The last shot of Angela still haunts me to this day. Please note, if you haven’t seen Sleepaway Camp and would like to this post will contain major spoilers! Also note that this post will mention details revolving around gore, so please don’t read if you are triggered by it.
The first time I ever watched Sleepaway Camp I was sitting in my brother’s bedroom. We would always show each other any new horror movies we saw. For the first 80 minutes of the movie I enjoyed it a lot. It was like any other 80’s campy horror movie. Nothing out of the ordinary and it was an enjoyable film to watch. The film is about two kids, Angela and Ricky who go to camp. Angela comes across as shy and many kids at the camp bully her because of her quiet nature. Of course, there is a murderer on the loose who kills the staff and campers. Throughout the film you see flashback of Peter, Angela’s brother and Angela as young kids. Peter, Angela, and their dads, John Baker and Lenny are on a boating trip. They’re all having fun and joking around. Angela and Peter decide to overturn the boat as a prank. While trying to swim to shore, a camp counselor hits John and one of his children and they die. It’s assumed that Peter is the one that dies, since Angela is alive and at camp with Ricky. Ricky’s mom is Angela’s aunt and takes custody of her. Towards the end of the film, the camp counselors search for the missing camp goers. They find Angela by herself on the beach. Angela reveals her naked body, covered in blood, and she drops a severed head. That’s not all though! There is a full body shot of Angela standing, revealing her biological male parts. It is then revealed that the real Angela died in the accident. Angela’s aunt always wanted to have a daughter. She replaces Peter’s name with Angela and raises Peter as a girl. While everyone at the camp puts two and two together, Angela stands there covered in blood and growling.
When I first watched this at fifteen, I thought it was the greatest plot twist ever. It was so creepy and there are so many factors that worked so well together. It is a bit of psychological effect. We perceived Angela as a girl so when we see a feminine face with a male body it messes with viewer. The film portrays Angela as a wild animal. She stands there covered with blood and growls.
There are layers to why I think that this film is sorta, well transphobic. Let’s begin with Angela’s aunt. I think it’s common for people who are against the LGBT+ community will blame the person’s parents or guardians for “making” them gay, lesbian, etc. Angela’s aunt takes away Peter’s gender identity. It was never an option for Peter to grow up as a boy because he was never given a chance to do so. It is forced upon Peter to change and become Angela. This isn’t true about gender or sexuality. No one is forced into their preferred identity or sexuality. Since Peter was never allowed to be himself, he developed this intense rage and hatred towards the world. It depicts this violent image of a repressed individual.
In the film you can hear someone say, “My God, she’s a boy” in the background. The ending is invasive and the audience becomes a part of this scopophilic gaze at a trans body. Not only do we see that Angela is the murderer, but we also see how her identity does not match her biological body. The viewers invade Angela’s privacy, but at the same time it’s hard to look away. Her body is being objectified through this scopophilic lens. Like most people, we probably don’t want anyone knowing what our bodies and genitalia look like. Why is it okay to want to know what a trans body looks like? Her monstrous behavior also adds to the objectification of her body. She stands there with her eyes and mouth wide opened, covered in someone else’s blood, and growls. The scene continues to add to the stigma that trans bodies are grotesque or that they’re “freaks”, which is a pretty transphobic thing to imply.
These are just my thoughts, please feel free to share your own. Hope you guys are having a happy start to my favorite and spookiest month.