Cheerleader Camp (1987)

Author: Brett H.
Submitted by: Brett H.   Date : 2008-05-22 13:17

Directed by: John Quinn
Written by: David Lee Fein and R.L. O'Keefe
Produced by: Jeff Prettyman and John Quinn

Reviewed by: Brett H.

“Look at that one with the jugs, that one in the orange skirt. Make your peepee harder than a ten pound bag of nickel jawbreakers, you know what I mean?”

Growing up, the films I enjoyed most were whatever horror flick I could pick up at the local video stores or whatever comedies (preferably raunchy) I could catch on TV. Screw cartoons. I was a fan of Jason Voorhees by the time I was around three and by the age of seven I started discovering some very interesting comedies on Canadian television and pay channels. On any given night, the Porky’s trilogy or Still Smokin’ would be airing on Movie Max or Private Lessons would be on Super Channel. You never knew what you might find on TBS, either, because they’d show The Breakfast Club and Poison Ivy (the light hearted summer camp comedy, not the Drew Barrymore film of the same name) with great regularity. The comedies I enjoyed had much in common with the horror films I loved at the time. They had teenaged characters, topless chicks, alcohol and they usually took place somewhere around a summer camp. Horror comedies weren’t really present in my repertoire, besides Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. Sadly, a little film entitled, Cheerleader Camp was never present at any video stores around here (of course, Return to Horror High’s strikingly similar cover art was a staple on every video store shelf). It’s too bad, because it’d have been right up my alley. Cheerleader Camp basically encompasses every a trait from nearly all of the movies listed above, and hell, it’s still up my alley.

A group of college students pack a van and make the trip to Camp Hurrah, a summer stomping grounds for practicing cheerleaders. A character staple of every teen-sex comedy and horror movie is present in the vehicle. Loser, fat, popular, misfit, greedy, and ditzy could be used to describe all the cheerleaders and characters. Although they’re different, they’re a pretty tight knit unit. Sure, no girl is going to try to get with overweight Timmy Moser (Travis McKenna), and the hot outcast Cory (Lucinda Dickey) is going to get made fun of and looked down upon because she’s the mascot, but there’s no one in the group so mean spirited that it’d go beyond a little ribbing… right? Alison (Betsy Russell) and Brent (Leif Garret) are the couple of the bunch, and they are having their problems. The popular, pretty, but yet compassionate, Alison has been having nightmares that are interfering with her day-to-day life and all Brent is worried is when he can nail her. Not the best boyfriend in the world, he’ll flirt with half naked women right in front of troubled Alison’s eyes.

Camp Hurrah is a competitive place and someone begins taking things too far. A particularly hot girl (whom is sure to be elected Queen of Camp Hurrah) turns up dead in her room. A suicide, it’s labelled, and the camp leader (horny, older cheerleader), Miss Tipton (Vickie Benson, who looks exactly like you’d picture her from her name) hides the body so as to not lose her job and keep the cheerleader camp running. The body is discovered, and she has to use her special assets to get herself off the hook. Plainly speaking, she has some kinky football themed sex with the local sheriff. But, the deaths don’t stop there and as the bodies begin to pile up, everyone becomes a suspect. Have Alison’s nightmares driven her off the edge? Has Timmy finally had enough of the girls shooting him down? Is Brent is hacking up cheerleaders in between antics with Timmy and stuffing his gotch with washcloths? Only one thing is for certain, there’s not a man alive or dead that’d head home early from Cheerleader Camp. Bodies being wheeled out in a bag or not!

Cheerleader Camp is one of the best horror comedies out there. It won’t get any thumbs up from the critics, but to those of us who love nothing more than a Revenge of the Nerds style teen-sex comedy or a summer camp slasher, this is the epitome of excellence. Although movies like Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter and Slumber Party Massacre did this form of a film well, they don’t match Cheerleader Camp’s mien. Whereas the comedy and horror cut back and forth in those two films, Cheerleader Camp stands alone as the sole raunchy comedy/slasher hybrid that completely embraces the stereotypes and tone of each respected (or not so respected) genre and mingles them into one perfect piece. By taking these traits and infusing them together, it becomes a movie that is consistent in its goal to be both comedy and horror in nearly every scene. It can please either audience and doesn’t lean too heavily on either side so as to alienate the other. An odd trait to praise a film for indeed, but my love of teen-sex comedies and horror films has made me seek out as many of these types of films as I can find, and this is the only one I’ve viewed that combined the aspects nearly flawlessly.

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is a horror movie at heart, but has great teen-sex comedy traits. However, when flipping back and forth from straightforward horror to comedy, I’ve always thought it lost some momentum in the process; many films follow a similar procedure. Cheerleader Camp equips itself to overcome this by crossing, for example, the “Crazy Ralph” like weirdo with the old perv eyeing the young lasses in the teen-sex comedies. Or, after waking up from a terrifying nightmare in which Alison caught her boyfriend cheating on her with a team-mate (she uses her pom poms to slice up the whore!), she is greeted by the crazy alligator mascot head worn by Cory. This slasher waking-up-and-seeing-the-masked-killer-and-scream cliché is present, yet the mascot head is so silly it’s hard not to laugh at and be reminded that you’re in an 80s cheerleader comedy! Near the end, there’s a big end of camp dance and the place clears out in typical slasher-panicked fashion when a killer is on the loose, but it’s similar to the party clearing out when the cops invade a comedy’s out of control fiesta. There’s plenty more similarities from the setting to the character traits and even the cover art combines aspects of both genres. It may not mean the world to many, but seeing as I’ve always questioned the flip-flopping, horror to comedy then back to horror in horror/comedies, it was refreshing to see Cheerleader Camp remain pretty faithful to each, scene in and scene out.

The horror aspect of the film is pretty well done, the kills are typical insertion of object into a soft part of a human anatomy until liquid spurts out and everything goes quiet. Which, come to think of it, is pretty much what every raunchy 80s comedy is in a nutshell. The gore oozes pretty good in this one and no one will leave disappointed by the bloody kills or the topless cheerleaders. The film also is inspired by A Nightmare on Elm Street as the dreams are mostly Alison’s inner thoughts and fears of sex and infidelity magnified Freddy Krueger style (not on a Freddy Krueger budget, though). Betsy Russell looks a lot like Heather Langenkamp and Lucinda Dickey bears a resemblance to Lisa Wilcox, so even the characters feel similar. The acting is surprisingly good, but like any other horror flick, there are some questions raised (why is it when people turn up dead, no one bothers to call the cops?), but this is to be expected from horror flicks and lowbrow comedies alike. And, just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, Leif Garret dons the microphone and along with his large friend, they bust some rhymes so terribly wonderful that you can’t help but smile from ear to ear. The guy actually makes an episode of Celebrity Rap Superstar look like a Public Enemy concert.

The ending has a decent twist that’s better than most slasher wrap-ups, and all in all, it’s a pretty good whodunit with copious amounts of ridiculous high jinks and comic relief melted in for good measure. Anchor Bay does another fine job with the DVD as the video presentation is miles ahead of the old VHS and the audio is fine throughout as well. We are even treated to a commentary, three trailers, and an alternate opening credit sequence using the film’s original title, Bloody Pom Poms. Rounding out the supplemental edges is a couple of still galleries and liner notes by Adam Rockoff. A sequel was in the works, but due to financing troubles it never came to true fruition. The remnants turned into a movie entitled Camp Fear, which stars a couple people present in this film, but is otherwise totally unrelated. Cheerleader Camp is a perfect 80s comedy/slasher hybrid that will be loved by the people who truly get it and can be enjoyed by horror fans and 80s comedy fans all the same. Give me a B! Give me a U! Give me a Y! Buy it!

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