Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Sleepaway Camp (1983)

First-wave slasher with a cult following is rare in that it kind of deserves said following. Most renowned slasher flicks are famous (or infamous) for their body count or their creative kills or whatnot, but the kills in Robert Hiltzik's nasty bastard aren't what has given it a second life (the death scenes are mostly pretty tame, save for the ugly scene with the curling iron). Rather, the enduring power of Hiltzik's film comes from its skewed take on the traditional morality of the slasher film. The accepted equation is "sex = death," but Hiltzik has set his tale among the recently pubescent, people for whom sex is something to be thought about but not done. Instead, he's based his film around the corruption of naturally developing sexuality. There's a lot of dark and twisted shit going on in this film, and damn near all of it has to do with inappropriate things you can do to a minor. Whether it's the lecherous cook with pedophiliac tendencies, the camp manager who's all too eager to make time with one of the teenaged counselors or the infamous gender-warped final reveal, the true horror and disgust comes not from people dying but from sexuality gone wrong. (There's also a Heather-has-two-daddies flashback that doesn't seem to fit here, and it might be offensive if it wasn't a red herring.) Sleepaway Camp has all the problems inherent in early-'80s slasher flicks (indifferent acting, bland direction and characterization, story problems a mile long), and as such it's generally not a very good movie. It does, however, have ambition and a way of seeing the world that differentiates itself from its compatriots.

Grade: C+


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