in Shocktober

Sleepaway Camp (1983)

Today, we head back to camp with the infamous cult favorite Sleepaway Camp. A seemingly typical slasher flick on the surface, Sleepaway Camp features one of the most infamous twists in horror movie history. For years this ending has terrified teenagers, but I have a confession to make. I hate the ending to this film. Now let me explain why.

Sleepaway Camp opens on an idyllic lake where a father and his two children Angela and Peter soak up the sun. Life is hunky dory until a motorboat runs them over. Flash ahead eight years and we learn only Angela has survived and lives with her eccentric aunt and cousin Ricky. Angela and Ricky are sent to a summer camp where Ricky has no problem making friends but Angela struggles due to her shyness. Then for no reason, people get killed. We assume it’s Angela due to the fact that most of the people murdered are people that have been cruel to her. The plot thickens. Despite these murders camp continues–which makes no sense–and Angela falls for a boy named Paul.

The pacing is slow and awkward, which results in lots of unintended laughs. There’s a great deal of focus on insignificant characters and the activities they participate in even though they don’t progress the story. If it weren’t for the slow build of the murder mystery this film would have absolutely no momentum, but maybe I’m looking too deep. Really, the only reason anyone ever talks about this movie is because of the ending. Look to the next paragraph for the BIG SPOILER!

As the police and counselors search the camp for the killer we discover something peculiar. In the final frame, we see Paul’s disembodied head with Angela, who is naked and a dude, with a penis. Oh ma,n they pulled a Crying Game on us! But this was before! If you haven’t pieced it together, Angela is actually Peter. Apparently, her father’s death turned her into a transgender killer… Wait, what? Sure it’s shocking but how does this service the story? Read on to hear me rant.

I get that Sleepaway Camp wanted to deliver a big shocker ending but didn’t they realize their ending made no sense? What is being said here? Is it gender confusion? Let’s start with the scene right before the big reveal. There’s a flashback of Angela/Peter being introduced to her eccentric aunt who insists she’s going to raise her like a girl. Why? I guess she’s just crazy and of course, craziness is contagious. This is confusing because there is very little if any focus on this aunt character’s motivations throughout the film. She literally has two scenes, yet somehow had this severely traumatizing effect on Angela/Peter. Her son Ricky turned out normal, so why is Angela/Peter a murderer? What this film tells me is that “Death of father and sister + crazy aunt who wants girl = Transgender murder.” Had the viewer been given any idea of this aunt’s influence the ending may have made sense. Instead, the ending is a pointless shocker moment. All in all, the film is a dumb slasher with stilted dialogue and unimaginative deaths. Shocking? Yes. Clever? No. This movie is way overrated among the horror community. Nuff Said.

Dude looks like a lady.