Earlier this month, a friend of mine claimed that Sleepaway Camp is a better film than Friday The 13th. While I was going to disagree with that claim outright, it made me think about the two films and what they both bring to the table. What are the pros and cons of both these movies and which one is truly the better film? I decided to rewatch both films, to see which one stands victorious in a head to head battle. For this head to head comparison, I decided to rank both movies using five categories: Protagonist, Antagonist, Gore, Story and rewatchability. I also have a sixth category I call Other that is for other small things that help or hurt each movie.
Let’s start with the first category, the protagonist. Sleep away camp has a very solid protagonist in Angela Baker. The film opens up with a tragedy that has befallen this poor girl and her family, leaving her orphaned and adopted by her Aunt Martha. As the movie goes on she has more and more horrible things happen to her. While at camp she is bullied by other girls in her cabin, as well as a camp counselor in charge of her, she’s teased constantly by a group of boys and she was almost sexually molested by the camp chef. But that isn’t even the worst of it. The worst thing might very well be that Angela isn’t Angela at all, she is in fact Peter. In the opening of the movie we see a father in a boat with his two children when the three of them are victims of a boating accident killing the father and one child. We are led to believe that the child that survived was the girl when in fact the surviving child was a young boy named Peter. When Peter was adopted by his Aunt Martha, she changed his very identity from a boy to a girl and changed his name to Angela. Since Aunt Martha is a Doctor she was able to forge a lot of medical paperwork in order to get away with it. All this makes Angela a very complicated character that I sympathize with, all the way up until the point where I don’t.
On the other hand, Alice, who is the protagonist in the Friday The 13th, is as plain Jane as they come. We really learn nothing about her, other than the fact that she does not want to be at the camp, and she is pretty resourceful when the movie gets going. She also does a really good job at fending off the antagonist but in the end it feels like the reason she lived was because she drank the least, swore the least and didn’t have sex with anyone. This means that as far as protagonists go, the victory in this category goes to Sleepaway Camp.
Now onto the antagonist. It’s a little hard to judge either antagonist since in both films we don’t really see the antagonists for the large part of the runtime, other than a hand here or a leg there. Instead I want to look at character motivation (Why are they killing?). Mrs. Voorhees’s motivation comes from a personal and tragic loss. Everyone knows that Mrs. Voorhees blames the camp councelors for her sons death because they were having sex when they should have been watching Jason. This is of course terrible and heart breaking and there is some part of me that really feels for Mrs. Voorhees however, there are parents in this world everyday that have to bury a child and even though it is no simple task, (believe me, I’ve buried my own first born) I would venture that 99.99% of parents who lose a child don’t actually go on a killing spree because of it, I know I didn’t. Angela, on the other hand, has not only lost her entire family but she has been placed in a new home where her very identity was taken away from her and she was forced to become someone and something she was not. Everything culminates until she snaps at camp and starts killing people. But we (the viewer) don’t actually know that it’s Angela doing the killings until the end of the movie. I honestly don’t know anyone that can live a normal life after going through what Angela is forced to go through as a child. That is why everything that makes her a strong protagonist in the first 90% of the movie is what makes her an incredible antagonist in the last 10% of the movie. Since Angela is a stronger antagonist with a more compelling backstory and motivation, this round goes to Sleepaway Camp. Sorry Pam.
Next up, gore! Since both movies are not just horror but slashers, it’s only fair that I take into account the gore, violence, and general badassitude of the deaths in the movies. Although most of the kills happen just off screen in Sleepaway Camp, we do get to see the aftermath and it is great. Some of the best effects include the head chef getting boiled alive, the owner of the camp getting an arrow shot through his neck and the aftermath of a drowned camper in which the viewer gets to see a snake slither out of the drowned campers mouth. It is, in my opinion, the best effect in the movie. However there are also some kills that aren’t as effective, like the kill with a beehive, the kill in the shower or the kill with the curling iron, the last of which might be the worst because it’s too dark and the victim does nothing to fight back. Friday The 13th is full of great kills, I won’t go through them all but it really feels like there is not a single kill in this movie that left me wanting. The most famous of course being the arrow through the neck. Friday The 13th really set the standard for other horror/slasher movies in the 80s and for good reason. This win goes to Friday The 13th.
Now the story. Both movies have similar stories wherein a killing in the woods it picking people off one by one. Both movies have a killer that stays mainly in the shadows until the last 15 minutes or so of the movie. Both movies center around a summer camp and both movies are freaking great. This category was a little harder to settle, because both movies are so damn similar. However there is a big difference between the two films and in the end it came down to personal preference. Sleepaway camp functions a little like Jaws, there are terrible things happening, people are dying and the one person who could easily handle the situation refuses to admit that anything is wrong until it’s far too late. In Jaws it’s the mayer and in Sleepaway Camp it’s the owner of the camp whose negligence and decision to put his reputation over the lives of campers leads to the body count being much higher that it could have been.
Friday The 13th works a little more like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. In both movies people are taken out one by one in a way that the other characters are not made aware of the danger they’re in until there’s no way they can get away. In Friday The 13th, the remaining teens are not aware that they are being killed until about the last 20 minutes of the movie. This means that the viewer is constantly on edge because we know that at any moment the killer can pop out and brutally murder someone but the characters are just going about their business, almost completely oblivious to the danger they’re in. Both types of stories work, and both are very effective, like I said this one came down to a personal preference but I love when the characters on the screen don’t know just how royally screwed they are. This round goes to Friday The 13th.
Now for the final official category, rewatchability. Now I hear you saying, but why is this even a category? Why should I give a crap about rewatchability? I hear hear you friend and to that I say, a good movie is one that you can come back to for the right reasons or a movie that you might not ever see again because of how bad it messed you up. The bottom line is that a good movie stays with you and will either have you coming back for more or will break you so hard that you’ll want to bury the disk in the backyard and try to go on living your life with whatever might remain of your now broken soul. The point is that it sticks with you. The worst thing that a movie can be is mediocre to the point that I don’t care one way or the other if I ever watch it again. Thankfully neither of these films reach that level of mediocrity, however there is a clear winner here.
In Sleepaway Camp, once you realize that Angela, the supposed protagonist, has been the killer the entire time, it ads so much more to the characters complexity, that it is a real shock. That alone would have been enough to surprise almost anyone, but seconds later we find out that not only is Angela the killer but she’s not even a girl! The realization of both of these facts makes a second watch almost mandatory. Watching this movie again knowing that Angela is the killer makes the stares she gives people much more menacing, it also allows the viewer to look deeper into actions and motivation that was probably overlooked in the initial viewing.
Friday The 13th is a great film that honestly does not have much to offer in a second viewing. The kills are amazing and honestly still hold up today so if you want to relive the fun of watching them then it’s got great rewatchability. But honestly, (and I say this with all the respect I have for this movie, which is a lot. Friday The 13 is my all time favorite horror movie francaise) this movie is about as surface as the characters that are in it. A first time viewer might want to watch it again to see if we are ever introduced to Mrs. Voorhees before she is revealed in the last 15 minutes of the movie and they might be disappointed to realize that no we are not. It just makes the movie a little weaker and honestly makes the end kind of feel like an afterthought.
I am surprised (and a little sad) to say that the winner of the final official category and the head to head horror movie comparison is Sleepaway Camp. Now I want to make one thing clear, this is not a definitive conclusion. We all have our own opinions and that’s what makes us awesome, this is just the conclusion that I came to while doing a head to head comparison of both these films. You are more than welcome to disagree with me. And to be honest, I still prefer Friday The 13th over Sleepaway Camp. Now I know you’re asking yourself, but how? Are you stupid? You just said that Sleepaway Camp is a better movie. That might be so but let me tell you a story. A few months ago, my wife gave me the Coke vs. Pepsi blindfold taste test. The result, was that I liked Pepsi over Coke. I turned to my wife and told her that i’m still a Coke drinker, and when she asked why I said, “there have been plenty of times in my life when I was drinking a Pepsi and wished I was drinking a Coke, but never once in my life have I ever been drinking a Coke and wished I was drinking a Pepsi.”
Now for the last unofficial category, Other. This is where I wanted to put the little things that didn’t really fit into any other categories. A lot of these things both helped and hurt their movies but not in an influential way, again in my opinion.
Sleepaway Camp had real bad acting, good lord Aunt Martha on her own was terrible but generally very few of the interaction between characters seemed genuine. It did have great use of killer POV, which was used in great effect to add suspense. This movie also has one of my all time favorite lines in any movie, the famous “It shit and live Bill.”
Friday The 13th has an amazing score and top notch sound. The character interaction feels very genuine and organic even when they are just interacting with themselves. I really cared for the characters and was therefore more affected when they were killed off. One thing that always bothered me though is the fact than when everyone one else is dead, why does Mrs. Voorhees decide to talk with Alice and gaslight her instead of killing her on sight like she’s done with everyone else?