Pack your bag, say goodbye to Mom and Dad because it’s camp time. The annual tradition of camping has come to the Faculty of Horror and Andrea and Alex set off into the wilds to talk about nature, madmen/women and the politics of adolescence.
Sleepaway Camp. Dir. Robert Hiltzik. 1983. [Blu-ray/DVD]
Friday the 13th. Dir. Sean S. Cunningham. 1980. [DVD]
History of Summer Camps. A brief history of the North American compulsion to camp overnight.
Sleepaway Camp Analysis, a brilliant and well-referenced article on the impact of the film from a soiological perspective.
Horror Movies as Modern Day Morality Tales. An analytical look at some of the most popular slashers and what they have to teach us about life (and horrible, grisly death).
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Sleep Away Camp has to be one of the more fascinated films of the 80’s slasher. I don’t know if it was just less then stellar writing or if it was intentional but the film is just so weird from the sexualization that you brought up to off putting dialogue. The whole thing has an almost surrealist feeling that makes me feel uncomfortable and uneasy but not in a fun scary movie way. It almost feels dirty when I watch it (that may just be the scene with the cook and Angela). It all feels so unsettling. I was lucky enough to have rented this film blind in highschool so the end was unspoiled. It blew me away as a kid and that final still frame had stayed with me ever since.
The White Goddess by Robert Graves has absolutely nothing to do with witchcraft. It it a treatise on writing and the inspiration or the muse behind it. It is a book about writing poetry.
Awesome show girls! Im counting on you two picking up the slack from FDBK and Lance’s departure from our air waves Im a podcast down now.
Sleepaway Camp was a flick that I don’t remember having a huge impact growing up in the UK in fact I only heard about it a few years back on another podcast that shall remain nameless needless to say nothing could have prepared me for how that ending fucked me up i new something strange was happening but dear me when it appears on screen I was traumatised. Love the show ladies cant wait for the next one 🙂
Just watched Sleepaway Camp and listened to the episode. My thoughts are still rather unorganized because of just how thrown off I was by the sheer weirdness of Sleepaway Camp. In the episode you mention that typically, women are expected to be quieter, but by pushing that quietness to the extreme, Angela ends up inciting a real level of anger from some of the fellow campers/counselors. While I completely agree with this assessment (and I certainly do not believe Angela was just introverted), I was a very quiet girl growing up, and I think, in a society that is quite extroverted (especially in a more closed environment like that of camp), introversion is often treated as something to be fixed. Setting aside all the murder (which was very unsettling in its own right), so much of this movie seemed to be about how people react to someone who is different in a way that is not very socially acceptable. It was definitely uncomfortable to watch.
Finally made it to this one. Spoilery comment ahead.
I’d say, though, for both Jame Gum of Silence of the Lambs and Angela, we don’t actually know their gender identity because the characters themselves don’t confirm this. Lecter speculates that Jame is not trans while making an overtly transphobic statement. “Billy hates his own identity, you see, and he thinks that makes him a transsexual. But his pathology is a thousand times more savage and more terrifying.”
With Angela, we see that Peter was forced to live as a girl, but we do not know how they identify–where that’s as a boy, girl, or nonbinary. We do see in the sequel that Angela is living as a woman and is a camp counselor. Viewed together, I would say that Angela is a trans woman, but viewed separately, it’s unclear.
All of that said, both films treat the issue of characters with non-cis gender identities or expressions in transphobic ways, with Gum’s scene with the makeup and wig made out as horrifying (not just because the wig is a scalp…) and pathological, and, as you mentioned, with the reveal of Angela’s penis/the flashback as the final moment of horror, which is located in being the murderer, but in Angela’s body itself.
It reminds me of the “panic defense” laws we’re working to overturn in the US–basically that when someone murders a trans or queer person under the pretense that the murderer panicked, the murderers are legally justified in committing a hate crime because they are afraid of queer folks. One interpretation could be that Paul attacked Angela in “panic defense” and Angela killed Paul in actual self defense. Or, more likely, Angela’s body is supposed to be the lurid cherry on top of the campy slasher film cake. It’s complicated, but it does contain transphobic elements regardless of supposed intent.
Finally, “transgender” and “cisgender” are the current terminology. Lecter, through Thomas Harris, obviously, was using “transsexual” as it was used in the 80s and 90s, but it’s fallen out of fashion. For the current terminology, this is a good guide: http://transequality.org/Resources/TransTerminology_2014.pdf
Sorry for the long comment, and I hope this interpretation from the queer/nonbinary side of horror film fans and analysis is helpful.
Thanks very much for the comment Leah. I think that’s a very important perspective to keep in mind for those films. The scene with Jame performing for the camera and audience taking on the view point of the camera always scared me because by that point in the film we understand how dangerous Jame is. I get similarly scared with a scene like one from The Woman in Black where the camera zooms in on her. But I think you made excellent points for both SotL and Sleepaway Camp that should be considered when examining them.
The Friday the 13th video game is so amazing. Once in my early 20’s, I barricaded myself in my room with beer and junk food for several weeks until I finally beat it. Pro-tip, if you stand in a stationary place killing zombies, you’ll eventually get a machete. Ignore the whole thing about lighting the fireplaces. Getting a machete with each character should be your first order of business.
But the torches are so much more effective than machetes! My current strategy is to park Debbie by the lake to handle Jason attacking campers, and then use Mark and Chrissy to whip around the map lighting fireplaces and arming the weaker campers (I’m looking at you, George) with torches. I can survive night 1 now, but that’s as far as I can get. You beat all 3 nights?? I am impress.
Night 3 is just punishingly hard, as you might imagine. But it can be done. I think the game aptly captures the tone of the movies in that you know that, by every traditional measure, it is not good. This is by no means a masterpiece, even by primitive 8-bit standards. But it’s so *fun*. And it can be legitimately jump-scary, especially when played alone at night, and especially when he attacks you on the trails. And, like the movies, it’s got a pretty nice score.
Anyway, I found out about the podcast a few days ago and I’m absolutely digging it. Keep up the good work!
The score from the cabin interiors is currently my ringtone! And thanks for the kind words, stoked to have another new listener!
I really enjoyed your analyses of these movies (F13 is one of my all-time favorite franchises, and Sleepaway Camp is, obviously, a classic).
There’s just one thing that really bothers me, and it has to do with Sleepaway Camp: there’s a point (about 49:10) where Andrea suggests that Angela/Peter is driven to violence because her forced gender identity caused her to feel denied of “privilege” and instead be stuck with “all this shit.”
Frankly, the “privilege” angle seems a bit contrived. There’s no point in Sleepaway Camp where being male is presented as unusually pleasant. The boys, just like the girls, fight with each other physically and verbally. Neither gender “option” really seems too great — they’re really just too different shitty sides to the same coin
I thought that Angela/Peter’s turmoil was clearly a product of being born and raised a boy, losing his family, and being relegated to the guardianship of a crazy person who insisted that he suddenly be a girl.
It’s not a matter of privilege lost (what preteen sees gender like that anyway?), but the loss of a basic sense of self. If a born-and-raised girl suddenly had to be a boy, would she not also sense a loss of self as well? Losing family is life-altering; being forced to live as someone you aren’t is life-altering; combine the too, and privilege is the last thing from your mind. You just want to watch the fucking Transformers.
*two. Twice. I am embarrassed.
[…] great many years, which means I knew the ending which was what put me off into watching it. However the Faculty of Horror podcast episode on the film and Friday the 13th made me decide to give it a […]
I recently discovered the podcast and immediately checked out the episodes on Halloween/Black Christmas and Friday the 13t/Sleepaway Camp. I very much enjoyed your analysis of the films, and wanted to add my two cents.
1. You’re absolutely right when you say Black Christmas is superior to Halloween. I enjoy Halloween more than the two of you did, but mostly because the film is so expertly shot, lighted and staged (the soundtrack also really does wonders for the movie, and the ending is great).
But I agree the characters are largely one-note stereotypes in Halloween, while the sorority sisters of Black Christmas are intelligent, profane, hilarious and complex. Black Christmas is also the much more suspenseful film: Those phone calls might have started out as pranks, but they become unbearable in their intensity by the end. I started dreading the ringing of that phone. And the “quiet” ending of Black Christmas, which just the ringing of the phone in the not-so empty house, was terribly frightening.
2. Having said that, the best film of the four is Friday the 13th! I know, I know, it’s not much of a thriller, but it’s so much fun, especially compared to Halloween, which is too concerned with being chilling (and cold) to be especially entertaining.
I love Friday the 13th — the main characters are fleshed out just enough to be interesting and engaging, the atmosphere is very spooky, the odd-ball secondary characters are great (Crazy Ralph, sweet but doomed counselor Annie, Officer Dorf and Sandy the waitress are very entertaining) and Betsy Palmer as Mrs. Voorhees is so over-the-top fantastic she still blows my mind). As horror films go, Friday doesn’t hold a candle to Black Christmas and won’t chill you like Halloween, but if you approach it as a roller-coaster type thrill ride rather than serious horror, you’ll find you love it.
3. Sleepaway Camp? Really? Oh, how I hated this movie. It was disturbing on so many levels — the pedophilia, the grisly deaths, the full-frontal twist ending, and particularly that many of the killer’s victims were just kids. There was a scene towards the end where Angela kills three kids in their sleeping bags. Random child murder is way too much bad taste, even for a Friday the 13th slasher ripoff.
Also, did you feel like the film was a bit misogynist? The way Angela rapes/kills the mean girl with the curling iron is really shocking, and seemed driven by some serious hated of women. I could be reading too much into it, but I came away from the film feeling like I’d touched something dirty.
Anyway, great work on the podcast. I’d be interested in your take on the original “The Last House on the Left.”