review for Sleepaway Camp on AllMovie

Sleepaway Camp (1983)
by Fred Beldin review

This unique entry into the slasher canon of the early '80s was the result of director Robert Hiltzik's graduate school work; he wrote the script as his senior thesis. While most of the gender-bending story's sexual confusion is ultimately half-baked, the plot twists are like sharp smacks in the face when compared to the tedium of a hundred other Friday the 13th rip-offs. Combined with imaginative murders, some realistic touches from the preteen cast (who curse up a blue streak and treat their peers with a true-to-life cruelty), and plenty of guffaw-worthy dialogue, Sleepaway Camp offers an enjoyably creepy ride into revenge-slaying territory. The famous shock ending might be evident early on to some viewers, but it still packs a wallop, if only of the "I can't believe what I'm seeing!" variety. Director Hiltzik does an admirably professional job in this, his only film to date. (Though a number of sequels followed Sleepaway Camp, he was involved with none of them.) Apparently, this was the only story he felt compelled to tell, and it sure is a weird one. While still a basic slasher film at its core, Sleepaway Camp is distinctive enough to warrant required viewing for genre enthusiasts.