In honor of Women In Horror Month, we look back at the 1983 cult classic “Sleepaway Camp” and the genre’s most beloved female slasher.
Sleepaway Camp is a highly adored cult classic. It’s specifically responsible for creating the sub genres most iconic and memorable female slasher. It’s a film that has arguably the best ending of any horror film out there, and once you see it, you definitely won’t forget it. It’s an ending that’s guaranteed to stick with you for as long as you live.
The 1983 slasher film, Sleepaway Camp, is written and directed by Robert Hiltzik. It stars Jonathan Tiersten, Karen Fields, Mike Kellin, Katherine Kamhi, Paul DeAngelo, Christopher Collet and Felissa Rose as Angela Baker. Ricky (Tiersten) and his strangely shy cousin Angela (Rose) are sent to Camp Arawak for the summer, where one by one the campers are slain at the hands of a brutal serial killer.
When it comes to women in horror, there’s none bigger than Felissa Rose as Angela Baker. No female character has left such a hefty and lasting imprint on the genre as the Angel of Death. Sleepaway Camp was so successful, it spawned multiple sequels, even films dated as late as 2018, such as Camp Cold Brook, where Danielle Harris plays Angela.
Women in Horror Month usually brings out and showcases the genres most talented and beloved women working in the business. Normally the majority of the women recognized during WiHM are heroines or “good guys.” But what’s really interesting and worthy of discussion is those women on the opposite side. Those famous for being infamously villainous or “bad guys” as they’re often referred to. Characters like Angela Baker are far more interesting than, say, a Laurie Strode character.
The slasher sub genre could use more female villains, as opposed to the plethora of protagonists. We have enough Ripleys, Alices, Buffys and Lauries. But not enough Pamela Vorhees, Jennifers or Angla Bakers. It’s a lot easier to be a memorable female heroine in a film than it is to take a female serial killer and make them an infamous household name. And Angela Baker is our most infamous female slasher, with the amount of sequels she respectably inspired.
Felissa Rose was originally the first actress to play the character. However, Pamela Springsteen took over in Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers and Sleepaway Camp 3: Teenage Wasteland, making her the only actress to ever play the character more than once.
Angela Baker, aka the Angel of Death, has one of the highest body counts of any female slasher, taking her rightful and well deserved seat amongst the icons in the genre.
The controversial ending to the original film has sparked debate for decades. It’s forever been considered one of the best endings (or worst depending on how you look at it), of all time.
(Warning: Potential plot spoilers in the next paragraph)
It’s honestly one of the most fucked up scenes in all of horror and film in general — which takes even more precedence nowadays, with the current and controversial subject of gender. It fits right into the archetypical stereotypes of today’s standards. It’s stated in the sequel that Angela Baker did undergo a full sex change operation after the events of the first film, to fully become female. That aspect also helped add to an outdated trope — if you have sex in horror films, you die — as Angela was prone to murdering kids who were promiscuous. The original trilogy of films are actually great representations of the times, carrying with them extremely heavy social undertones.
The genre is primed for a slew of new female slashers and villains to hit the books. It’s still a category that’s yet to be exploited and has immeasurable untapped potential. The Sleepaway Camp films are fine examples of slasher films done right. They prove that a female villain lead is feasible and viable, if packaged right. It’s certainly a sub genre deserving of its time and can be a financial cash cow to whomever attacks it first.
The original Sleepaway Camp is an undeniable cult classic with one of the most iconic slashers in horror. The cinematography is just spectacular for its time, and the film is actually rather beautiful. It’s a great fun, and very campy, with an interesting story and some really cool looking gore. There’s also some solid acting and an absolutely awesome, formidable killer.
An indelible piece of cinematic history, the film was ahead of its time in terms of controversy and gender roles. Angela Baker deserves her rightful spot atop the iconic slasher list. There’s yet to be a female character who has stoeln our hearts the way Angela has.
Overall ‘Sleepaway Camp’ is extraordinary — a film in a class all its own. It’s a masterful piece of filmmaking and an unforgettable addition into the genre. It’s controversial by nature and extremely brutal. It has arguably the craziest ending in all of film, and holds its own amongst films like the original 1974′ Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ and 1980 ‘Friday the 13th’. It’s a damaging, excite filled slasher film that has without a doubt left its mark.
If you’ve haven’t seen this film yet, prepare yourself. It’s one of those classic 80’s slasher films at the peak of its game. It’s a must have for slasher junkies and a film worth high praise and recognition.