With Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp hitting Netflix today, everyone’s got summer camp on their mind. And while WAHS’s Camp Firewood is the place to go for the best 80’s nostalgia (not to mention counsellors that look older than your parents), what say we take a look at some cinematic (and one televisual) camps with notable traits of their own?
I think it’s safe to say that if a camp has been given the nickname “Camp Blood” and has a legacy of death that not only spreads out to areas far beyond its campground borders, but also transcends time (stretching from the late 1950’s to 400 years in the future), well then, it must be pretty deadly. Camp Crystal Lake, (first seen in 1980’s Friday the 13th) the perennial stalking grounds of Jason Voorhees, the hockey-masked menace with a machete and serious mommy issues easily earns this distinction.
Revenge-killer Cropsy is quick and deadly with the garden shears o’ doom he uses to decimate the hapless campers of Camp Stonewater in The Burning (1981).
Lost River Camp, which finds enrollment drop steeply when experimental flesh-eaters are released into upstream waters in Piranha (1978).
For teens with the acting bug, theatre camps are great alternative to traditional summer camps. And Camp Ovation from Camp (2003), doesn’t just offer a “let’s put on a show” fun-time experience for kids. Oh, no. Camp Ovation requires a non-stop work ethic as it drives its campers to mount full-form musicals and plays every two weeks. While the experience does bring its campers some genuine tender moments as well as some enjoyable musical numbers, it also piles on enough back-stabbing, bitchiness, delicious diva turns, manipulation and misguided affection to make this a Showgirls for the younger set, with cabins and mosquitos standing in for casinos and bright lights.
While the troupe at Center Stage Camp from Stage Fright (2014) only mount one production over the course of the summer, you have to cut them some slack, since they have to do so while also avoiding death at the hands of a masked maniac determined to stop the show. Now might be a good time to call in your understudy…
Worst Camps (tie)
At Kamp Krusty from The Simpsons (Season 4 Episode 1). Bart, Lisa, Milhouse and the rest of Springfield’s young’ins are in high spirits as they set off for “The Krustiest Place on Earth” – Kamp Krusty. Endorsed and supposedly run by the worst tv clown/personality/spokesperson ever, the kids quickly realize that Kamp Krusty is not all its kracked up to be.
Nestled on the shore of Big Snake Lake at the foot of Mt. Avalanche, Kamp Krusty is nothing less than Hell on Earth for our little Springfielders. Krusty himself is MIA, the school bullies are the camp counsellors, the arts and crafts class is a front for a sweat shop and everything from the canoes to the bleachers are deathtraps just waiting to maim or murder anyone who dares uses them. After a summer of enduring deathmarch hikes, Krusty Brand Imitation Gruel and empty promises, the kids finally get Krusty to appear at his own camp – by rebelling Lord-of-the-Flies style and torching the place to the ground.
Things don’t seem much better over at Camp Arawak from 1983’s Sleepaway Camp. The camp, which appears to imagine itself more of a low-rent, delinquent country club has hands-down the worst figures of authority ever. And it apparently has no age restrictions, since the campers seem to range in age from 6 to 36. And when campers and staff alike start turning up dead from mysterious “accidents” it just seems another box got ticked off on Camp Arawak’s checklist for How To Be The Worst Camp Ever.
And here’s a quick rundown of that checklist:
- Cook who attempts to molest campers – CHECK
- Counsellors who berate and physically abuse campers – CHECK
- Complete lack of supervision allowing campers to: have water balloon fights on the roofs of cabins, have sexytimes in a darkened cabin alone (followed by DEATH), and go out to the lake at night for skinny dipping (multiple times, followed by multiple deaths) – CHECK, CHECK and CHECK
- Counsellor who leaves four of his younger campers alone, sleeping in the woods (where they all get axe-murdered) – CHECK
- Camp Owner who tries to cover up Camp Arawak’s every-increasing body count – CHECK
- Camp Owner who then beats a camper into a bloody mess – CHECK
- A generation of young viewers traumatized by the final scene – CHECK
So that’s just a brief little rundown of some notable celluoid camps – definitely a topic that could be revisited and expanded some day. But until then, lets end on a bright note with…
Most Out-Of-This-World Camp
SpaceCamp (1984) …duh