Photo-Illustration: by Vulture; Photos courtesy of the studios
Summer camp is a time to canoe on crystal clear lakes, share bunk beds on a night out, even hear an urban legend or two by the fire. These experiences – awkward, intoxicating, vulnerable – can make the time spent memorable for any child. These are also all the hallmarks of the summer camp horror movie. Rogue killers stalk happy campers, promiscuous teenagers end prematurely in showers, and overbearing mothers come out to play for those who don’t play nice. The new movie They they (pronounced “they-slash-them”) plays with these time-honoured genre tropes, even bringing Friday 13 star Kevin Bacon back in the fold. A group of LGBTQ+ teenagers sent to a conversion camp each discover heavy psychological torment (from the sinister counselors) and witness gruesome murders (from an unknown assailant) before the s’mores even reach fire. After camping with these queer teens, revisit the summer camp horror stars worth putting down the canoe paddle.
Before Bacon terrorized gay teenagers in a conversion camp, he featured as a camper in the original fireside slasher, Friday 13. The story begins in 1957, when a young boy named Jason drowns at Camp Crystal Lake. Decades later, a group of counselors find themselves stalked by a hidden presence as they attempt to reopen the camp – and also get into mischief with each other. Soon, knives are brandished and guts are spilled as an elusive figure slaughters each happy camper one by one. Then, a mysterious woman (Betsy Palmer) shows up after the rampage…and it all starts to make sense. There’s a real menacing, unnerving energy to this entry, compounded by the film’s shots from the killer’s point of view and its clever stylistic nods to psychology (oh, my dear mother). Add some voyeurism around teen sex and a nasty sex change, and Friday serves up a completely original and invigorating camp slasher.
Sequels often satisfy fans first and foremost by attracting new viewers, and the follow-up to Friday 13 is a case in point. What’s next is a deeper investigation into the warped psychology of our rogue murderer, Jason (Warrington Gillette), reshaping the script for true franchise potential (now with 11 iterations to boot). The camp counselors-in-training return to a camp not far from the infamous Camp Crystal Lake and find themselves curious about the grounds where teenagers were brutally murdered years ago. This keen interest causes the seemingly sleepy Jason to begin showing this new team of dumb, fresh-faced teenagers that he means business, setting off a rampage that leaves few unscathed. While Jason has yet to don the iconic hockey mask, his unmasked and grotesque face proves all the more despicable and sinister without it. Mrs. Voorhees (Palmer) makes a quiet comeback, as Part 2 examines how this singular summer camp remains a source of maniacal obsession and territorial protection for our villain.
Combustion is another classic made during the height of the ’80s summer camp horror wave. game to get revenge on any young camper having fun in the sun. A set of garden shears become his weapon of choice, as he begins to hack and prune these sex-crazed, lonely campers. Starring a young Jason Alexander and Holly Hunter, there’s a final massacre on a makeshift raft that delivers big scares. Unlike other similar movies, Combustion looks forward to showing us much more aggressive gore, with endless close-ups of the burnt villain Cropsy, bloody wounds, and even punctured abdomens for maximum impact. This play with the abject and mutilated body makes Cropsy a truly terrifying creation – closer to human than many other such imaginings.
Be warned that of all the classic camp slashers, this one may have gathered the most cobwebs since its release. But persist anyway because Mad pays with his heart and guts – pun intended. It is inspired by the urban legend of a killer known as “Madman Marz” (Paul Ehlers), a man who murdered his entire family before being lynched by the townspeople. Marz somehow escapes the vice and promises to bring anarchy to anyone who troubles him again. A new group of teenage counselors arrive at nearby campgrounds and are warned by their lead guide not to upset urban legend Marz. Of course, they don’t bother to heed the warning, quickly launching into sex and other debauchery while shouting his name. Marz hears the calls, grabs his ax, and steps out of his secluded home to even the score. The sinister shots of the snarling killer with heavy footsteps swinging his heavy weapon can inspire great dread and underline quality cinema. With a staccato synth score and a visual penchant for bloody knives, Mad is a satisfying foray where heads roll heavily to those who invite danger and go into the woods alone.
First of all, know that overnight camp remains a deeply polarizing entry into the summer camp canon for his blatant transphobia. While some queer critics have sought to condemn the film, others have found queer and redeeming pleasures in it. As a young girl, Angela (Felissa Rose) witnesses the tragic deaths of her father and brother in a freak boating accident near a summer camp. Some eight years later, Angela returns to a nearby campsite to spend firefly season with her cousin, Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten). But the ruckus begins when a boiling vat, a honeycomb and even a canoe claim unexplained casualties. With exaggerated male and female archetypes (which some call offensive, others say campy), Sleep takes liberties with its treatment of gender roles to make unique commentary on the pains of coming of age. A divisive horror entry that continues to draw a strong cult following decades later, watch out for the seriously twisted ending – it’s truly unlike anything else.
This one puts the camp in the horror of the camp – and just know that the most shocking parts of Stage fright are his musical numbers. Teenager Camilla (Allie MacDonald) is heading to a theater camp for musical teenagers, years after her mother (a surprisingly chosen Minnie Driver) was murdered backstage at a production of The haunting of the opera. Camilla is vying for the same role in Haunted whom her mother first made famous for seemingly finishing what she never could. Did I mention this is a staged kabuki version? Before the rehearsal curtain even rises, a menacing figure begins to lurk behind the scenes, cutting and dicing as they go and using whatever props are available to maim and murder the actors. a spectacle. Meat Loaf also figures oddly in this outrageous musical bloodbath. If you hate musicals, you’ll be in good company with the killer who refuses to let this camp show go on. This Friday 13 meets musical high school the marriage – which also defies the gender logic of the two – is a musical-cum-horror-cum-comedy killer that leaves plenty of carnage on and off stage in its wake.
Changing tracks completely, this postmodern comedy mixes the nostalgic horror complex of summer camps past with a tongue-in-cheek modern sensibility. Max (Taissa Farmiga) is the daughter of former Scream Queen Nancy (Malin Akerman), an actress who made a name for herself in the cult classic, Camp Bloodbath. After the sudden death of his mother, Max finds himself plunged back into the fantasy of this cult film when a fire suddenly destroys the cinema during a screening of it. This shift to a parallel horror universe challenges Max to rescue his mother “Nancy” – and the character’s on-screen virtue – to ensure Nancy becomes Bloodbathis the “last daughter”. As we all know, anyone with sexual inclinations is at risk of dying in the slasher genre. The final girls uses clever irony and meta-game to riff with its viewers, where knowledge of the summertime horror subgenre truly becomes the only way out safely from this endless camp time loop – for mother and the girl. Even if you think you know the camp’s horror cues, the characters knowingly flip the tropes and give audiences unexpected (and fun) gory endings.
In the same spirit as The final girls, street of fear: Second part — 1978 goes beyond a typical slasher story and instead tries to revamp the usual summer camp horror flick with anxieties about supernatural and wizarding paranoia. This second part of street of fear The franchise returns to 1978 to follow two sisters, Cindy and Ziggy Berman (Emily Rudd and Sadie Sink), stuck at the cursed Camp Nightwing. Children from opposite sides of town – the poor kids of Shadyside and the wealthy kids of Sunnyvale – all gather there to spend their summer. As class strife erupts at the site, an axe-wielding maniac arrives, picking off the campers one by one. Let’s also not forget that a witch cast a spell on Shadyside and turned all its inhabitants into murderers. Second part isn’t a straight-forward revival of camp slashers, but rather an elevated mix of horror-movie anxieties, like sinister sorcery and rogue apathetic killers. For those who only saw the stilts first street of fear entry, the second redeems the series with its thoughtful take on ancient curses with bloody camp murders.