomenon and deliver constant self-aware humor, this film focuses on horror. Although the plot isn't anything special, the narrative actually takes time to develop some of its characters and their respective issues. It doesn't concern itself with delivering a huge body count or constant quips, it concerns itself with delivering an effective slasher. I won't have nightmares, but this film certainly delivered the goods. The suspense is moderate, there is a sense of dread in the atmosphere, and the deaths are gruesome.

The acting ranges from bad to decent - I emphasize bad because it can get really bad. Felissa Rose and Jonathan Tiersten perform well. Some of the supporting cast deliver their lines with way too much enthusiasm to sound authentic, but at least it gives you a chuckle. The film is shot well. The cinematography is nothing special, but it looks decent. I enjoyed the music, especially the credits track. The practical special effects are splendid. Well, most of the practical effects are splendid. (Come on, that cop's mustache was totally fake. Right?) The film is written and directed by Robert Hiltzik. Although it doesn't do much to differentiate itself from other slashers at the time, at least not until the end, the film is well directed. There are a few blatant plot contrivances here and there, but the writing wasn't half-bad, either.

Overall, Sleepaway Camp is a great slasher. For the most part, the plot offers very little originality, so wipe that from your expectations. This film is about young teenagers going to a secluded camp and getting slaughtered. Fortunately, the film offers some effective suspense, some memorable deaths, and a shocking finale to make up for its shortcomings. I can say this: with today's state of horror, you surely won't find any films taking as many chances as Sleepaway Camp. If you're looking for something with massive body counts and more humor, check out the b-movie sequels — Unhappy Campers and Teenage Wasteland. One of them isn't so bad, at least...

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, and nudity.

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