Ed. note– We interrupt our OMEN coverage with Chadworth’s piece on a very hot topic. Summer hit a week back, and Chad takes a look at some fine examples of summer camp slashers. Please be aware that he includes SPOILERS, something we usually shy away from at DE, but they were necessary in this piece. Enjoy the scorching hot weather, and if you’re out in the woods, try to avoid the machetes!– P.F.
Ahhh…it’s summer! All those months filled with cold weather can now be forgotten! Sadly, the next few months will be filled with barbecues, mosquito bites, and humid air! But why bother with that stuff? Do what I do. Grab a burger off the grill, crank up the AC, forget about those mosquitoes and pop in a great movie! And luckily for you there are quite a few horror movies that are based in the summer. So I thought now would be a great time to take a look!
Now, when it comes to “summer time fun,” nothing beats going to summer camp. And of course when it comes to summer camp related horror, one movie stands above the rest…
In 1981, Sean S. Cunningham took us to camp on FRIDAY THE 13TH. Now, if you know anything about horror you know that this the legendary horror series that revolves around Jason Voorhees, the boy who drowned at Camp Crystal Lake while his counselors were more interested in getting naughty. Years later, Jason’s mother decided to take matters in her own hands and the rest is history! 9 sequels, a remake, a crossover film with Freddy and even a TV series (which had little to absolutely nothing to do with Jason), it’s been proven that FRIDAY THE 13TH is a cornerstone franchise in horror movies. I guess his mother was right “you know what your gift is… no matter what they do to you, you can’t die, you can never die.” And with merchandising out the wazoo, you never have to leave home to go to camp! In fact when you plop down to watch your favorite massacre by the man behind the mask, you can now cuddle up with a Jason doll! I could go on and on about the merchandising, but I don’t have enough space.
The point is simple: Jason is a phenom. And why not! He’s one of the most popular killers and attractions to ever hit the movie screen. And allow me to ask you something…how many kids dress as Jason and proudly wear the hockey mask every year at Halloween? Case closed. You don’t turn a $550,000 investment and slash your way to almost 1 billion dollars total without doing something right! Whether you or I like him or not, Jason is going to be around for a loooooong time.
Now, I’ve long said that I can’t stand Friday the 13th and how I’ve always considered Freddy Krueger the far more superior slasher. But the fact is, you can never deny the impact Jason and his momma have made on horror. To some people Jason IS horror. And while I argue that point, I still see where they stand. As much as I love Freddy, they love Jason…and that’s a key to horror movies! Variety.
Now, we leave Camp Crystal Lake and head over to another camp on the map… Camp North Pines. Sadly, this camp is a real nightmare…
1987 gave us the much forgotten gem SUMMER CAMP NIGHTMARE! And it’s actually one of my favorite under-rated movies from the 1980s. I originally picked it up for 25 cents at a video store that was having a closing sale and eventually picked up a copy from my friend Sean of VHS Preservation Society. This movie often gets slapped as a Lord of the Flies ripoff but honestly, it’s a lot better. The cast is headed up by the vastly talented Chuck Connors as he plays the good-minded Mr. Warren who has overtaken the camp with his strong Christian beliefs that the campers could use the good morals. Some campers grow very tired of his pushy ways and decided to push back. And so led by Franklin, played by Charlie Stratton, they decide to lead a revolution and a mutiny as they run the camp on their terms…but maybe their terms come with a price…
Officially, this movie has never seen the light of DVD. The sad fact is this movie never was accepted or even liked by a lot. Yes, it has garnered a small cult following, but I highly doubt it will ever see an official Blu-Ray release…
A fun piece of trivia: lead camp counselor, John Mason was played by Tom Fridley, Cort in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES! I guess, some people just love going to camp, eh?
Finally, we find our way at the end of our journey. We find ourselves going to one killer camp…it’s time to stay the night at SLEEPAWAY CAMP!
My personal favorite of the three films I’ve discussed so far, SLEEPAWAY CAMP tells the story of young, quiet Angela, who is not too popular much like her cousin Ricky (played by Johnathan Tiersten). After she’s sent to camp by her dear Aunt Martha (my favorite character of the series, played by the fantastic Desiree Gould) she’s picked on almost immediately targeted by the more outspoken and popular girls. Some girls, such as the evil brat of the camp Judy, do everything they can to pick on her and find ways to humiliate her. But…after the body count starts piling up, fingers point to her cousin Ricky. It’s only after we find Angela’s TRUE surprise, do they know what they were dealing with!
Now, here’s where things get weird. The first Angela was played by a young Felissa Rose and Angela then appeared in the two following sequels played by Pamela Springsteen. The first SLEEPAWAY CAMP was a darker, more serious slasher movie while the two following sequels were more light hearted. In the recent years two websites have emerged, SleepawayCampFilms and SlepawayCampMovies from John Klyza and Jeff Hayes respectively. John’s website devotes itself to the sequels while Jeff’s site devotes itself to the original and the fourth movie.
SLEEPAWAY CAMP has a very odd lineage from it’s original release. In 1990 a fourth movie was planned entitled “The Survivor”. While it began shooting, production ceased very shortly. However, all production footage can be found in the 4-disc SLEEPAWAY CAMP collection, originally released in 2002 by Anchor Bay. And some of the scenes were cut, something else transpired from this release…
Originally released with the Red Cross on the front, this box set was recalled very shortly after complaints from the Red Cross Association, which apparently did not like it’s logo (or something close to it) appearing on a boxed set of horror DVD’s. The box art was then replaced by a similar package with the words “SURVIVAL KIT” on the front cover. Another odd footnote in the history of SLEEPAWAY CAMP. Of course, those who had their original box set, scoffed at it and gladly kept their recalled and quite collectible copies. That includes me, as well!
Just a little under a year another huge even would rock the campgrounds though…
The promised fourth movie entitled RETURN TO SLEEPAWAY CAMP was produced in 2003. Around 2004 and 2005, Jeff Hayes’ site included many stills and even a few soundbites from the movie. And it seemed every year we were promised the release. Which eventually come in 2008, after a 5 year battle concerning legal and production woes. But after all that time, what was delivered was a pretty good effort featuring some of the original characters played by the original actors and new characters played by Steve Schirripa and Issac Hayes, and featuring small cameos by the band CKY as camp counselors. While it was a good film and did make longtime fans very happy about the wait, it also provided plenty of room for rumors of a 5th movie!
While rumors abound of John Klyza putting together the final and full cut of the “Survivor,” even garnering an article in Fangoria, this has yet to be seen. And while the excitement for another SLEEPAWAY CAMP movie would excite, I highly doubt we’ll see it, for many reasons which I won’t get into.
So there you have it…three fine examples of summer time frights! But wait! There’s more to come! A whole line of beach disaster movies… including JAWS and BLOOD BEACH! Join me will you? And don’t forget to bring your sunblock!
–Chad E. Young