While the movie itself isn’t quite a classic, here’s why Sleepaway Camp’s ending remains one of the best slasher film twists of all time. John Carpenter’s Halloween was famously made for next to no money, but word of mouth and strong reviews quickly turned it one of the most successful independent horror movies of all time. Producers immediately saw the potential of taking Halloween’s simple slash and slash formula and churning out a series of low-budget slasher movies.
This led to a slew of movies like Friday The 13th, Prom Night, My Bloody Valentine and many others. Sleepaway Camp belonged to the same subgenre and followed two kids - cousins Angela and Ricky - who are sent to a camp which is soon beset by a series of grisly killings. For most of its runtime, Sleepaway Camp is a fun but forgettable example of a slasher flick, with bloody deaths and an intriguing mystery. Audiences just weren’t prepared for the final twist, however, which has haunted horror fans to this day.
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Let’s examine Sleepaway Camp’s ending, exploring what happens in the final scene and why it’s so unforgettable.
What Happens In Sleepaway Camp’s Final Scene
Much of Sleepaway Camp centers on the relationship between Ricky and Angela, with Ricky constantly trying to protect his cousin from camp bullies. One by one, these bullies are offed in brutal ways, with suspicion eventually falling on Ricky. In the final moments, camp counselors discover a number of bodies, with Ricky left badly beaten by the camp’s owner after wrongfully believing him to be the killer
Two counselors find Angela stroking the head of a boy she likes on the beach, only to be stunned when the naked Angela turns around, holding a bloody knife and dropping the boy’s severed head. A flashback reveals "Angela" is actually her brother Peter, with the real Angela dying in a boating accident and Peter’s aunt forcing him to become a girl. Sleepaway Camp ends on the image of Angela’s frozen face, grunting in an animalistic way at the stunned counselors.
Why Sleepaway Camp’s Twist Is So Shocking
The reveal that Angela was actually Peter the entire time was something nobody expected, but it’s the execution of Sleepaway Camp's final shot that’s so haunting. A face cast of Angela’s actress Felissa Rose was placed on the body of a male actor, and the image of Rose’s frozen face on a hulking, nude male body remains incredibly unsettling. Sleepaway Camp is considered a fine example of the slasher subgenre, but for many fans, this final shot alone tips the movie over into classic status.
There’s a disturbing, nightmarish quality to the final sequence that can’t be shaken, even for those who - rightly - question the logic or political correctness of the twist. Sleepaway Camp would spawn a number of inferior sequels, but even better slasher movies like Scream or Happy Death Day have struggled to craft an ending that stays with viewers in such a visceral way.