Classic Review – Sleepaway Camp (1983)

Sleepaway Camp

Sleepaway Camp

Directed by Robert Hiltzik

Starring Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tiersten, Karen Fields

Review by Jordan

Sleepaway Camp, an early 80’s slasher set at a Summer Camp where young teens and perverted camp workers are dispatched in an increasingly gruesome fashion is surely just another Sean Cunningham knockoff yeah?


Not at all.

What we have here is Friday the 13th in drag; an offbeat, bizarre journey into the mind of a director with some clear obsessions made in a time where originality, even in an overwrought genre, wasn’t subdued by marketing pressures. I suppose the film starts in a normal enough fashion, featuring promiscuous teens carelessly careening a jet-ski on a picturesque lake, but as soon as they’re distracted and fail to notice an overturned boat and our family of a dad and his 2 kids treading water, we’re swept away into what on the surface may seem a sub-grade and perhaps even listless B-grade horror, but in reality is one troubling little classic.

Angela, the survivor of this incident which leaves her father and brother dead, is raised by her eccentric (I was contemplating writing flaming bonkers, but thought I’d stick with proper grammar) Aunt Martha, who one summer decides to send her and her cousin Ricky to Camp Arawak to partake in various social and team-work orientated activities. A problem does arise however when a psychotic killer decides to start offing the residents of the camp, starting with the criminally deviant head chef who truly does deserve it. Just who is this murderer wreaking havoc in this normally peaceful environment? And why doesn’t anyone really seem bothered by it? (note: this second question isn’t actually answered, and it does appear to just be caused by some terrible screenwriting).

Of course you can’t review Sleepaway Camp without mentioning the ending, often referred to as being that of a far better film and amongst the more disturbing in memory. I implore anyone who is yet to visit Camp Arawak to not spoil this climax for yourself, and if you can, maybe hit yourself in the head just enough after reading this review to help you forget I even mentioned it. Other highlights include some grizzly practical effects, absurd flash-backs and a smorgasbord of terrifically poorly written and despicable characters.

Ultimately spawning 3 direct to video sequels and having garnered a strong cult following since release, Sleepaway Camp is more-than deserving of a spot on your shelf and a viewing this Halloween. Invite your friends over, hit the play button, and have fun watching the looks on their faces.

3.5 Flaming Bonkers Aunts (why not) out of 5


16 responses to “Classic Review – Sleepaway Camp (1983)

  1. This came out in 83′? I thought it was later 80s? I could be thinking of the sequel. Anyways, was there a gruesome scene involving a hot curling iron? And the end…a certain Academy Award winning film borrowed from it I believe…

    Great pick. I need to revisit this. The second one was even worth watching.

  2. This is the first horror movie I’d ever seen! I was about eight and was spending the night with a friend whose parents were a lot more lax than my own. All I can remember is the toilet scene and the twist. Such memories 🙂

    • Haha, being 8 and watching this is very impressive! How good are horror movie memories? Candyman is the one that haunts me from my childhood, and of course the clown phobia inducing It!

    • Can’t say I’ve heard that thesis before Matt, but I can easily believe it! Sleepaway Camp certainly isn’t the work of committee and the logic behind that definitely makes sense.
      I’ll have to check that podcast out, cheers for the link!

  3. Pingback: 10 Classic Movie Endings: Jordan’s Take | Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys)·

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