Friday, May 9, 2014

Revisiting Sleepaway Camp, Angela, and That Scary Stare

Be warned: seeing as this movie is over thirty years old, spoilers abound in this post.

Oh, man, you guys. Sleepaway Camp. As far as schlocky old horror movies go, this is one of my favorites of all time. You can have Friday the 13th; Sleepaway Camp is my pick for best summer camp horror movie ever, because it goes beyond the run of the mill cheesy old slasher. It makes Friday the 13th look like The Exorcist in comparison. Frankly, it’s in a league all its own.

In case you’re unaware, Sleepaway Camp centers on Angela and her cousin Ricky as they head off to – you guessed it – summer camp. Angela’s only character trait is having a blank stare that is sometimes eerily vacant and sometimes just bad child-acting.

Ricky spends 90% of the time ignoring her, and 10% of the time yelling expletives at anyone who’s mean to Angela. He’s kind of a nice cousin, I guess. Anyway, they go to camp and Angela is immediately nearly molested by the camp cook. As it turns out, though, this is the most sexually liberal summer camp ever – another young girl is willingly dating the 70-year-old camp director, for example – so no one cares. Well, one person does… and that person starts killing the bejeezus out of everyone in the most ridiculous, not to mention logically non-fatal, ways possible.

I had the pleasure of watching this piece of cinema greatness the other day with my fiancĂ©, Corey, who had never seen it before. It was brilliant – like watching it with virgin eyes again, reliving all the old questions. Questions like…

Why is Angela’s aunt played by a terrifying drag queen?

At what magical moment in time were crop tops and daisy dukes the go-to ensemble for cool guys and bullies?

Seriously, just soak it in…

The girl with an actual horse’s tail glued to her head is the hottest girl at camp?

Why did this counselor feel the need to spell the name “Meg”?

Why didn’t this guy just not grab the vat of boiling water as he fell the two feet to his not-at-all-inevitable death?
(You did this to yourself, Molesting Cook.)

And since when do bee stings do this, even to people with the most serious of bee allergies?

Is rape-by-lit-curling iron the worst way to die in all of history?
Yes. The answer is yes.

All of that being said, it did strike me that there are a few genuinely frightening moments in this movie – the aforementioned curling iron incident comes to mind. All the sexual subtext (even if it is so blatant that it barely qualifies as “sub”). The big reveal at the end, too (FYI, Angela is actually her brother Peter, who everyone thought was dead); even though it’s bizarre and ridiculous to see Angela’s head suddenly attached to a man’s body (where was she hiding all those muscles under her t-shirt and gym shorts?), her expression and animalistic grunting are unsettling, to say the least. Angela’s gender confusion is, at its root, a disturbing thing, and watching her attempt to navigate a “normal, boy-girl” relationship is compelling.

…But mostly it’s just hilarious. Especially everyone else's reaction, which is literally just, "She's a boy?" and not, "OMG she's a MURDERER holding a decapitated HEAD."

And that's why this is my favorite summer camp movie.

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