Summer Camp Shakedown

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?

crystallake01Deadliest Camps

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.

Honourable Mentions

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).

Theatre Camps

camp01For 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.

Honourable Mention

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)

kampkrusty01At 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.

sleepaway05Things 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

Not enforcing a dress code for the camp counsellors – 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



Franchise Highs and Lows: Friday the 13th

While there are a number of broad problems with the Friday the 13th franchise (namely the wildly inconsistent continuity/timeline), I thought that in light of today’s date, it would be appropriate to honour a few of the things it did right. But since this is also a day traditionally steeped in bad luck, I feel duty bound to throw some this franchise’s way and point out a few of  its lowlights as well as its highlights – so let’s get to it! (Oh, and I guess there are some minor spoilers ahead…but really,  if you haven’t seen these films by now, then they are probably not that high on your “must-watch” list anyway)


F131980Friday the 13th (1980) – yes, the complete film. If people could view this with a fresh eye and ignore all that has come after it, they might actually find that this ultra low-budget original entry succeeds quite while in creating an atmosphere of dread and creeping suspense before it goes slashing into its final act.

Mrs. Pamela Voorhees – quite simply the deadliest Mother of the Year. Is there anything she wouldn’t do for her son?

That Jump Out Of The Lake – you know what one I’m talking about.


And she was pretty good with a pitchfork, too

Ginny  – the “final girl” of Friday the 13th Part II as portrayed by Amy Steel was smart, responsible, resourceful and a quick thinker. Special props to her life-saving brains vs brawn tactic – using psychology to stop Jason in his tracks by pretending to be his deceased mother.

The Hockey Mask – an inspired choice, the moment when he first put it on (midway through Part III)  Jason Voorhees instantly went from “generic killer” to “recognized icon”.

Tom Savini – the special effects maestro produced some groundbreaking work for the franchise, including Jason’s infamous skull-slide down a machete in The Final Chapter.

Sense of Humour – for the sixth installment, Jason Lives, the filmmakers had tongues firmly planted in cheeks – most apparent in Jason’s opening credits riff on James Bond’s classic walk-and-shoot opening clip from the 007 films (jump to the :30 mark in the clip below).

Kane Hodder  – THE man behind the mask and all-around F13 MVP, with four consecutive turns as  Jason (Parts VI-IX).

Gimmicks (that worked) telekinetic Tina of Part VII-The New Blood (aka “Jason meets Carrie”),  the far-flung future and Crystal Lake holo-decks of Jason X  and the long awaited stand-off with Mr. Elm Street himself in Freddy vs Jason were all inspired attempts to inject something new into franchise.


Gimmicks (that didn’t work) –  the letdowns of the non-existent taking of Manhattan in F138Part VIII – Jason Takes Manhattan (aka “Jason Goes On A Cruise”) and Jason as a body-hopping evil entity in Jason Goes To Hell.

Elephant Man Jason – with a one-eyed sack over his head and sporting a pair of overalls, the Jason from Part II came off more as an inbred hillbilly than a rampaging killer.

Imposter JasonPart V – A New Beginning’s solution to bringing back Jason after his death in The Final Chapter was to just have some random nutjob impersonate Jason. Revealed at the end of the movie, it was the equivalent giving the audience the middle finger.

The MPAA – the Motion Picture Association of America’s ratings board came down hard on the second half of the F13 franchise, and Parts V-VIII were forced to cut away or tone down almost all of their on-screen kills in order to get a R-rating. Nowadays, you’ll find more blood and gore in an episode of CSI than those films were allowed to show to an R-rated audience..

friday-the-13th-2009iiFriday the 13th (2009) – While the return of the franchise was a box-office success and proved there was still an audience eager to visit picturesque Crystal Lake, it ended up being a big missed opportunity that did nothing to elevate the franchise. Equal parts remake, reboot and reimagining, the one thing that wasn’t changed at all was stocking the film with the stereotype characters and tropes that the franchise itself had helped to create and perpetuate. The rich snob, the dumb jock, the party girl, the sweet girl, the potheads, the over-sexed couple – they were all here and all going through the same beats and motions that have been done to death in every F13 film before it. Apart from a few original touches (like Jason’s tunnel system underneath Camp Crystal Lake) the film was mostly just the same old content in a shiny new package.