Sleepaway Slasher (2020)

Directed by Kyle Bahl [Other horror films: N/A], Alexander McGregor Birrell [Other horror films: Braincell (2010)], Eugen Bräunig [Other horror films: N/A], Emma Hall-Martin [Other horror films: N/A], Hayley Monek [Other horror films: N/A], Martin Murray [Other horror films: N/A], Michael Newton [Other horror films: N/A], Christina Reilly [Other horror films: N/A], Ben Venturina [Other horror films: N/A] & Kerey Viswanathan [Other horror films: N/A]

So I will admit that this one pleasantly surprised me, at least to an extent. For a lower-budget film, Sleepaway Slasher has a very solid production quality, and more importantly, not to mention impressively, carries a rather interesting plot within.

If I would fault this movie for one thing, it’s the title, which I think partially undermines the film. This isn’t any type of conventional slasher, it’s more like slow-burn of increasing tension which eventually breaks out into mayhem, with no clear-cut protagonists or antagonists. I didn’t know where this movie was going for the first hour, I admit, but once it became clear, I found it pretty impressive.

In fact, it reminded me a bit of a movie from 2015 titled Kantemir, though that film was quite a bit more inconsistent and ended up a bit of a mess. In both, though, people involved in the dramatic arts (for Kantemir, it’s the play-writer and actors, for this one, it’s movie-makers and actors) get lost in their passions and begin and losing their grip on what’s real, possibly with the assistance of supernatural influences. It’s a bit more complicated here, but that’s the best I can do.

Occasionally the film deals with some interesting ideas which lead to the aforementioned increasing tensions, such as an actress getting injured during the making of a short film, but the director keeping the scenes in order to ensure his film’s completion. He gets blasted during a Q&A session after a viewing of his film by another director, but gets backed up by the head of the retreat, causing the angry director to walk out, which leads to an apology that just turns into a giant shouting match.

And what’s more, all of this leads into the events that happen toward the end of the film. At times, I will admit the movie can feel a bit aimless, as though it doesn’t know what direction it wants to go in, and that may well be the case as this film sports ten (and to repeat, ten) credited directors, which is an almost astounding number. Whether or not that plays a part in how the story unfolds, I don’t know, but it certainly could be a contributing factor.

Despite not possessing any big names, I found most of the main performances pretty decent. I do wish we got a little more backstory on Sara Silva’s character, as I was expecting a plot twist thrown in there at some point, but she does a decent job regardless. Both Peter Angelinas and Alana Johnson are great when at odds with each other, their heated argument and immediate aftermath being a favorite part of the film.

I was expected a little more from Conor William Wright (who looked not all too dissimilar to Jason Segel, believe it or not), as he didn’t play quite as big a part in events as I was thinking, and the same could be said for Shawn Thomas Diefenbach, though both performances in question were decent. Kimberley Aria Peterson (who brought with her a Rosario Dawson vibe) was solid as the catalyst to a lot of the tensions, and though she may not have had a big part, I did enjoy Reema Sampat here.

Like I said, this isn’t a slasher in any conventional sense, but there were a few kills thrown in that were decent, the most notable by far being an ax to the chest, which was shot quite well. Otherwise, the special effects are serviceable but not necessarily noteworthy.

This isn’t the easiest film to classify, and as I said, I think the title could potentially mislead and thus disappoint some people. Sleepaway Slasher is a deeper film than a run-of-the-mill modern-day slasher, and I think that works to the film’s credit. To be sure, it can feel a little muddled at times, and the ending probably could have been cleaned up a little, but it’s a lower-budget film I’d definitely revisit, and would recommend to those looking for something different despite not being great.


Camp Twilight (2020)

Directed by Brandon Amelotte [Other horror films: N/A]

Watching this via digital screener prior to it’s release was nice (I do a podcast with a friend on Fight-Evil, and we reviewed it there), and Camp Twilight does have some quality names and a decent level of production behind it, but when all of the gloss is rubbed away, it’s just another slasher with a lack-luster killer and kills that aren’t that memorable.

Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp) is nice to see here, and though her character is way too upbeat at times, it reminds me of her role in Sleepaway Camp II, and I can’t complain about that. Steven Chase was decent as one of the few really competent adults there. Tracy Lear was pretty awful, but I think that was sort of the point, and more than anything else, I think she was just there because people wanted a well-endowed woman around.

As for the six younger characters, most everyone did fine. I think the best performance came from Hayleigh Hopkins, and I wish that we had seen more of her than we did. Certainly Dondre Tuck (who was one of the few actual decent guys here) and Harris Sebastian were great too, as I hated Sebastian’s character with a passion, and it takes a decent performance to do that. I thought Cougar MacDowall was reasonably scummy, and both Brooklyn Haley and Angela Gluchowski add something special too.

The thing is, as decent as most of the cast is in Camp Twilight, the story itself is generally played out. I like seeing a mysterious killer going around and killing kids as much as the next man, but few of the kills here were really worth it (there was a solid ax-throwing kill, but even that seemed tame to me), and the little twists they threw in didn’t spice things up enough (and in fact, I thought one of the twists was both unnecessary and really irrelevant to the story). Also, the last 15 minutes was a cliché “This is why I committed these murders” speech to the last survivors, which also felt sorta ridiculous.

What you have with Camp Twilight is what you have with a lot of modern-day slasher films, being a competently-made movie with pretty solid production value, some attractive women (while I’m sure that Lear has her fans, for me, Gluchowski was the prettiest one here, followed by Hopkins), and an okay (but played out) story. Even the ended they tacked on struck me as pointless. It’s a fine movie to rent, but I don’t think it’s going to be a new-age classic despite some of the names involved.