It's not very often a movie truly surprises me, but that's exactly what I got out of Robert Hiltzik's Sleepaway Camp. As I sat down in bed and pressed play on the movie I had no idea what I was getting myself in for, none whatsoever. Having now seen the movie I am sure that I intentionally skipped any discussion of Sleepaway Camp in any number of "biggest surprise twists" countdowns (and there are many of them out there) so as to not spoil it for myself, but it's strange for me to have almost no knowledge whatsoever of a movie and I had forgotten all about any possibility of a big surprise twist that nobody would see coming.
All I knew of this slasher movie from the 1980s heyday was a few throwaway bits at My New Plaid Pants involving the deliciously bitchy "Judy", played here by one-time-only actress Karen Fields - I thankfully don't remember reading or had forgotten all about what was written in this spoiler-happy entry from 2007 - so as I sat and watched with nary a thought in my mind that within 80 minutes of enjoyable shlocky '80s fun that I would experience what is probably the greatest final scene that I have ever witnessed in a movie.
Sleepaway Camp is the exact kind of 1980s horror movie that I love. American traditions (in this case summer camp) always seem to figure and they actually had this thing called sunlight and had such an overwhelming sense of fun that the scary scenes are actually scarier because of it. Watching a horror movie today is akin to having one's eyes repeatedly poked with barbecue skewers, but this is the kind that I like to sit back and watch because I know I'm not going to feel contempt for everything on this planet once the credits role.
As a horror movie it is very routine and the cliches are racked up like bowling pins, but that's all part of the fun. Everyone is introduced, slowly they all start dying by the hand of a mysterious killer and then in a culmination of events the killer is revealed and we all continue on our merry way. However, Sleepaway Camp has a trick up its sleeve as everyone who has been fortunate enough to see it is aware of. The trick I will not spoil, but it has to be experienced to be believed. You can't just watch it on YouTube, chuckle to yourself and go about your business, it's something that must be experienced after 80 minutes of build up, red herrings and suspicion. It's one of those moments where I literally burst out screaming during, yelling "OH MY GOD!" at my screen. I then had to rewatch and this time yelled out "WHAT THE FUCK?" A third rewatch of the scene was met with mere silence. There's really not much more to say about it other than it's shocking and took me completely by surprise and I bloody loved it! Greatest ending ever!
All hail Sleepaway Camp (and Judy)!