31 Days of Horror - Sleepaway Camp (1983)

After surviving her father's tragic death as a child, young Angela (Felissa Rose) has grown up to be a shy, almost mute girl. Her first summer away at camp with her cousin Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten) seems like it will produce a normal coming of age camp story, but it instead produces a horror story when anyone who crosses Angela begins to be brutally murdered. But it can't be quiet, boring Angela, right?

There are some fun, gory deaths here and there in this film (though it would have been kinda cool to actually see the girl get fucked to death by the hot curling iron), and the effects are pretty solid. The '80s seemed to have the most imaginative gore effects, so although this elevates the film somewhat it still doesn't impress me enough to give this film certified grade A "classic" status. I mean, aside from some deaths, the film is a slog to get through. It feels like watching a weak Bad News Bears ripoff since like an hour of it is kids imaginatively cussing at each other and giving each other the finger. And the ending...

Okay, here's where I stop pretending you don't know how this one ends. So, if you haven't seen this film, somehow have managed to avoid any reference to the twist ending, and are spoiler-averse then you might want to skip on to the next post. In fact, I think the only reason this film is considered a horror classic is because of its crazy final shot.

Yes, Angela is the killer and she has a penis. In this post-Caitlyn world we live in it's especially disturbing to imagine that an entire horror film was fashioned around a trans girl who is so unable to deal with her transness that she goes on a murderous rampage. The only saving grace to this awful transphobic bullshit is the notion that Angela was assigned her gender by her aunt when she was adopted. So, like... despite being one of the only genuine trans characters of the 20th century her gender transition is forced upon her. This detail doesn't completely reverse how fucked the film is, but it definitely creates room for discussion on Angela's transness.

I was super afraid of how transphobic the reveal would be at the end, but it was actually pretty quick and then the credits rolled. Again, the implication of the ending by default is pretty transphobic, but the most concerning thing to me was a brief flashback included midway through the film showing a young Angela/Peter watching her father in bed with another man. The flashback then cuts to a bit later when she (still a little boy at this point) and her sister begin experimenting in bed. So, seeing gay stuff confuses children??? Really??? Ugh, come on, '80s film.

Sigh...

I get it. It was the '80s.

Trans and gay people were probably as terrifying to people back then as Freddy Krueger on stilts.
 

5.5/10 stars.