Reviewed by Caitlyn Grey
Whoever said summer camp was a fun way to spend their vacation never went to Camp Arawak. In this 1983 cult classic, Angela Barker (Felissa Rose) and cousin Ricky Thomas (Johnathan Tiersten) head to Camp Arawak for the summer. While Ricky attended camp the year prior, this is Angela’s first time attending. It’s later explained that this is the first time Angela has been away from home since a traumatic boating accident as a child that left her father and brother dead. Angela, despite numerous attempts by Ricky, Cabin Leaders, Meg (Katherine Kamhi) and Susie (Susan Glaze), and senior counselor Ronnie (Paul DeAngelo), Angela refused to say or do anything for almost the first week of camp. It wasn’t until Ricky’s friend and cabinmate Paul (Christopher Collet) started talking with her during the first social of the season that Angela opened up. From there, their sudden friendship blossomed into a summer romance. But no relationship can be perfect, as a slew of murders jeopardizes their budding love.
The first murder, Kenny (John E. Dunn), a member of Ricky’s rival cabin, was passed off by camp owner Mel (Mike Kostic) as an accidental drowning. Not too much later, though, Mel and the rest of the campers suspect something terrible is going on when rival leader Billy (Loris Diran) is found dead in his cabin bathroom. Ronnie later explains to Mel that only 25 campers remain after Billy, who was locked into a bathroom stall, had a beehive dropped on him. Unfortunately for the remaining campers, particularly one of Angela’s cabinmates and bully, Judy (Karen Fields), who suffered possibly the worst, most creative death of all time, their summer vacation was anything but paradise. The movie concludes with an ending so raw and unique that everyone should experience it for themselves.
After watching Sleepaway Camp, I feel ashamed in myself for only now just experiencing this for the first time. On the recommendation of James A. Janisse from the YouTube channel Dead Meat, I sat down and buckled up for what I was expecting to be a poorer quality spoof of Friday the 13th. The 80-minute treat that was in store for me was anything but a wannabe version of Jason Voorhees. While there were some cringe-worthy acting moments, especially from Aunt Martha (Desiree Gould), Sleepaway Camp kept my attention right until the credits rolled. The use of first-person and over-the-shoulder kills had me guessing who the killer was until the very last kill. Even if you have no interest in the plot of this film you should give it a watch just for the incredible practical effects courtesy of Edward French. These gruesome effects are top-notch.
In terms of how scary Sleepaway Camp is, I’d say it’s more of a campy horror movie than something that’ll keep you up at night. It’s definitely more of a fun slasher-like movie than a scary one. Overall, I’d give it 0 out of 5 possessed dolls with the exception of the ending. That in itself gets a 5 out of 5 for both shock and scare factor. It wasn’t anything over the top, but I think because it caught me so off guard that it made my eyes water for a second.
Overall, I’d give Sleepaway Camp 3.8 out of 5 stars. If you haven’t already seen it I would highly recommend it. Sleepaway Camp is now one of my favorite summer-themed horror movies, right up there with Jaws and Friday the 13th. It’s a movie that I’ll watch over and over again for sure.
If you want to watch Sleepaway Camp for yourself, it’s available for free with Amazon Prime Video and Tubi TV.
Caitlyn Grey is a horror and suspense author who loves all things creepy. Her first novel, Lost Girls, debuted early this year, with a second novel expected to be released this upcoming fall. As a lover of what most would find obscure, Grey prides herself on her unique and quirky personality. She credits her love for all things horror and paranormal to all of the Stephen King, Wes Craven, and Edgar Allan Poe works she started experiencing at the tender age of eight. While most children her age were playing with friends, she was making up stories of shadow figures appearing at the foot of a child’s bed in the middle of the night. The rest, as the story goes, is history. Now, fifteen years later, Grey has devoted her life to scaring the next generation, as her idols had for her.