So you thought your kids were safe at summer camp?
Sleepaway Camp is one of the most outrageous films in horror history, but you could miss the taboos and the depth if you blinked at the wrong moment or didn't feel like rewatching it. This production would be nothing more than your average slasher if the cast was much older than their respective character; a rule of thumb in dealing with sensitive puberty matter in the genre.
Writer and director Robert Hiltzik’s antagonist, whose identity and motivations we ignore, is only shown through close ups of hands and feet during murders. Adults and teenagers alike are killed violently, and this is where shock value resides. The second crucial reason this film engraves memory is in the details, but culminate into a reveal that makes the audience reconsider what was shown prior.
Because Sleepaway Camp looks cheap, has bad dialog and weak but natural performances, and since it is shot with accessible technology, it at first feels like nothing more than a subversive amateur film. When layers stack, though, it becomes its own beast. The subjects of pedophilia and rape are addressed with more or less tact, but it’s nothing that can’t be forgiven by the time the credits roll.