Yeah, stabbing a shoe makes complete sense
The term “cult classic” is given to many horror movies, perhaps more than any other genre of film. It's important to remember that just because a movie is a cult classic, that doesn't mean that it is classic. It's cult for a reason. Sometimes it's because the movie is obscure or too strange or eccentric for the mainstream. Other times it's because the movie is utterly terrible and people like to laugh at it. Then there are those few films that gain cult status due to one or two memorable scenes. These scenes are so shocking that just uttering the name of the movie will cause be to go, “Oh, that's the movie where...”. Sleepaway Camp is one of those movies.
Sleepaway Camp is a 1983 slasher horror movie starring Felissa Rose (Return To Sleepaway Camp, Satan's Playground) as Angela Baker. Angela's father and brother Peter, were killed in a boating accident and she was sent to live with her eccentric aunt and cousin, Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten, Return To Sleepaway Camp, The Perfect House). After the accident, Angela has become introverted and rarely speaks. Ricky and Angela are sent to Camp Arawak for the summer. Due to her shy nature, Angela is bullied by some of the campers and her counselor, Meg. Ricky tries to protect Angela and actually saves her from the head cook Artie who tries to molest her. While Artie is boiling water, and unseen person knocks him off a chair, sending boiling water all over his body. The teasing continues and Ricky, along with his friend Paul, get into a fight with some other boys. Angela begins to open up to Paul and a relationship slowly starts to build between the two. Meg continues to torment Angela, asking why she refuses to shower with the other girls and why she never goes swimming. At the same time, the body count beings to rise around camp, although they all appear to be accidents. Mel, who runs the camp, suspects that it's Ricky behind all the “accidents” and is determined to catch him. Who is really behind the murders and is Angela really who she says she is?
"I left the oven on! My pies will burn!"
This movie came out during the slasher heyday of the early 1980's, but it's general concept was nothing new. By 1983, we already had multiple “youth at a camp” slashers including the far-more popular Friday The 13th, The Burning, and Madman. I will give Sleepaway Camp credit in focusing more on the actual campers than the counselors, which does make the killings more disturbing. This would have been a great chance for the movie to really separate itself from the “camp site” slasher pack, but unfortunately, nothing of real interest occurs. It's not that the movie directly ripped-off previous slashers, it's just kind of lazy. The kills are actually creative and fun to watch, but when Sleepaway Camp focuses on anything else, the movie comes to a grinding halt. We get that Angela is bullied, we don't need to see it for an hour. Her relationship with Paul is barely-there and just serves to get to the shock ending. The acting is pretty bad and some of the character's motivations are questionable.
Now, I normally don't like to give away major twists, but I feel it's necessary to discuss in order to properly review the movie. While most know what it is, if you've never seen Sleepaway Camp, I suggest you skip over this paragraph. Needless to say, SPOILER ALERT. The big twist ending is that Angela is in fact, Peter, who we previously thought was killed in the boating accident. For whatever reason, her aunt decided to raise her as a girl. Other than being nuts, there's no real reason given as to why she did this and why Angela went along with it. I guess we can chalk it up to being traumatized, but come on. While that information is fairly surprising, it's how we learn that Angela is actually a boy: a full-frontal naked shot of a blood-covered Angela, penis and all. To top that all off, the final scene has a naked Angela with an insane look on her face that lasts an unnaturally long time. Seriously, look at that picture below. Keep looking at it for at least 15 seconds. That's the end of the movie which was incredibly unsettling. Weird and pointless, but unsettling. The twist is quite shocking, though it doesn't really add that much to the story itself. Why does Angela go on a killing spree now? Has she killed anyone before? Why bother exposing herself now after hiding for so long? I don't know, I'm probably thinking too much on a movie who's main purpose is to shock the audience by showing a wang.
Welcome back, those of you who wanted to keep the ending a secret. Sleepaway Camp is a fairly mundane slasher film with a real mediocre story. There are a lot of holes in the story and the poor acting is hard to ignore. You're better off watching several other “camp site” horror movies. There are some interesting kills, though the movie lacked the blood and gore that was prevalent in other slashers from the same time. The movie has gained cult status thanks to it's truly shocking ending, having been immortalized in multiple songs and even parodied in the stop-motion show Robot Chicken. Just because something is cult status doesn't mean it's good. There's no real need to see the entire movie since the last 5 minutes are the only interesting and disturbing part.