The flashbacks in Sleepaway Camp get into some provocative territory. For one, Angela and Peter’s dad is gay, and the anguished man calling out to them from the shore the day of the accident was his lover. There are also some creepy intimations of incest that feed into Angela’s demented mind. Yet the big twist is not the ho-hum news that Angela is the killer we already assumed her to be, but that Angela is not Angela at all, but her brother Peter, the one who actually survived the boating accident. It turns out that Peter’s eccentric Aunt Martha already had a son, and decided to raise Peter as “Angela,” the girl she always wanted. Hiltzik reveals this in the closing moments, when the nude, blood-drenched Angela, howling like an animal over a decapitated body, turns around, and the camera pulls back to reveal male genitalia. Roll credits.
The ending—which presages The Crying Game by a full decade, incidentally—is so stunning that I can’t help but fantasize about how it would play in front of a midnight-movie crowd, which I suspect would tear the stuffing out of the seats in excitement. For those who have experienced it, the story of how the filmmakers got the shot is something else: The idea to have young Rose wear a strap-on was rejected, firmly and understandably, by the girl’s mother, and an attempt to mold a penis out of clay was also rejected. The solution was both ingenious and disturbing. The effects team made a mold of Rose’s face with two glass eyes—which turned out to be the creepiest frozen visage this side of Eyes Without A Face—and slapped it on the body of a drunk college student. As if appearing in the nude with a girl’s twisted face as a mask weren’t traumatic enough, this extra also had to have the hair shaved off his body. Those who were present remember him crying throughout the process, but such are the trials of creating great art.