Weird things are happening in this entry of Splatter Time Fun Fest 2010, and no, I’m not talking about the much ballyhooed ending!
Written By: Robert Hiltzik
Directed By: Robert Hiltzik
Is there more to Sleepaway Camp than meets the eye? Or is this a badly made slasher flick, without much slashing, that I am applying some misguided meaning to? My girlfriend watched this with me and she spent her time wondering what she was watching, and you know what, I guess I did pretty much the same thing. I’d like to think the meaning I found in Sleepaway Camp is legit, I really would, but I keep wrestling with the fact that maybe I’m wrong and all Sleepaway Camp wants to be is a badly made slasher with a twist ending that isn’t really a twist.
Before I get into any of the meta stuff I talked about above, let’s dig into that twist a little bit. Oh yeah, there will be spoilers, not that I ever worry about those anyways. Okay, back on track, were people actually surprised back in 1983 when it was revealed that Angela was a boy? The sequence of the boating accident from the past gives away a lot, but the first moment we see the “mother” giving her speech it became obvious where the film was going. The more time that passed the more obvious clues that began to spring up about the true gender of Angela. I’m not claiming to be some sort of investigative genius or anything, but I don’t see how the final shot of Sleepaway Camp was/is surprising or shocking. Maybe others can fill me in on why I am wrong, but I just don’t see it.
Back to the meta of Sleepaway Camp, and I may be all on my own with this one. But, based on the dress, speech and actions of the characters in Sleepaway Camp I found it to be a very gay film. I don’t mean this in a bad way, but I felt that the film was trying its hardest to be gay without actually spelling out that it was gay. The meta aspect comes into play in the form of what I believe Robert Hiltzik was possibly trying to say with the gay nature of Sleepaway Camp. Let’s face facts people, a lot of 80’s culture was inherently homosexual, but no one ever batted an eye at it. George Michael, Boy George, cut off shirts, tight short shorts, all of these are examples of pop culture affectations from the 1980’s that were blatantly homosexual, or associated with homosexual culture. I can’t help but feel that Hiltzik is pointing his finger at 80’s culture, at the willingness of 80’s culture to accept homosexual things as long as they aren’t actually acknowledged as being homosexual. Maybe I’m wrong, I probably am, but from the very start I got the feeling that Hiltzik was aiming for that sort of take on 80’s culture. The ending confirmed this for me, because the characters in the film can accept short shorts, gay dog piles and so forth, but as soon as they are presented with an openly homosexual moment in the realization that Angela is a boy they recoil in fear. They can accept homosexuality as long as it doesn’t actually admit its homosexuality. Of course Angela is also holding a severed head at that point, so maybe that’s why they recoil in fear. Like I said, I could be wrong, and maybe I’m just trying to justify what the movie got me to thinking about, I don’t know.
The rest of Sleepaway Camp is pretty darn atrocious, from the acting to the kills, to the look of the film. My final verdict on Sleepaway Camp comes down to one thing, whether or not I believe in the meta interpretation I offered up above. For the time being I do, and for that reason I’m willing to recommend Sleepaway Camp as a different type of 80’s slasher film. It may not work for you, heck I’m still not completely convinced it worked for me, but it’s at least worth a watch to see if the elements that stood out to me stand out to you as well. Maybe you’ll even jive more with the twist ending, but either way Sleepaway Camp isn’t a great film, it’s not a great slasher, but it is very interesting and will make you think, check it out.