Growing up, my cousins loved horror movies, and the Sleepaway Camp franchise was their all-time favorite. As I got older, I came to love campy 80s horror, so I figured I’d enjoy Sleepaway Camp. Released in 1983, this movie is your typical Friday the 13th knockoff featuring a slew of campers and counselors at Camp Arawak who start to die off in gruesome ways at the hands of a mysterious serial killer. The similarities to Friday the 13th and even films like Carrie and Jaws are almost too prevalent to take the film seriously, but Sleepaway Camp does manage to achieve one thing none of those films did. This movie boasts a twist ending like no other. Don’t worry, I won’t be spoiling it for you. Just trust me when I say you’re in for a shock.
I gave this movie a four, so it obviously didn’t blow my mind. But let me start by saying what it does right. As I said, the twist ending will put even those pesky M. Night Shyamalan fans to shame. It’s so powerful, the first time I saw the movie I was so scarred by the ending I couldn’t remember anything that came before it. The movie also contains both campers (ranging from kids to teens) and teenage counselors, which is fantastic. So many of the Friday the 13th films suffered because they didn’t actually show any campers. Adding children to the mix always ups the scare factor. Sleepaway Camp also rocks some pretty interesting death sequences, even one involving a curling iron.
Onto the bad… the fact of the matter is, Sleepaway Camp is just a watered down Friday the 13th. It’s a lesser version of other campy horror movies. Sure, all campy horror movies have bad acting and weak plots, but this one is especially bad. Plus, with Friday the 13th viewers were given a villain to fear, whereas this movie keeps the killer a mystery until the end, making it difficult to be scared. Don’t get me wrong, the movie is cheesy and picturesque 80s, which is awesome in its own cult classic way. But other films do the same thing, and better. This movie often felt like it was just plagiarizing others and tossing in a super sick twist ending to put its mark on the genre.
Creatures of horror island beware… the Camp Arawak killer is loose on the island and may or may not get you while you’re swimming or showering. Who is this elusive maniac? No one knows until it gets you and then it’s too late. As a whole, Sleepaway Camp is just decent, campy fun and nothing to be afraid of. Well, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit the twist ending is disturbing as shit.
If you liked Sleepaway Camp, you might also like Friday the 13th, Carrie and Friday the 13th (2009).