It’s summertime at We Who Walk Here, Walk Alone HQ, which means one thing: it’s time for SUMMER CAMP SLASHER MOVIE THUNDERDOME.
Three movies enter; one movie leaves. I will judge Friday the 13th, The Burning, and Sleepaway Camp in several different categories of my choosing and then declare a winner. Like any good slasher, the losers can come back from the dead next year to try to claim the title. Spoilers lie ahead, so proceed at your own risk. Now grab your short-shorts and tube socks, campers…here we go!
CATEGORY: CRAZY LOCAL SOOTHSAYER
Friday the 13th: I love Crazy Ralph, Prophet of Doom. He is the ultimate soothsayer. “You’re goin’ to Camp Blood, ain’tcha? You’ll never come back again. It’s got a death curse.” His weird singsong delivery and the glee with which he utters his ominous proclamations are delightful and unforgettable.
The Burning: Todd’s scary campfire story about Cropsey serves as a portent of sorts, so he fits the category. I love the movie’s ending, where Alfred takes up the mantle of Campfire Soothsayer, but neither one is any match for Crazy Ralph.
Sleepaway Camp: There is nary a soothsayer to be found.
WINNER: Friday the 13th. No one can beat Crazy Ralph.
CATEGORY: MOVIE TITLE
Friday the 13th: Jason was born on June 13th, and the local cops all say that things get especially weird on Friday the 13th. Sounds legit. And the title is a marketing dream: there’s a built-in tradition for marathons and releases. I always watch a movie from the franchise whenever a Friday the 13th rolls around.
The Burning: It sums up Cropsey’s backstory well, but this title just sounds like the name of a video you watch in health class to learn about the importance of using a condom.
Sleepaway Camp: As I’ve mentioned before, this is a nice vague title that intrigues the viewer but gives away nothing about the plot. I’m afraid it’s no match for the classic Friday the 13th, though.
WINNER: Friday the 13th.
Friday the 13th: Harry Manfredini’s score sounds like a combination of Bernard Herrmann’s Psycho strings and John Williams’s iconic Jaws theme, which is a perfect combination for a slasher flick. The “Ki ki ki, ma ma ma” sound is a classic for a reason.
The Burning: I really dig Rick Wakeman’s crazy electronic score, but it doesn’t have quite the same creep factor as Manfredini’s.
Sleepaway Camp: The opening music is incredibly dramatic, but it’s not particularly memorable.
WINNER: Friday the 13th. “Ki ki ki, ma ma ma” deserves its spot in the horror music pantheon.
Friday the 13th: There are some really great kills in this movie, especially Kevin Bacon’s arrow through the throat. Characteristically excellent work from Tom Savini.
The Burning: Savini got even crazier and bloodier in this movie, and God bless him for it. That raft scene is fantastic.
Sleepaway Camp: The credits list Edward French as the person responsible for the “Make-up illusions,” which sounds like an awkward translation from an Italian cosmetics guide. Sorry, Edward, but you’re up against two Tom Savini entries, and that isn’t going to end well for you.
WINNER: The Burning. Why? See below.
CATEGORY: THE DISCOVERING-THE-BODIES SCENE(S)
Friday the 13th: Alice finds a few of the bodies in the standard slasher way — Bill is stuck to a door with arrows, Steve’s body falls down in that weirdly gymnastic way that Bob’s does in Halloween -— but my favorite part is when Brenda’s corpse just comes flying through the window. Mrs. Voorhees (who must do CrossFit or something to get that much air on literal dead weight) has no time for this “wait for Alice to wander around and happen across dead people” business. She speeds things up by throwing bodies right at Alice, and it makes me laugh every time.
The Burning: Michelle swims up to the Raft of the Medusa and finds Tom Savini’s handiwork strewn all over it. The most fun part is the severed arm that starts bobbing along next to her.
Sleepaway Camp: My favorite discovering-the-bodies moment is the final scene, where Nice Lady Counselor and Jacked Jersey Shore Counselor find Angela with Paul’s head in her lap and realize that his head is no longer connected to his body.
WINNER: Friday the 13th. The Burning‘s raft carnage is a strong contender, but that flying corpse is just too funny not to win.
CATEGORY: SURPRISE ENDING
Friday the 13th: The kindly older lady who turns out to be a deranged killer, plus a crazy jump scare at the very end? Classic. Casey from Scream totally deserved to die for not knowing that Pamela Voorhees is the killer in the first movie.
The Burning: I love the ending to this movie, but there isn’t really a twist or surprise here.
Sleepaway Camp: I refuse to spoil this for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. I will say that watching it for the first time with someone who had also never seen it was a lot of fun. We basically just yelled “Holy shit!” at each other for ten minutes.
WINNER: Sleepaway Camp.
CATEGORY: FINAL GIRL
Friday the 13th: Alice is a classic Final Girl – she’s artistic, which is code for intellectual here, and Final Girls are always the smartest ones in the group; she’s chaste, because she plays along with strip Monopoly but only undoes one button on her shirt before the game is over; and she’s constantly telling the other characters that they should call the cops and/or make a run for it, while the soon-to-be victims tell her to relax and stop worrying so much.
The Burning: There are a lot of survivors in this movie, especially for a slasher film. Creepy Alfred is kind of the Final Girl, since he delivers the killing blow (…or does he?) by setting Cropsey on fire.
Sleepaway Camp: This movie is part slasher, part revenge flick — the only people killed are the ones who wrong Angela in some way. She is the killer and the Final Girl, which is pretty interesting.
WINNER: Friday the 13th. Alice is the perfect Final Girl: sweet, smart, and kind, but not afraid to chop off an old lady’s head when shit gets real.
CATEGORY: MOST SATISFYING KILL
Friday the 13th: Annie. She is one of the most annoying horror characters I’ve ever seen. It’s a classic kill, and it doesn’t come a minute too soon.
The Burning: Glazer. He isn’t that bad a guy — he’s kind of a stupid jerk, but what teenage boy isn’t? Still, his death is one of my favorites — the shock of finding a killer with garden shears under the sleeping bag instead of his horny girlfriend is awesome, and I love the effects used for his death.
Sleepaway Camp: Chef Artie. We never get confirmation of death for Chef Artie, but over 50% of his body was covered in boiling water, so I’m going to assume he died in the hospital and count it as a kill. His disgusting comments about the children at the camp and his (thankfully interrupted) assault of Angela make him a “victim” that I was happy to see dispatched.
WINNER: Sleepaway Camp.
Friday the 13th: I haven’t seen every Friday the 13th sequel (I know, I know — I’m a bad horror fan), but I love the ones I have seen in very special ways. For instance, I love Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan due to the fact that Jason most definitely does not take Manhattan. Only a few minutes are actually set in Manhattan; most of the movie takes place on a ship filled with high school seniors sailing to New York for their class trip. As you do.
The Burning: There is no sequel to The Burning, which I respect, especially in such a sequel-happy subgenre.
Sleepaway Camp: There are four sequels, two of which get bonus points for their names: Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers and Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland.
WINNER: Friday the 13th. The numbers don’t lie. With sequels in the double-digits, there can be no other winner. Plus, one of those sequels completely ignores the existence of buses and airplanes. I have to give it up for that level of silliness.
CATEGORY: KATHARINE HEPBURN IMPRESSIONS
Friday the 13th: I am obsessed with Marcie’s Katharine Hepburn impression in this movie, because (A) I love people who can do impressions, (B) I love Katharine Hepburn, and (C) I love random weirdness. Why does she suddenly go into a Katharine Hepburn monologue? It is so strange, and it’s one of my favorite parts of the movie.
The Burning: Zero Katharine Hepburn impressions.
Sleepaway Camp: Zero again. It’s like they weren’t even trying.
WINNER: Friday the 13th.
CATEGORY: GRATUITOUS NUDITY
Friday the 13th: There isn’t really any nudity to speak of in this movie…there is a game of strip Monopoly, but it only gets down to underwear before it is interrupted by a storm.
The Burning: We have a gratuitous (female, of course) shower scene, slow-motion shots of a bra-less girl running, and a lot of camera time for what is quite frankly a thoroughly unimpressive ass.
Sleepaway Camp: The only nudity in this movie is decidedly not gratuitous.
WINNER: The Burning. It’s pretty much expected from slashers, so this year the movie with the most gratuitous nudity wins.
CATEGORY: CRAZY MOTHERS
Friday the 13th: Pamela Voorhees is hands down one of the best crazy moms in horror history.
The Burning: There are plenty of adults in this movie, but no parents. Better luck next time.
Sleepaway Camp: Aunt Martha 4-eva. Pamela Voorhees may speak in her dead son’s voice and murder strangers, but even on her sanest day Aunt Martha can out-crazy Mrs. Voorhees. (Incidentally, I want Desirée Gould to record audiobooks of every novel ever written, in character as Aunt Martha. The way she speaks is absolutely bonkers, and I love it. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Can you imagine?)
WINNER: Sleepaway Camp. Mrs Voorhees beat Aunt Martha on Mother’s Day, but she’s no match for her here.
CATEGORY: CULTURAL IMPACT
Friday the 13th: Everyone knows Jason. They may not know anything about him other than that he wears a hockey mask and carries a machete, but they know who he is.
The Burning: Horror fans love this movie, but it doesn’t have mainstream recognition like Friday the 13th.
Sleepaway Camp: See above.
WINNER: Friday the 13th. Ki ki ki, ma ma ma.
The Burning is the first victim – winning only 2 categories, it dies from an axe to the head and a flamethrower to the feet!
Sleepaway Camp is the second victim – winning 3 categories, it dies from a killer bee attack in the bathroom!
And with a whopping 8 category wins, our 2017 Summer Camp Horror Movie Thunderdome Survivor is Friday the 13th! Congratulations on living to slash another day!