Movie Review: Sleepaway Camp (1983)

Oh the world of summer camp and how innocent it once was. The beautiful sunshine, the cool breezes, midnight swims, playing capture the flag and volleyball, making smores. Those were the days.

1980’s Friday the 13th changed that when that miniscule budgeted horror film ($550,000) changed the face of movies forever. The slasher genre was born and it would run rampant through the 80s.

Soon after the release of Friday the 13th Part 3, another small budgeted movie about summer camp and the illustrious lake life gone awry debuted.

Sleepaway Camp was made for just $350,000. The movie starred movie veteran Mike Kellin, who had acted opposite Tony Curtis and Henry Fonda in 1968’s The Boston Strangler.

In 1983’s Sleepaway Camp, Kellin plays the summer camp supervisor of Camp Arawak, a co-ed camp for boys and girls ages 10 to 16. It is just another summer at camp with activities, teasing, arguing and constantly keeping an eye on the kids.

This summer a new girl arrives at the camp, Angela Baker (Felissa Rose). She is really shy and a little catatonic. She struggles to fit in until Paul (Christopher Collet) starts to talk with her.

One night during a swim, one of the boys drowns and sets off a string of murders at the camp. Who is the killer and how can they be stopped?

The movie really developed a cult following and you can see why when you watch it.

It has that student film kind of feel but what is really intriguing is the performance of 13-year-old Felissa Rose as Angela.

Her character is unlike any of the other stereotypical people and that kind of allows you to push past the obvious amateur camera work and tiny budget. She draws you in.

This film is surprisingly effective given the budget and its obvious flaws. The ending has been called one of the biggest shock endings in horror history and if you know nothing about the film then it is kind of jaw-dropping but tame in comparison to modern films. It is really nice to see how the whole ending is laid out towards the big reveal.

What is unsatisfactory is that after it is revealed we get no full explanation just the credits roll. This is either really bold or really sad. I have to go with bold because for its time this ending was unheard of.

It is also important to note that this was Mike Kellin’s final movie. Kellin died in 1983 and never got a chance to see his last film make it into theatres. It is kind of sad given he is one of the killer’s victims in the film.

The cult status of the film produced four sequels including a pseudo-remake in 2008 which saw Felissa Rose reprise her role for the first time since 1983.

The movie also spawned a fan following at www.sleepawaycampmovies.com

(3 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer

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