Sleepaway Camp (1983)

Thirty-seven years ago today, the film Sleepaway Camp premiered. This is gloriously 80s slasher cult classic, a so-bad-its-good film that will seriously fuck you up the first time you see it. There have been three sequels made with possibly another one and maybe a documentary in the works. I do feel a bit silly announcing a *SPOILER ALERT* on a film so old, but if you haven’t seen it and plan on seeing it, do not read the description below. Skip right to the second embedded video. It’s the entire film. You’re welcome and I’m sorry.

Directed by: Robert Hiltzik
Produced by: Jerry Silva, Michele Tatosian
Written by: Robert Hiltzik
Starring: Felissa Rose, Katherine Kamhi, Paul DeAngelo, Mike Kellin
Music by: Edward Bilous
Cinematography: Benjamin Davis, David M. Walsh
Edited by: Ron Kalish, Ralph Rosenblum, Sharyn L. Ross
Production company: American Eagle Films
Distributed by: United Film Distribution Company
Release date: November 18, 1983
Running time: 85 minutes
Budget: $350,000
Box office: $11 million

In 1975, John Baker and his partner Lenny take John’s children Angela and Peter on a boating trip near Camp Arawak. Angela and Peter prank their father by capsizing their boat. They attempt to swim ashore where Lenny is waiting for them. However, Mary Anna, a counselor at the camp, recklessly strikes John and one of the children with her speedboat, killing them both.

Eight years later in 1983, Angela lives with her eccentric aunt, Dr. Martha Thomas, and Thomas’ son, Ricky. Angela is sent to Camp Arawak for the first time, along with Ricky, who has attended the camp previously. Due to Angela’s introverted nature, she is constantly ridiculed and bullied, mostly by her bunkmate Judy, and their counselor Meg. Angela’s other counselor Susie and the camp’s head counselor Ronnie do what they can to help.

The cook, Artie, attempts to molest Angela, but Ricky catches him, and Ricky and Angela run out. Later, an unseen figure causes Artie to knock over a pot of boiling water and scald himself. Camp owner Mel Costic deems Artie’s incident accidental.

When campers Kenny and Mike mock Angela, Ricky and his friend Paul fight them. Paul befriends Angela. When Kenny drowns, his death is ruled accidental at Mel’s insistence, although Ronnie and police officer Frank express doubt. Paul asks Angela to attend a film with him. After campers Billy and Mike throw water balloons at Angela, Billy is stung to death when someone traps him in a bathroom stall and drops a hive in it. Mel suspects a killer is in the camp.

Angela and Paul’s relationship grows strained when Paul kisses her. Angela has a flashback to when she and her sibling witnessed their father in bed with Lenny. Angela recoils from Paul’s advances and runs away. Judy seduces Paul, and Angela finds them kissing. Paul attempts to explain himself to Angela at the lake, but is shooed away by Judy and Meg, who throw Angela into the water. After Ricky rescues Angela, children fling sand at them. Ricky comforts Angela and swears revenge on her aggressors.

Meg is stabbed to death in the shower while getting ready to meet with Mel. At the camp social, Paul apologizes to Angela and she asks him to meet her at the waterfront later. Mel finds Meg’s body and is convinced that Ricky is the killer. The children who threw sand at Angela and Ricky camp in the woods with their counselor Eddie. Two of them ask him to take them back to the camp. He returns to find the four remaining children hacked to death with his hatchet. Back at the camp, the killer enters Judy’s cabin and murders her, inserting a hot curling iron into her vagina while smothering her with a pillow. The camp is thrown into a panic. Thinking Ricky is the killer, Mel beats him mercilessly, only to be shot in the throat with an arrow by the real killer.

Frank is called and searches with the counselors for the missing campers. Paul is at the beach with Angela, who suggests they go skinny dipping. Frank discovers Ricky unconscious but alive. Ronnie and Susie find Angela sitting on the beach and humming, with Paul, whose head appears to be resting on her lap as she strokes his hair. They are shocked when Angela jumps to her feet holding a hunting knife, dropping Paul’s severed head. They discover that she is not only the killer, but that she is a man.

It is revealed in a flashback that Angela died in the accident and Peter survived. After his Aunt Martha gained custody of him, she raised Peter as the girl she always wanted, already having a son, with Peter taking Angela’s name in her memory. Shocked, Ronnie exclaims, “How can it be? My God, she’s a boy!” as the nude and blood-covered Peter/Angela stands before the horrified Susie and Ronnie, while letting out an animalistic growling sound.

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