Re-Evaluating the Trans “Twist” in ‘Sleepaway Camp’ [Horror Queers Podcast]


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Judy Judy Judy

After five weeks of nothing but Camp films, including pageant mockumentary Drop Dead Gorgeous, 3D monstrosity Nurse, and a pair of shocking and offensive 70s titles from John Waters (Female Trouble) and Paul Morrissey (Flesh for Frankenstein), Trace and I – along with returning guest Ten Backe – have reached our magnum opus: Sleepaway Camp.

Robert Hiltzik‘s 1983 slasher is notorious for its final image, which reveals that main character Angela (Felissa Rose) has <spoilers> male genitals. The “twist” means the film has appeared on numerous listicles of “The Most Shocking Horror Films,” and garnered multiple think pieces about its insensitive homophobic and transphobic elements. Over the last five years or so, however, queer and particularly trans film critics have begun to reevaluate and reappropriate the film.

In Sleepaway Camp, introvert Angela and her cousin Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten) are sent away to summer camp by their emotionally fragile aunt Martha (Desiree Gould). Angela is bullied mercilessly by mean girl Judy (Karen Fields), but manages to make a sweet, albeit chaste connection with Paul (Christopher Collet). Unfortunately, there’s a killer loose at Camp Arawak and the body count is on the rise…

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Episode 188 – Sleepaway Camp (1983) feat. Ten Backe

For the last entry in our Camp series, we’re finally tackling Robert Hiltzik’s Sleepaway Camp (1983). Along for the short shorts and Judy of it all is returning guest – and big fan of the film – Ten Backe.

The big question is whether this film is homophobic and transphobic. Hiltzik doesn’t have a lot of thoughts on the matter, but we, and many trans film critics, do. Is Sleepaway Camp worthy of praise and (re)appropriation by the queer community?

Plus: comparisons to Friday the 13th, thoughts on Judy’s curling iron death, Art the pedophile cook, and the need for short shorts and male nudity!

Cross out Sleepaway Camp!

Coming up on Wednesday: We’re tackling our very first made-for-TV film, as well as our first John Carpenter film (!) with 1978’s Someone’s Watching Me!

P.S. Subscribe to our Patreon for more than 190 hours of additional content! This month, we’re discussing Netflix’s polarizing new Resident Evil series, the return of the Predator in Prey, as well as a pair of queer slashers in Peacock’s They/Them and A24’s Bodies Bodies Bodies. Oh, and we’ve got an audio commentary on Event Horizon for its (gulp) 25th anniversary!

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