Some things you cannot unsee and the ending of this film is one of them. It is not so much the reveal that is frightening, and yes this is a horror film, it is the guttural cry/scream that accompanies it that really drives the horror home and leaves that lasting impression. If it were not for the sound effects, the ending of this film might not have made as much an impact as it did, memorable yes, but it definitely would have lost a bit of its edge. Out of every slasher before or since, the ending of this particular picture will shock you more than any other because it is so unexpected.
As it is, the film starts off with a tragic accident which then segues into two teens arriving at summer camp where the bulk of the movie takes place. From there you can predict a lot of what happens with the usual bullies, pranks and so on until the killing eventually starts. There is no order to the killings and no pattern and people start to leave the camp in droves for fear of being the next person on the chopping block. Even though it is pretty easy to guess who the murderer is, nobody else in the camp can figure it out until it is finally too late.
There were a lot of deaths in the film, most of them fairly tame as far as killings in a slasher movie go, with the shower scene probably being the best onscreen death of the bunch. You would think that the murdering of multiple teenagers would be the most disturbing thing to see in this film and yet, you would be sadly mistaken. There is one thing that really stands out, more so than any of the dead bodies that start to pile up and that is the head chef who talks about having sex with the younger kids, which hands down, was the most frightening of things. How he went undiscovered at the camp without anybody turning him in, especially with all the comments he made around his co-workers, sends chills down the spine. You have to know that it was probably unintentional on the filmmakers part, but the pedophilic tendencies of the chef was scarier than anything else they managed to dream up.
Overall, the film would have been pretty average if not for its shocking conclusion and as such, Sleepaway Camp has become a classic of the genre and if you happen to be a fan of slashers, this is a definite must-see. Due to its success, the movie spawned a number of sequels which never managed to live up to the original simply for the fact that there was no way they could ever top the first film’s ending. Though it is not always the case, for the most part, the first film in a series is usually the best.