Summer camp has a history in the world of horror for manifesting a setting where outdoor activities, teen fornication and slaughter ensues. With the infamous Camp Crystal Lake in the "Friday the 13th" series being, hands down, the most prominent, writer/director Robert Hiltzik put his own memorable spin on making a film apprehending suspense in a summer camp nightmare.
Sleepaway Camp (1983) opens with an unfortunate boating accident killing Angela’s (Felissa Rose) father and brother, although the actors in this segment don’t seem too concerned compared to the impact of the tragedy. Jump ahead eight years and Angela is living with her odd, yet extremely annoying, aunt and protective coun Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten). It’s off to Camp Arawak they go for the summer, and scarred from her misfortune, an introverted Angela has a hard time fitting in with the other campers just giving them a blank, awkward stare even as she’s spoken to.
Soon enough, terrible things begin to happen to one staff or camper after another around Arawak. Funny how only those who had given Angela a “hard time” are the ones to kick the bucket list. Artie, the head chef of the camp who radiates clear gns of a pedophile that nobody seems to comprehend, is the film’s first unlucky departure as he is scolded with boiling hot water all over his body (check out that pot that barrels down on him, I’ve never seen one so big!). He well deserved it I must add.
As Hiltzik’s film debut, as well as having only been involved in the Sleepaway series throughout his career, he creates a moderate amount of suspense throughout, although it’s not difficult to identify the perpetrator in this one. But there are a few decent slaughters, including a knife down the vertebral column through the shower wall, an arrow through the trachea of the camp counselor, and a swarm of bees attacking one camper who only wanted some privacy while in the can. The effects department also did an above average job, the finest being the body of a camper who had been killed by drowning as he is found underneath a canoe as the lifeguard stumbles upon him.
If you haven’t seen this initial installment of the Sleepaway franchise, I will not spoil the concluon but all I can say is the twist involving the film’s protagonist (or antagonist depending on your own perspective) will most likely bring about one of those “What?!?” moments. Although the series had mainly moderate success, it’s the finale that will forever be its trademark.