Kids just aren’t as scared of summer camp as they used to be. Maybe it’s because they aren’t even going away to summer camp unless forced to by the state.
Still, the nostalgia of summer camp is enough to help us begin our Summer Camp Slasher Series, a tribute to horror movies featuring campers, camp counselors, and the maniacs who murder them.
We continue this summer horror series than with Summer Camp Nightmare.
Movie: Summer Camp Nightmare (1987)
Plot: After having their summer camp experience diluted into Christian sermons on TV and butterfly hunts, the kids revolt against their counselors and turn their camp experience into a suburban Lord of the Flies.
Killer: Teenage hormones. Yeah, this really isn’t a summer camp slasher movie, but it deserves to be recognized.
Scene of Awesomeness: John Mason (played by Tom Fridley) is carried away by a mob of girls. The catch is, he raped one of them, so this definitely isn’t the beginning of a summer camp sex fantasy.
Scene of Ridiculousness: Chris Wade (played by Harold Pruett) flips Runk the Punk (played by Stuart Rogers) straight down the canyon that the broken bridge was built over. Later, he’s helped out by police with barely a scratch.
Body Count: 2
1 knife to the stomach
1 hanging ( Awesomely Overkill Award, by default)
Actors/Actresses of Note: There are a lot of seemingly familiar faces in Summer Camp Nightmare. The kiddie military dictator Franklin is Charlie Stratton, whose other famous cult roles included the starring character Paul Watterman in Munchies, and an episode of 21 Jump Street. Mr. Warren is played by Chuck Connors, who has had quite a career in old westerns. Tom Fridley, aka the rapist, had a hunting knife shoved through the side of his head in Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives. Samantha Newark, aka the girl that was raped, is the voice of Jem, the front-woman of the band Jem and the Holograms in the cartoon series, Jem.
Quote: “Free Chris Wade.” -Franklin Reilly
Summer Camp Nightmare was one of those movies that I always seemed to catch at the exact moment that Mr. Warren is stabbed in the stomach when I was a kid watching cable television. Watching it now, I think I love it even more. The movie works as a parallel to Lord of the Flies, which happens to be my favorite book. The twist is, Franklin (played by Charlie Stratton) sees his camper revolution as a sort of sociology experiment. If you look at the film this way, it comes off as a much better film than if you look at it as a horror movie.
While Franklin may be dubbed as the leader, we see that mob rule is still the standard for the campers, especially when rapist John Mason is carried off to be executed. Franklin doesn’t have any control over the kids. He is merely giving them what they want (anarchy and freedom) in return for unconscious silence (if they betray him, they betray their freedom). This idea is what makes the film plausible, relevant, and a hidden gem in the film archives.