Thursday, December 3, 2015

New Yorkers Go Wild-Get Killed: "Sleepaway Camp"

Let's get it out in the open right away. Angela (played by Felissa Rose) is actually a dude. You should already know it by now, but if not, pay attention to the following image, which is the final scene in the entire film:

That's right--it's a dong. You see, Angela, who spends most of the film as a shy and quiet loner, is actually one of the two survivors of a horrible motor boat accident (no, not that kind of motor boating) who was raised to be a little girl. After her father's death, Angela and her sister are sent to live with their crazy Aunt Martha (played by Desiree Gould, who's strong features help her to resemble a man in drag), who constantly harps about always wanting a girl. Given that a Dario Argento-esque flashback reveals that Angela's father (played by Dan Tursi) was gay, Aunt Martha's appearance and Angela's gender-bending creates a narrative circle of complete homosexual decadence. Or at least that's the goal. Frankly, I'm surprised that Sleepaway Camp, which has become a cult classic ever since its 1983 release was widely overlooked due to the sheer volume of other slasher films released that year, hasn't been politically gutted by websites like Gawker or Jezebel. 

To be fair, Sleepaway Camp has plenty of heterosexual ghouls, too. None is more disgusting than the cook Artie (played by Owen Hughes). A fat, slovenly pedophile, Artie not only openly muses about deflowering the prepubescent virgins of Camp Arawak, but even attempts to sexually assault the young boy-girl in the pantry. Artie gets some serious comeuppance when a pair of unknown hands dunk Artie's face into a pot full of boiling water. 

Next up in the creepshow is Mel Costic (Mike Kellin), the penny-pinching and cigar-chomping owner who tries to cover-up the camp's many murders, all the while he's secretly shacking up with Meg (played by Katherine Kamhi), a teenaged counselor. Meg is no treat herself, either. Along side chief "mean girl" Judy (played by Karen Fields), Meg helps to make Angela's time at camp a living hell. The pair of girls not only pick on Angela, but they go out of their way to humiliate her. No worries; Sleepaway Camp guarantees that all those who mess with Angela wind up dead from decidedly unnatural causes. 

Because of this, Mel begins to suspect Ricky (played by Jonathan Tiersten), Angela's protective cousin. When not playing baseball with other New Yawk guidos or torturing the four-eyed Mozart (played Willy Kuskin), Ricky verbally and physically defends Angela against all of her detractors. Even though most of Angela's harassers end up dead, Mel, who isn't anti-Angela, but is certainly anti-Ricky, still manages to beat Ricky within an inch of his life before his own demise.  

I'm going to assume that by now you know the score. The killer is Angela. Not only does Angela kill to avenge herself, but she kills to make sure that no one knows that she is actually a he. That's why she decapitates Paul (played by Christopher Collet), Ricky's friend who makes the poor choice to fall for Angela. Despite a heavy petting session with the conniving Judy, Angela still takes Paul back only so that she can later kill him once he suggests skinny dipping.

At this point, Angela may sound justified. Okay, okay. Only "justified" in the horror movie sense. In the real world, bullying shouldn't be a crime punishable by death. That said, not all of Angela's kills are so easy to digest. In particular, Angela acquires an ax by killing off a whole slew of completely innocent children during a night out under the stars. In a movie that tries to make Angela out to be a victim too, this crime just doesn't compute. 

This isn't the only weird moment in Sleepaway Camp. Right before Judy is raped and killed with a curling iron, we see in the doorway the hazy outline of...Ricky. But, isn't Angela the killer? Well, a figure behind Ricky certainly looks like Angela. Wait a minute--at the time of Judy's killing, Ricky was being pummeled by Mel. How would that work? 

Whatever, dude. Such inconsistencies are part of the charm. Sleepaway Camp is a garish Goosebumps cover come to life. In fact, didn't Goosebumps see a lot of camp-themed books? Hey, whadd'ya know? 

Look, if you want trash culture with plenty of interesting kills, then Sleepaway Camp should be your bag. This movie bleeds '80s, which is why you should watch it. Oh, and that ending scene is truly horrifying. I really didn't spoil anything for you. 

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