Youtube Film Club: Sleepaway Camp (1983)

First up, don’t say I never give you anything:

Available in its entirety on Youtube, so go and watch it. Don’t worry, the rest of us will wait right here for you. I guess I’m going to have to spoil the heck out of this film, so it’s best if we’re all on the same page.

We start off with a little bit of jumping around in time. Or maybe the editor quit and no-one else could figure out how to use the machine. Camp Arawak, “Up For Sale”. Straight away, the film puts us on the back foot – given that it’s open at the beginning of the film, and open at the end, when chronologically does that “for sale” sign happen? But I can’t dwell on this! There’s so much film to talk about!

It’s a happy summer’s day, and there’s a family out in a small boat, a couple of kids towing their waterskiiing friend in a speedboat, and various assorted kids in the background. So far, so beautiful. But…if you want to blame anyone for the carnage that follows, blame the idiot girl who demands that her boyfriend lets her pilot the boat. He gives in, and almost immediately everything goes to crap – while they’re switching over, the family have capsized their little boat, and are laughing and joking about…then another man wanders over to the shore and, calmly, asks the family to hurry up, as they’re going to miss some meeting or other. Now, I’d like to think I’d express some emotion if my friend and his two kids had just capsized, even if it were just to say “would you like a hand?” But our man is remarkably stoic, which is good because, apart from ten seconds later on in the film, it’s the last we’ll ever see of him.

Anyway, the dad dies, and the two kids, who are apparently cousins (I couldn’t be bothered to find out why) are sent to live with someone who the boy, Ricky, calls “Mum” but the girl, Angela, doesn’t call anything at all. The mum is an extra-creepy overactor in the same fashion as that woman from “Troll 2” – you know the one:

I don’t want to say I have a type, but call me

They look a bit similar too. So, this unbelievably odd woman packs them off to summer camp, and after a terrible, stilted exchange, we’re at…Camp Arawak! The camera pans across buses and buses full of kids running towards the camp, full of…excitement? But the problem is, the looks on their faces and their screams make it sound like they’re running away from something very bad, not towards something good. If it was a better film, I’d be all “that’s a nice bit of foreshadowing”,but as it’s this I did not. We’re introduced to the camp counsellors and the camp workers…one of them is the worst paedophile I think we’ve ever seen on film, just openly in front of all the others talking about the fresh meat and how they can’t be too young. Rather than, I don’t know, chasing him down the street with sticks, or calling the police, they just laugh it off and go about their day. WHAT THE HELL?

I’ll try and give you a flavour of the film through the next half hour or so. One of the camp counsellors, an angry young woman, tells the rest of the kids her name is “Meg – spelled M – E – G”. How else would you spell it?…the paedophile gets a pot of boiling water over his entire body…and then the first actual murder, an idiot camp counsellor who’s been horrible to everyone, especially including Ricky and Angela. He goes inside an upturned boat and calls out to the woman he was just sexually harrassing, who’d left the lake minutes before, and never comes out. Who is the murderer, we people with head injuries who are unable to see the bloody obvious say?

The police turn up to take the body away, and the boss of the camp manages to cover it up, convincing the police it was an accident. Now, this is a problem I have with so many horror films (and one I hoped that “Scream” and its ilk had killed off forever but keeps showing up, in films like Piranha 3DD) – the people in a film acting as if their universe doesn’t have any horror films in it. When you’re at a summer camp, or a hotel, or any other enclosed space where murders are happening, CLOSE IT DOWN! There are going to be more! Also, in a notoriously litigious country such as the USA, I’d think all it’d take would be some parent suing the summer camp for keeping it open after they knew everyone was in mortal danger, and people would be paying up millions of dollars and doing some serious time.

The third death is someone getting rather gruesomely stung by a bees nest, and in the aftermath of this we reveal that this camp pretty much employs one decent Guido-type, one decent woman and a ton of psychopaths. If you were a lazy antisocial idiot, would you go and work at a summer camp? At the same time, Angela has got herself a little boyfriend, a scrawny type who seems nice enough, until he sneaks up on her and does the “hands over the eyes, guess who?” thing for the second time. Now, I’m no bleeding heart, but if there’s just been a murder, you’d have to be some massive bell-end to sneak up on an emotionally traumatised young girl.

This triggers a flashback, which is when the creepiness of the film kicks into high gear and we enter the endgame. It appears that Dad and his business partner were actually gay! This is shown by the two kids giggling behind a door while the two men lay in bed, staring into each other’s eyes (it’s obvious they didn’t pay the men enough to kiss or even get their heads fairly close together).

The camp owner finally realises, when he only has 25 kids left (it seems some of the parents were sensible enough to come and get their offspring from Camp Murder), that it might be a good time to shut up shop, but not until they’ve done their normal evening’s activities, including a social event in the main hall and a bunch of kids going camping. We reveal that there’s 10 counsellors still there, which seems like over-employment for the 25. But anyway! The bitchiest of the remaining counsellors gets stabbed through a wall, left in the shower she was in for about an hour, then falls out conveniently when someone goes looking for her. I’ve often wondered about those corpses that stay upright for extended periods of time…well, of course I haven’t, this film is just stupid.

Kids are dropping like flies now. Four of the camping kids are butchered in their sleeping bags, and for those people who’ve been living on another planet and don’t understand how human drama works, the killer is revealed. It’s Angela! But, there’s a twist in this…tale…we get another flashback, to the newly orphaned Angela going to live with her Aunt…the woman, upset at her husband being dead and / or gay (I’m not sure which one was which’s father, to be honest), wants no truck with men, and ANGELA IS ACTUALLY A LITTLE BOY!!!! The woman decides to raise Angela as a girl…I didn’t see that one coming, so kudos to you, movie. She’s found at the dockside, screaming demonically, naked, covered in blood, with her face superimposed on a teenage boy’s body. Yikes!

A girl with something extra

There’s an extra bonus for us all, though, the unbelievably creepy end credits music. A gentleman by the name of Frankie Vinci was employed to write some songs for this movie, and one of them is now being played. Because I think you might not believe me, here’s a link to the actual lyrics of this song:

Knowing the sort of girl Angela actually is, and given the fact “she” is maybe 14 or 15, what do you think of this adult man singing lines like

“You’re just what I’ve been looking for
No other boy can love you more
You’re the only girl I adore
You’re just what I’ve been looking for”


Well, I’ll still give this film a hearty recommendation. It’s bonkers, doesn’t slow down enough to be boring, and is well worth a watch, given it’s free. Enjoy!

Sleepaway Camp on IMDB
Buy Sleepaway Camp Trilogy [1983] [DVD]


5 thoughts on “Youtube Film Club: Sleepaway Camp (1983)

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