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I guess I just like liking things

A few weeks ago I promised I’d try to track down the last in the “Sleepaway Camp” movies. I made a promise and I’ve kept it – this week we’re watching “Sleepaway Camp IV: The Survivor.” Production for this movie started in 1992 and around half an hour of movie was made, but then all the money went away and it sat in a box (or possibly on a shelf) until completion in 2012.

Under a full moon, Angela (the murdery person from the earlier movies) staggers out to a car. She’s chased down by a girl with an axe, and all of this footage is actually from a previous Sleepaway Camp movie. The girl picks up something and stabs Angela multiple times in the belly before another member of camp staff comes to drag her away. Angela lays dying in the leaves on the ground. An ambulance is now carrying Angela to hospital, but she comes to and stabs the paramedics with a syringe before stealing the ambulance and driving off.

More repeat footage from earlier films is tinted blue and used as the backdrop for a scrolling text in the form of psychiatrist notes. Allison Kramer is having nightmares and selective amnesia, so the doctor tells her she’s probably been involved with the sleepaway camp stuff. The doctor has arranged for Allison to visit the site of the sleepaway camp to try and recover her memories. Why the doctor automatically decided she was a sleepaway camp person I don’t know, perhaps that was the only module he attended at college. “But who is Allison really?” the notes conclude. I sigh and say “Oh, probably Angela” and my dog looks at me like I’m crazy. Judgmental animal.

The opening credits have been made in Windows Movie Maker, but at least they’ve changed the font from the default. Allison is sitting on the dock in a bikini, looking incredibly uncomfortable. A voice over which sounds like the actress was way too far away from the mike says “I remember a day like today, when Angela stalked these grounds.” Allison looks at a tent which is sitting on top of a cliff, and was, according to the tinny voice over, the scene of a gruesome attack. We’re back to the repeat clips, this time of one of the camp owners rolling around with a simpering staff member. Why the tent is still there X years later so Allison can gaze at it moodily I don’t know. Anyway, Angela unzips the tent and does some murdering, beating the pair to death with a tiny branch.

Another shot of Allison on the dock now, looking thoughtful. The voice over is stilted and still tinny, but Allison wants us to know that Angela was a freak. Why she’s brought a bikini to what amounts to a therapy session I don’t know. I feel there’s going to be a lot of unanswered questions. This new footage lasts about 20 seconds before the picture fades into more repeat footage. This time it’s from the first movie, where Angela’s crazy Aunt is dressing up her nephew in girls clothes to create Angela.

Angela (Felissa Rose)

Angela (Felissa Rose)

More bikini, more stilted voice over. About 7 seconds this time, before another clip from the first movie, with more crazy Aunt sending Angela off to her very first sleepaway camp. A shot of Allison again just long enough to have her think “I remember that day” and then back to movie one, with the buses arriving at camp. Crowds of kids are running down from the buses and Ricky (Angela’s cousin) is greeting his friends from last year while Angela looks scared and sad. Ricky’s friend tells him one of the girls has grown a decent pair of breasts, which means a quick shot of Allison doing a little bikini based shimmy before we’re back to movie one, with Angela in her cabin. One of the girls is giving Angela a hard time and wanting to know why Angela never showers with the other girls. The cabin leader tells this girl to shut her face (my words).

The next clip is from one of the other movies, the second one I think. A bunch of campers are camping out in the woods and the local policeman who is leading the group is discussing Angela with them. This clips leads into another one with Angela performing a happy little speech for the campers in the rec hall, which is intercut with shots of Angela from the first movie. Keep up will you? This footage looks like it was dubbed from an aging VHS tape, and for all I know it was.

The next part is a jumbled pile of clips from the first three movies, people discussing how weird Angela is, Angela murdering a camp owner with a lawnmower, one of the camp staff making a move on young Angela, the discovery of the lawnmowered woman’s headless body, Angela comforting another girl who found the body, a rolling head in the dark, Angela keeping a bunch of campers hostage in her cabin. None of it makes sense, it’s not like it’s edited together to tell a story, it’s just bits of other movies crammed together. It ends when Angela is confronting the policeman from earlier, and he asks her how he’ll die. As he runs through the options, clips of her other murders are edited in. This is a big messy jumble. She shoots the cop.

Another nanosecond of new footage and it’s back to flashback, this time from movie two. A bunch of campers around a campfire telling spooky stories. Of course the story is about Camp Arawak, the place where Angela first did some murdering. “A bunch of little kids were hatched to death” says one camper, but I think she means “hatcheted.” If you were wondering, yes they do now edit that clip in. This consists of a shot of some kids sleeping in the woods, a shot of a hatchet and then the camp leader guy finding the sleeping bags all chopped up, because not one of those kids woke up apparently. “And a girl got stabbed while taking a shower!” says the camper and oh look, here’s the clip just in case you didn’t believe her.

“One of the cooks got boiled in some water”… and clip. They haven’t bothered to do anything with the music, which is a bit jarring. The dramatic music from the murder clips just stops suddenly as the footage is spliced with the campfire clips. I’ve said footage and clips too many times already. Speaking of, here’s the bit where the original camp owner gets shot in the neck with an arrow. Just as the camper is finishing up the story, Angela arrives to take her back to the cabin. The girl finishes her story, telling the other campers about how Angela was really a boy and they found him on the beach holding the head of another camper. Clip from the first movie now, showing the bit just before the bit the girl just described.

In the woods, Angela and the girl have an argument because Angela (who was a bit obsessive about how wonderful camp is) threatens to send the girl home for breaking the rules. The girl is not apologetic, so Angela murders her with a branch to the face. The next morning the rest of the cabin notice that the girl is gone, and Angela explains she had to send the girl home for being bad.

Back to Allison on the dock. This time she’s actually climbing into the water. Well, she’s standing on the ladder anyway. The voice over now sounds like she’s locked in a fridge. “She was afraid of the water” Allison says, triggering another flash back to the first movie. Angela is sitting on the bleachers beside the lake while one of the older girls is ordering her to swim. Angela doesn’t say or do anything as the older girl gets more and more upset and angry. This clip cuts out before the ending of the scene, and we jump to one of the later movies, where one of the other counselors is asking Angela to go swimming. Despite his impressive mullet, Angela declines and we cut back to movie one, where the boys are having a water balloon fight and Angela is hit with one of the balloons.

Now it’s time for Angela’s revenge on the guy who threw the balloon, and he gets locked into the toilet and has a hornets nest dropped on him. Angela is nothing if not creative. He’s stung to death, of course.

Time for one of the other movies, where Angela is doused from a bucket suspended on the door. The young boys responsible are found propped up outside a window with their throats cut. The counselor who finds them runs to the camp owner to find him dead and slightly chopped up. Hanging from a hook in the office is another staff member, and as the woman turns around Angela grabs her and stabs her in the stomach. First movie again, Angela is sitting on the bleachers while the older girl orders her to swim. One of the counselors comes over, picks Angela up and dumps her in the water, causing her to freak out. Ricky sees this and runs to her aid, leading her away from the docks.

Oh look, it’s Allison looking thoughtful again. There’s an extreme close up of some guy in a hat, and the music gets all over excited. A life jacket is floating empty on the lake, and here’s Guy In A Hat again. I’ve been craving some original footage, but now I see I wasn’t missing anything. Besides, it’s only 30 seconds or so before we’re back to flashbacks.

Angela (Pamela Springsteen)

Angela (Pamela Springsteen)

One of the campers is going to give Angela a scare by dressing up as Freddy Krueger. Angela is asleep, and dreaming of her Aunt which makes for a flash back within a flashback. I have a headache. Angela then dreams of the boating accident that killed her sister and left her, when she was a he, before the Aunt thing. This wakes her up. The Freddy Krueger camper meets up with a guy dressed like Jason Voorhees. Freddy has dropped his glove, but Freddy has to go somewhere. You know who has the glove? Angela has the glove and she slashes Freddy’s throat with it. Jason is looking for Freddy, but meets Mike Meyers, which is Angela wearing Freddy’s face. She has a chainsaw, and Jason gets chased and sliced up.

Allison has found some clothes and is standing on a cliff top looking sad. For 3 seconds. Then we’re back to the flashbacks, this time it’s the body of a boy Angela drowned being found and carried away by paramedics. This is from the first movie, and the original camp owner is trying to explain away the boy’s death as an accident to protect the camp’s reputation. He’s not that worried about what appears to be all the campers watching the corpse being loaded into the ambulance. Letters home this week should be interesting. There’s a nanosecond shot of young Angela, then we’re on to movie three where a bunch of surly teens are standing around waiting to be interviewed for the news. Angela is disguised as one of these teens. There is no reason at all for this clip to be used at this point.

Anyway, another clip, different movie, Angela listening to the camp owner talking about how there’s no good kids left. Angela promises to weed out the bad kids. “That is what she did” thinks Allison, who’s on a cliff top still. Oh we’re back to older movies again. Was the actress playing Allison payed per full minute of screen time or something? We haven’t had a full minute of her in a while.

Here’s Angela strangling a camper and hiding her body. She’s disturbed by another camper, who gets stabbed (gently). Quick jump to Angela in her little cabin in the woods with a bunch of people tied up. She explains to one of the counselors that she’s had a ton of treatment and is completely cured, but he’s too busy crying to listen because he knows he’s about to be made dead. He’s right, the next shot is his head crammed into a TV.

Allison gazes down at the lake from her cliff top. This is just to hide the cut between old footage. We go to the start of the third movie, where Angela murders a girl who is on her way to camp in order to go in her place. You’d do the same. This is intercut with the boat accident for no reason. Angela chases the girl down an alley in a Mack truck, which is a pretty impressive way to kill anyone. Even more impressive is there’s no other traffic on the roads. Another quick shot of Allison and it’s back to movie three, with Angela arriving at camp and being talked to by Morgan Fairchild (no, really. She was the interviewer in the later bit, which was shown earlier). Morgan asks Angela to help her find some coke, so Angela goes to find her some white powder which will kill her because Angela is moral. Morgan pulls over to snort the “coke” and collapses. Angela had given her cleaning powder.

To the rec hall now, with the campers all singing along to Angela’s jaunty camping themed song. For ten seconds. Then Angela in the woods with a camper who gets murdered with an axe. Back to the song. Cut to another murder. This time Angela is leading another camper on a blindfolded trust exercise. Finding out that the girl takes drugs, she goes ahead with the murder, hoisting the girl up a flag pole and then letting her drop. The song again, then a murder with a firecracker shoved up someone’s nose.  Angela sneaks up on a guy in a tent who has a boombox and throws a tape at him. It’s a terrible rap about how the kid is about to die, and while he’s listening to it, Angela collapses the tent and then beats him to death with a branch before hammering tent pegs into him.

Now there’s another jumble of clips. Angela meeting her cabin leader, a girl with leeches all over her face, Angela confronting a bratty girl in the woods and then stabbing her in the back before forcing her into a latrine. The bullying older girl is knocked out and murdered via hair straightener insertion (leaving the details to your imagination). Angela finding a couple of stoner girls in the woods and tying them to a grill.  Angela is talking to a girl in a car and demanding her apology for poor behaviour. The girl refuses to apologise, so Angela drills her to death with a drill.

Angela (Carrie Chambers)

Angela (Carrie Chambers)

Allison again, the tinny far off voice over says “I have to get out of here before I go crazy.” She decides to go and see the ranger, and they make out? They make out. Woodenly. Why are they making out? What is going on here? As they kiss, there’s a clip of young Angela with her first boyfriend. Angela decides she can’t have sex with the ranger and runs from the cabin shouting “No!” The ranger rushes after her, putting on his hat and sunglasses (it’s guy in a hat from before) and the music gets incredibly 90s all over the place. He chases Allison through the woods. The shots of Allison running are intercut with shots of Angela running. The ranger catches her and because she ran away from him he’s all angry and threatening. They roll around on the ground a bit before Allison gets away.

A hunter is walking around looking for things to shoot at (unconvincingly). He sees a movement and runs toward it. It’s Allison. Once he sees it’s a person, he keeps the gun pointing at her to accuse her of being crazy for being in the woods. Dude, drop the gun. Allison explains that the ranger is chasing her, and seeing a woman in obvious distress the hunter shouts at her furiously that there’s no ranger in the area. Finally he lowers the gun and they chuckle. “The ranger is chasing me” says Allison again.

There’s a high pitched panicked version of the voice over as Allison keeps on keeping on through the woods. This consists of shakey cam footage of trees and a bunch of short clips of people being murdered. There’s a shot of Movie Three Angela taking a gun out of her belt, and then Allison has the gun and is holding it against the ranger’s throat. She doesn’t kill him, just tells him to go away. Then she finds the hunter and holds the gun to his cheek. “You’re gunna help me” she says. There’s a gun shot.

Allison is standing beside a tree, clutching a knife and wearing a black bikini top (she packed quite a lot of clothes for this one day at camp). There’s a shot from the first movie, of Angela being discovered as the murderer, then a bunch of fast cuts to other random bits of the older movies. As the sun glints off her knife, the ranger creeps up from behind and the screen turns red.

Dang. I was hoping for “credits” but there’s more old footage to look at yet, this time tinted blue. It’s Angela’s old cabin in the woods, and now there’s new bodies in it. The ranger and I guess the hunter (hard to tell, he’s had his head skinned). Oh my gosh, Allison was Angela all along! Credits (hooray).

I sort of get what they were trying to do. Having a random woman with no identity who turns out to be the killer from previous movies could have worked quite well, if only it wasn’t done so terribly. For one thing, there were only three new cast members in this movie, and they were all dreadful. “Allison” couldn’t even sit on a dock and make it look convincing, so I don’t know why they expected her to actually say lines.

The massive twist they were going for wasn’t twisty. Who else but Angela would remember all these things that happened to Angela? With every single clip from Angela’s point of view, or involving Angela in some way, there’s no one else Allison could have been.

Now, the clips. What a lot of clips! I enjoyed the first three Sleepaway Camp movies, I honestly did. They were ridiculous but very good fun. Chopping them up into what were apparently random bits and slipping a clip from movie one into a clip from movie three, using random bits of footage that didn’t seem to have a bearing on anything and cutting long scenes up into short clips meant that the original sense of the movies – the fun of them – was lost. Also lost were any overtones of tension or increasing madness on the part of Angela.

Any story or great performance from the first three movies was basically smacked with a hammer until it was literally random bits of old footage smooshed together. There was no story. There wasn’t anything but endless clips. I said at the start there’s supposed to be half an hour or so of original footage, but I would be very surprised if it was that much. Of what there was, the production quality was shocking. The voice over was, as I may have mentioned, tinny and distant. The clips from the other movies were not even matched in volume. Loud, then soft, then loud, then soft… maddening.

Where the gun came from at the end I don’t know. She remembered it and it became real? If that works, I have to spend more time thinking about the time I ate some really good chocolate. If she’d had it all along, why was she running? She could have shot the ranger in the foot and wandered out casually.  Although why she was even making out with him is still a mystery. Angela wasn’t into sex and certainly not casual sex – it was one of the things she murdered people for, as punishment for their actions.

Instead of watching this, seek out the original three movies. Watch those in order instead. It’s a lot more fun, will give you an actual story to think about and if you really feel you’re missing out you can imagine a wooden woman in a pink bikini every seven minutes. Same experience, basically.


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