- Posted by Carl Lyon
- On July 2, 2015
- 0 Comments
Here at CONtv we know that there are so many areas of fandom and so few hours in the day. In order to help you decide if a specific genre, sub-genre, artist, or hobby is worth the investment of your time, we present CONtv 101. A series of “introductory level courses”,CONtv 101 is NOT your typical “best of” list. The purpose of each course is to provide you with a strong, basic understanding of each topic through a carefully selected syllabus.
Course Description: Summer camp was a rite of passage from decades gone by, an annual ritual for children to interact, learn, and grow with their peers in the great outdoors. You could play sports, learn to swim, tell spooky stories around the campfire, and all in all just have a wonderful experience that you could share with your classmates when you returned in the fall.
These innocent times proved to be more than suitable for horror, however, as the seedy underbelly of the summer camp experience could be amplified to terrifying effect: the awkward coming-of-age of pubescent kids would make them targets for killers, and their isolation would make it near impossible to be saved from their fates.
For this special summer course, we will be examining four examples of this subgenre. A final essay will be required that compares and contrasts the “rulebook” of each film’s killer, as well as the statistical probability of each film’s victims based on those rules.
Friday the 13th
When most people think of summer camp slashers, Friday the 13th is the first that comes to mind. It bears all of the qualifications of the subgenre: an isolated campground, a gaggle of irresponsible teens, and a (nubile) body count, all a result of the drowning of a young Jason Voorhees. The series sported 4 solid installments before going off the rails with copycat killers, reanimation, telekinetic teens, and an urban transplant. Then the franchise got bought by New Line Cinema, who then took it even further with parasitic worms and spacebound cyborgs. Seriously.
The recommended film for the course is Friday the 13th Part III for the introduction of Jason’s iconic hockey mask, as well as some ill-advised 3D effects that were experiencing a mini-resurgence in the 1980’s. Cocaine is a hell of a drug.
Almost as well-known for starring a young Jason Alexander (whose hairline makes him look like he’s 40 in the film), The Burning once again hits all of the subgenre marks in its dead-simple plot. The killer this time is Cropsy, a caretaker who gets horribly burned in a “prank” played on him by the campers. After years of hospitalization, he decides that being forced to look like the inside of a s’more isn’t the life he wanted, so he claims bloody revenge on the kids that burned him.
While not the most notorious or appreciated film on this course, it bears special mention that it was one of the first films ever produced by Miramax, and it also featured makeup effects by the infamous Tom Savini.
Sleepaway Camp opens up as a cautionary tale about responsible boating, with a family torn apart (literally) by a runaway motorboat. Flash forward 8 years, and the survivor, Angela, is attending Camp Arawak with her cousin Roger. Arawak, unfortunately, is pretty much par for the course: raging hormones, undertones of pedophilia, and mysterious murders.
Sleepaway Camp is required viewing for its almost oppressive level of discomfort the whole way through, with squeamish sexuality, hazing pranks, and a twist ending that still shocks to this day.
This mostly-forgotten 1982 entry earns its place in the course for an attempt at originality: tying its story into the urban legend of “Cropsey,” which put it at odds with The Burning. Cropsey became the more generic axe murderer Madman Marz, who hunts down campers and counselors alike (including Dawn of the Dead’s Gaylen Ross) after they vandalize his cabin.
Madman is mostly relevant for its pre-production woes, which saw not only the Cropsey element excised, but the original subtitle “The Legend Lives” also being dropped to avoid conflict with a Frank Sinatra tour. Even Gaylen Ross went under the inexplicable pseudonym of Alex Dubin. What could have been a landmark film, but instead became a lost victim of oversaturation.