Rockwood Cinema Review: Sleepaway Camp (1983)

In Sleepaway Camp (1983) things aren’t as they seem. Like pretending it’s summer camp in the fall. Watch for fall-coloured leaves everywhere not just the beginning (pictured here).

Today, in Rockwood Cinema Review (specializing in Outdoor-themed or Rock & Roll movies) we take a look at Sleepaway Camp (1983).

If you have seen Sleepaway Camp you know. In the sea (or lake as it were) of the slasher/revenge-in-the-woods horror genre, it is a movie with a difference. This is due, particularly, to the jarring, all mouths-agape ending. Once you have seen it, it is forever burnt into your memory (I have said too much already). Now, having re-watched it, probably 25 years since I last watched it, I can definitively say: everything was different than I remember it. That is, except for the ending. That was exactly as I remember it.

The iconic Sleepaway Camp movie poster: Spoiler Alert: like many poster covers in this movie genre, this doesn’t actually happen in the movie. I mean how could this happen? The killer is hacking away and then he stabs upward and gets some kid’s shoe, that doesn’t make sense.

Read more Outdoor Movie Reviews:
Campfire Tales (1997)
All The Friday The 13th Movies Reviewed In 13 Words
Camp Cucamonga (1990)

Camp Arawak: the kids are mean, the adults are worse but Sleepaway Camp did shake up the genre.

Now, like most summer camp movies, it follows kids dealing with adversity, bullying and social acceptance but here with heavy doses of Friday the 13th. The main character Angela (played by Felissa Rose in her film debut) is dealing with childhood trauma from her past: the death of her father and sibling from a boating accident. This incident has made her shy, almost mute and awkward, even more awkward than usual for a teen. Angela often stares blankly into space, or, much to their annoyance, at her fellow campers. Set at Camp Arawak, she is an outsider, along with her cousin, who staunchly defends her from the taunts of bullies and the sexual advances of creeps.

Creepy Aunt Beret is also a doctor, so if anybody is looking for a family doctor?

However, it doesn’t end there. Indeed, the real threats are the “adults” themselves. Reckless camp councillors (it was a rough decade for camp councillors getting a bad rep) are mostly apathetic, or worse, are in on the abuse. Angela’s aunt (played by Desiree Gould), who is Angela’s caretaker, is creepy as hell, wearing a beret and may actual be Crispin Glover in disguise. The head cook has an unsavoury appetite for under age girls, which fellow staff don’t seem to be worried about (I mean we are only running a summer camp for kids). Creepier still, the camp owner is always trying sweep things under the proverbial rug (including his own creepy problems).

Rock And Roll References in Sleepaway Camp

Of course an 80s movie of this magnitude is going to have some rock and roll references. Here, shown briefly in the campers sleeping quarters is a slightly obscured poster by Canadian 80’s rockers, Loverboy. (of “Turn Me Loose”, “Working For The Weekend” fame)

Spoiler Alert: I believe this is what you call some serious mise-en-scene.

Loverboy’s “Turn Me Loose” appears on Cottage Country Mix Vol. 3:

Don’t fear the reaper, Kenny (in your Blue Oyster Cult tee) because he is coming for you. OMG they killed Kenny!

Again, here is a reference to another rock and roll band, Blue Oyster Cult of “Don’t Fear The Reaper” and “Burning For You” fame (amongst others). During their career Blue Oyster Cult used to be characterized as an evil band, mostly because of the “Cult” in their name and also because of their reputation with songs like “Don’t Fear The Reaper“. It is no wonder that a juvenile delinquent like Kenny is wearing one of their shirts. A pretty bad-ass Blue Oyster Cult t-shirt with the grim reaper at that.

Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” is featured on Cottage Country Mix Vol. 1:

Sleepaway Camp is full of plenty of WTF moments. This happens from the onset with the writer and director, Robert Hiltzik’s opening title card dedication to his mom (pictured left). Yes, that is what he writes! An extremely…extremely strange movie to dedicate to your mom. One wonders if she attended the premiere. Buckle up, Mom.

In Sleepaway Camp, there are lots of funny lines (“Eat shit and die, Ricky!”to which he responds, “Eat shit and live, Bill”) and because it is a slasher/horror movie set in at camp, there are some interesting “outdoorsy” deaths that make it very distinguishable in the genre. Perfect for watching at the cabin, cottage or RV.

The entire movie for your watching pleasure! or displeasure…whatever.


/ 5
Length: 1h 24m
Rated: R (Violence, Nudity)
Best time to watch: Most of the scenes take place during the day, except for a couple deaths and the finale. Because of this and the pacing of the movie (which isn’t too bad for a film of this type), I would actually recommend watching this during the day or early evening. But you know it is a “horror movie” so either way.

***Spoiler Alert: Sleepaway Camp

Frank the Cop: The real secret of Sleepaway Camp…that’s right. That is not a real moustache.

SPOILER ALERT: Sleepaway Camp has received recent criticisms for being homophobic and transphobic. There is some validity to this, however there are transgender and homosexual defenders of the film that note that her gender is forced on her, not chosen. Also, the fellow campers bully her unaware of who she really is. Furthermore, the figure at the end bares little resemblance to a human. Is it a monster of sexual repression, which is a motif of many horror movies? Also, I don’t exactly know if we should take any of this really seriously.

Listen to ‘CABIN FEVER’ – A Disco Rock Mix! New Disco / Rock Mix for 2020 by Dougie Boom!

3 Replies to “Rockwood Cinema Review: Sleepaway Camp (1983)”

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