Wicked Wednesday: Cheerleader Camp (1988)

Going into a movie without expectations can be hard. A lot of the times, we can go into movies and get what we expect. Sometimes there are surprises. Cheerleader Camp has no surprises.

Camps. Cheerleaders. An alternate title of Bloody Pom Poms. We all know what we’re getting here.

A group of six cheerleaders and their mascot take a van out to Camp Hurrah to participate in a cheerleading competition. Why is there an important competition at a camp where there are no judges? Beats me.

At the centre of things is Alison (Betsy Russell), a cheerleader with a tormented mind. She falls asleep each night and has disturbing nightmares. Though the real nightmare in Alison’s life is that her boyfriend Brent (Leif Garrett) has eyes for all the other girls at camp, particularly a blonde from a rival team.

The next day, Alison finds the blonde in her bed with both of her wrists slit. The counselor (owner, judge, whatever), Miss Tipton, is certain that there is no foul play, and refuses to call the police. But when Alison stumbles upon the body in the freezer, she calls the sheriff. Only the sheriff is more interested in getting into Miss Tipton’s pants than getting any work done.

Meanwhile, while Brent goes off to busy himself with other women, Alison strikes up a friendship with the mascot, Cory (Lucinda Dickey). The girls try to boost each other’s self-esteem.

When one of Alison’s teammates, Pam, begins to cozy up to Brent, Alison leaves him behind. Pam and Brent go off in the woods together, but Pam refuses to do anything with them. When he leaves her, she begins to chase after him in the woods. But the poor girl gets a sheers to the back of the head before she can find him.

That night it’s the cheerleading competition, which looks more like a talent show for cruise ship guests than an actual competition. Thankfully, the moves are as brilliantly 80’s as you’d want them to be.

Cory loses the mascot competition, despite the fact that she pulls from sweet break dancing moves (probably all learned from Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo). The gang also lose their competition after Pam doesn’t show for their performance. Though Bonnie, another of Alison’s teammates, wins Miss USA Cheer 2020 or something. So good for her.

Shame she’ll die anyway.

During the post-competition celebrations, Cory, Brent, Alison and Theresa go out into the woods to look for Pam. Of course none of them think to search as a group. One-by-one they run out into the woods alone.

Theresa finds Pam’s corpse in the woods, and begins head back to the camp. Though she doesn’t get very far when she’s smashed against a tree by a van. When Theresa’s body is found by her teammates, Brent decides to alert the camp that there’s a killer on the loose. Everyone but Alison’s team scatter, as their van doesn’t work (it’s been tampered with – surprise).

A very drunk Miss Tipton gets stabbed in the back. She stumbles into Alison, who grabs the meat cleaver from her back. Cory walks in at that moment, and catches Alison in a suspicious position. Alison becomes increasingly unsure of what is reality, and what memories are from her dreams.

Without the van, the kids begin to search the woods again. They run into the camp’s gardener, who fires his gun in the air to scare them off. Timmy, the over-weight comedic vomit of the movie, stays behind. He’s spent most of his time filming the going-ons at the camp (meaning topless cheerleaders), and decides to set up the camera for the killer.

The increasingly-small group realise that Timmy isn’t around. When Brent goes to look for him, he only finds the camera. The survivors go to watch the footage, and watch as Timmy dies on film.

This somehow convinces Brent that the gardener,Pop, is responsible for the killings. They set up a booby trap, which actually kills the sheriff. Though Cory manages to kill Pop when he goes after Brent with his gun.

The remaining kids, Brent, Alison, Cory and Bonnie, regroup in one of the cabins. Brent sends Bonnie to call the police and Cory leaves after her. With Brent and Alison alone, he tries to come on to her. Alison tells him no, but the boy is stopped when Cory interrupts, saying she an’t find Bonnie.

When Brent goes off to look for Bonnie, Cory confides in Alison that she believes Brent is the killer. Despite not having any real proof, Alison takes a gun from Cory and the two girls go to look for Brent.

They find the boy standing over Bonnie’s corpse. Alison shoots her boyfriend, seemingly ending the killings. But when the police arrive, they arrest Alison, who is in too much shock to protest.

While the police carry her away on a stretcher, Cory talks to the policeman. He tells her it’s likely that Alison will stay in a mental ward for years. Cory agrees, saying that Alison was obsessed with what others thought of her – trying to be perfect. Between the dreams and the pills, she’s obviously the murderer.

With a knowing smile, Cory flounces off to have a bit of cheerleading practice of her own.

And that, is an underwhelming ending. It’s quite clear that throughout the film Cory is the killer. She’s obviously manipulating Alison, and is the only one who cares about those who insult her. Plus no one likes Cory because she’s a stupid mascot.

But nothing about Cheerleader Camp is a surprise. It’s cheesy, skeezy, and a bit schlocky. Going into this, at least, I wasn’t expecting anything more than what I got.

If it’s a cheesy, below-average slasher you’re looking for, Cheerleader Camp will do the trick. There’s plenty to chuckle at to make it enjoyable. Though it’s of course dated, and filled with out-dated fun like slut-shaming.

Also. Explain me this: Why did the filmmakers cast the only dancer in the movie (Dickey) as the only non-cheerleader roll? Those last few minutes at the end hardly count. Also, it clearly establishes she’s much better than anyone else on the real team, so there’s no excuse as to why she didn’t make the team.

Obviously getting to the heart of the real problems here.

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