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.


Wicked Wednesday: Madman (1982)

It’s finally that point in the summer where we start to ask ourselves, “where the hell did it go?” Summer, that is. It’s so much more important as a kid, summer. Growing up I didn’t do too much other than hang out outside (I did grow up with no neighbours). But for one blissful week of every summer was camp in the Northern woods of Wisconsin.

And summer camps and horror movies go hand-in-hand like Bruce and his chin. Well, this week’s movie takes place at a camp…but just not at summer. I think. But since there’s a camp, that’s close enough for me!

The 1982 film Madman was originally inspired by the Cropsey legend, but another film based on the legend, The Burning, was in production around the same time. So the script was re-written to include a different story. It’s pretty much the DeFeo story. Though Madman is, unfortunately, no Burning nor is it The Amityville Horror. But it does have a summer camp. Have I mentioned that?

“It all started during a campfire at North Sea Cottages, a special retreat for gifted children…”

Madman opens with a group of counsellors and children telling stories around the campfire. One of the consellors, TP, gives his hand at song-story, which is new. But it’s the story from the head counsellor Max that truly terrifies the kiddies.

He tells them the story of Mad Marz, who lived in the home near the campgrounds. Marz was a farm and a bit of an asshole. He beat his wife and children, drank too much at the bar, and was just a general all-around dick. Then one night he suddenly went mad. He took an axe to his wife and children then went to the bar afterwards. When the locals realised what happened, several of the men grabbed Marz and hung him from a tree. But when they went to retrieve the body later, it was missing – and so were the bodies of the Marz family.

According to Max, if you say Marz’s name above a whisper, he will be able to hear you and will come for you… to kill you. One camper, Richie, begins to shout Marz’s name, thinking it all a great joke (it’s at this point that you can begin to blame Richie for everything). But Max warns him off and apologises into the night. But that doesn’t stop him from joining in chanting Mad Marz’s name loudly before extinguishing the campfire.

As the counselors and campers head back to camp, Richie spots someone in the trees and decides to double back to the Marz home alone. Shortly after everyone at the camp starts winding down for the night, the cook is killed by the same person Richie saw in the tree.

But it’s the last night at the camp, so the counselors are allowed a bit of fun while Max heads into town. In the style of every camp movie since Friday the 13th, the counselors get up to a bit of trouble. This includes one of the most awesomely bad scenes of the movie where TP and his girlfriend Betsy (Gaylen Ross) walk around in a hot tub to an awful pop song.

And if there’s one thing I love in a horror movie, it’s a bad song.

The rest of the counselors decide to get up to their own shenanigans. One plays a flute in a boat. Some others talk about the meaning of life, but eventually they notice that Richie is missing.

One by one they all go out to the woods to find the lost camper. It’s obvious that no one at this stupid camp watches horror movies, otherwise they would know not to go in the woods… alone! Eventually it’s TP’s turn to die. He’s hung from a tree with a noose, and the murderer eventually kills him by grabbing onto his legs and snapping TP’s neck. So… that’s nice?


And Richie is still alive and wandering the woods, in case you cared.

But everyone in this film suffers massively from slasher-movie brain. They do all the silly things that no sane human would do. One girl is chase by Madman Marz back to the camp. She hides in the fridge (which somehow works) and then leaves only to get killed!

Betsy, who has been left alone to watch the kids, eventually sees the corpse of her friend and realises that everyone is dead and/or going to die. She finally has the sensible decision to call Max and tell him something is going on and gets the kids on a bus to get them out.

Though her sane decisions are immediately all of nothing when she tells the kids she needs to find the other counselors. I’m sorry, sweetheart, but getting the 10-year-old kids the fuck away from a literal axe-murderer should probably be your top priority.

Betsy goes to the Marz home where she tries to take Madman Marz on herself. She’s eventually impaled on a hook and killed, but not before she can take the Madman down with her.

Somehow the idiot Richie ends up surviving. He jumps in front of Max’s car, and tells him that the campfire story was true – Madman Marz is real.

Madman is by no means a standout film in the genre, that’s pretty clear. I can see why this is a bit of a cult film, though. There is quite a lot here that makes it worth watching. For one, that hot tub scene, and secondly, it’s really a prime example of watching stupid people do stupid things. It’s great for shouting your frustrations to and having a good chuckle at.


On a more serious note, I did contemplate writing about a film by the late George Romero this week. It didn’t seem right to. Romero was a director that I both loved and worshiped. My admiration for him goes beyond anything my words can articulate. His films really sparked something in me. He helped me realise that horror as a genre has so much to offer beyond a one-dimensional scare. He might be gone, but he’ll certainly never ever be forgotten.

Rest in peace, Romero.