For Broadsheet Film Club’s final instalment, program curator Ben Kenny has picked Sleepaway Camp (1983), directed by Robert Hiltzik. This American slasher film from the early ’80s will make you laugh and squirm with disgust.
“Sleepaway Camp’s a horror film that, with age, has inadvertently become a comedy,” says Kenny. “It’s a so-bad-it’s-good sort of film.”
Essentially a Friday the 13th (1980) rip-off, the film follows the (short) lives of teenagers at a summer camp where a serial killer is on the loose.
This gritty, lo-fi horror with odd sexual undertones and early-‘80s fashion (bad hair, slogan T-shirts, Converse and lots of Levi’s) treads the line between humdrum teen film and twisted horror flick.
“It’s such a strange little film,” says Kenny, “made by someone who clearly has never made a film before. I love how all the horror scenes seem like they’re from a better film. There’s an abrupt jump where you’re watching poor acting and a camp comedy and then the horror scenes really pop out. It’s an intriguing disparity.”
It has an exaggerated acting style, an overly theatrical score and well-executed, gruesome special effects. “So much of the film is at volume 11. The performances, the script, the score, the weird bubbling sexuality of the film – it’s all overheated and ridiculous.”
Released at a time when slasher films were at the height of their popularity, Sleepaway Camp was a box-office success in the States. So much so that it spawned a few sequels (although they were spoofs) and has since become a cult classic.
“The similarity between a lot of cult classics is that there’s a certain naivety in the filming. As a result, you’re seeing straight into the filmmaker’s psyche. People respond to that.
“It’s a good fit for Broadsheet Film Club and particularly [this] theatre space. It’s so theatrical and its value lies hugely in a communal experience.
“It’s exciting to see how people react to films I’ve picked. Showing them in such a neat, intimate space that’s played such an integral part in Sydney’s theatre history has been great. It’s been very gratifying.”
The ticket includes a cocktail designed especially for the night and your choice of either popcorn or a choc top.
The Broadsheet Film Club will run on November 30 at QT Hotel. Tickets are available now.