Cheerleader Camp (1988)

Welcome back to yet another B-Movie Enema.  I’ve been looking forward to talking about this one for a while.

Many times over the past couple years, I’ve mentioned the Roku channel Bizarre TV.  When I first got my Roku, it was one of the very first channels I began to watch religiously for its streaming of, well, bizarre movies and horror shorts.  Some of the movies shown there acted as inspiration for me to cover here – even if that channel was not the first place I ever saw the movie.  Sadly, that channel has been on autopilot since October as the original operator of the channel passed away in January 2018.  I still endeavor to cover movies I used to watch on the channel because it did a lot to inspire me to return to the blog after some time away from it.

This week’s feature, Cheerleader Camp, is one of those movies featured on BTV.

Like The Muthers last week, Cheerleader Camp is checking some boxes.  While I’ve done slasher flicks, 80s horror, and cheerleader-focused movies before, this one combines all of them into one movie.  Not only that, but it also manages to throw in Betsy Russell, Lucinda Dickey, and Teri Weigel – all famous for being in movies that showed off their hotness.  So let’s give up some cheers for this movie!

I picked this up from the bootleg table at last year’s HorrorHound convention here in Indianapolis, so what I’m about to post from the back of the box may not actually be official… but might also be.  I feel like a marketing guy came up with this synopsis: “Welcome to Camp Hurrah, where a psycho killer is slaughtering high school cheerleaders on the eve of the all-state finals.  Drive-in goddesses Betsy Russell and Lucinda Dickey star with former teen idol Leif Garrett in this bouncing, bleeding bonanza of B-movie goodness featuring graphic violence, gratuitous nudity, bad rapping and more from the glory days of late ’80s splatter.  This is CHEERLEADER CAMP!”


I mean, right?

Out of the gate, I have to say I really enjoy when movies that are supposed to be about high school kids are starring people in their mid-twenties.  For example, we have Betsy Russell who opens this movie with no bra and her tits being super pokey outy.  I know she is supposed to be a high schooler, but knowing the reality of her age, I feel way better about how I’m very likely going to want to rub one out to her before this movie is over.

Speaking of Betsy Russell, she plays Allison.  She’s tortured by terrible nightmares about an upcoming cheerleader competition.  When she wakes up from her most recent nightmare, she’s in a van with the rest of her school’s squad on the way to Camp Hurrah.  Her boyfriend Brent (Garrett) is already flirting with a hot little blonde cheerleader named Suzy on a rival squad.  I mean, what the fuck, man?

So this serves to introduce us to the rest of the squad – Bonnie (Lorrie Griffin – most notably from Teen Wolf), Timothy (a big o’ fat guy), Theresa (super hot Rebecca Ferratti), and Pam (Weigel).  Also part of their squad is Cory (Dickey) who is the team mascot and often ridiculed by the instructors and other cheerleaders.  This is also where we meet Miss Tipton, a super stuck up instructor who runs the camp like, I dunno, a drill sergeant or something.  In one of the cabins, Pam tells Bonnie and Theresa that she has plans to be crowned “Queen” of… Cheerleader Camp…?  Whatever, she plans on dethroning Allison for #1 chick.

Have I mentioned yet that I’m really glad that these actresses are all well over 18?

Goddamn my pants just got tighter

So the girls decide to sunbathe on the rocks.  Some decide to sunbathe topless and start having a titty competition – because… sure.  I swear guys…  I don’t know why this is happening, but holy shit am I happy this is happening.  Naturally, Timothy and the county sheriff peep on the girls because, well, of course they do.  Who wouldn’t?

Later in the day, Allison thinks about how Brent was hitting on Suzy and how Pam suggested she’ll need to fight to keep her man.  So, Allison goes to the cabin that Suzy is staying in and finds her corpse.  It appears her wrists were slit, but some of the girls question whether or not that is what actually happened.  That night, Cory gives Allison a pep talk about how it’s okay to simply enjoy things and not have to worry about always being perfect.  I’d be pretty okay if they made out.

No time for that, though, because Tim and Brent have to drop mad beats…

I am definitely gonna be jerking off.

While this movie is certainly bringing heat, heat I have definitely made mention earlier with lots of super hot chicks, there is a pretty major problem with this movie.  Allison is a compelling character.  She’s having nightmares over the pressure of always being perfect and loved by everyone around her.  She’s terribly insecure and much of the movie, at least up to the 30-minute mark, it’s almost like she’s sleepwalking through the movie as if that pressure has her in a trance making her wonder what is real and what isn’t.  For example, after finding Suzy’s body, and discussing her insecurities with Cory, she looks in the mirror and sees her face slashed and cut up.  With the set up that she has these nightmares and insecurities, I even had to ask whether or not her finding Suzy’s body was even real to begin with.

These things are all fascinating, and possibly even intelligent, ways to explore what’s going on, and start building a mystery around her possibly being a murderer or a troublemaker around the camp.  But instead we have to slog through this movie with all these other insignificant things.  Timothy fatting around and filming tits and Miss Tipton having sex with the sheriff to avoid shutting down the camp once he learned that a girl killed herself there, a dumb rap about the squad, and various other shenanigans, etc.  The movie can’t decide if it wants to be serious or not.  That’s frustrating when there is low-hanging fruit dangling there to create interesting shit with Allison (and get more opportunity to see Betsy Russell be hot).

Not to mention Leif Garrett beating me to the punch…

What we do get is Allison snooping around and investigating the handyman of the camp, Pop.  Pop was initially introduced as a kindly man willing to help Allison out with her bags when it appeared she was upset over Brent hitting on Suzy.  However, later on, he started to act like a creep.  That might be interesting if the movie was serious about having murders or various scary things happen.  That’s not happened at all.  A girl was found dead of possible suicide.  No one is actually worried about it not being suicide.  No other scary shit has happened.

After a camp activity, Allison and Brent talk about what’s going on with them.  Apparently they have a fight about how he wants to get laid, but she’s not feeling well.  She has another nightmare about Brent and Pam fucking.  The next day, Allison and Pam have a bit of a snit when practice doesn’t go all that well and then Brent is seen giving Pam a massage.  After Allison leaves, they go somewhere private and begin to make out before Pam starts saying she doesn’t want this to be a one time thing.  Brent leaves pissed off and FINALLY something slashery happens as an unseen attacker sneaks up behind Pam and shoves a pair of sheers through the back of her head.

Thank Christ this movie finally decided to be the slasher flick it promised to be. Only took it 40 minutes to get there.

Allison has another nightmare about Brent and Pam making out and, this time, Allison retaliates by slashing at Pam with her pom poms cutting her up pretty good.  She wakes up to Cory telling her she needs to figure out if she’s going to be ready for the competition that night.  Theresa and Bonnie are worried that Pam hasn’t shown up, but let’s not take up too much time doing regular movie things, we need to see the mascot competition!

Seriously, movie, whatever you gotta do to pad yourself out to that 89 minute runtime and show Lucinda Dickey breakdancing in an alligator costume.

Finally, the movie kinda touches upon an idea, or an approximation of an idea, that Allison might be doing more than simply dreaming up bad shit, but actually committing them.  She asks Cory what she did that afternoon.  Cory says she slept and had a nightmare.  But fuck all that noise of having interesting stuff happen, let’s have these sexy broads do their cheerleading and have the fat fuck do bullshit comedy prat falls.

Okay, I see you are trying , movie. You have a scared, hot cheerleader with THO wandering around in the woods. You’re almost there. You’re almost a horror movie.

Theresa gets even more upset about Pam still not showing up and leaves the competitions.  Meanwhile, Bonnie gets crowned Queen to compete for Miss Super Cheerleader USA or some such shit.  Whatever.  Cory is worried about Theresa going missing, and Brent goes on the hunt to find their missing teammates.  Cory also seems upset that Bonnie won the title of Queen instead of Allison.  Pop is also instructed by Miss Tipton to keep an eye on the team because something is definitely strange about them.

Eventually, everyone but Tim and Bonnie end up in the woods looking for each other.  Theresa finds Pam and, naturally, freaks out.  She then gets discovered by someone apparently driving the team’s van and gets smooshed up against a tree by it.  The team tries to get Miss Tipton to do something about the missing girls, but she’s too drunk to give a shit – just like I’m too sober and starting to not give a shit anymore.  Allison wants to call the sheriff, but Brent says that will only make him a prime suspect for murder.  Wait, what?  Why not just explain yourself, asshat?  Leif Garrett, you are a monster.  Er…  I mean Brent, you are a monster!

Allison says she worries she is the killer because she can’t trust that she’s actually been sleeping.  The killer strikes again as this time Miss Tipton gets stabbed in the back or something.  Also, fat ass finds Theresa’s body.  Miss Tipton survives long enough to stumble to Allison and collapses in her arms – which unfortunately leads to the cleaver in her back ending up in her hand.  Cory finds Allison and leads her away.  She tries to help cover up that Allison was definitely found with blood on her uniform and the murder weapon in her hand.

Everybody leaves after Brent tells the campers that their girls have been murdered.  When Brent tries to start the van, they soon discover it’s been disabled.  They start to suspect that Pop was the one behind the murders based on the way he looks at the girls.  This is not helped by Pop showing up with a shotgun saying he found the girl and they need to leave before firing a shot into the air.  Shortly after that, Tim is killed by a sickle to the gut.  Still thinking it is Pop, they decide to set up some Home Alone style traps for him by having a bear track come down on his face – except they accidentally kill the sheriff.

Brent goes after Pop with an ax, but misses.  When Pop plans to shoot him with his rifle, Cory shots Pop dead.  I’m gonna go ahead and say it – things have very seriously devolved here.  It’s like this 86-minute movie wasn’t sure what it was at first, only to finally decide at the last minute to become a horror movie, but it starts doing all the basic horror movie shit with deaths and the start of resolving the issue in like five minutes.  This movie has serious attention deficit disorder.

After Pop is killed, the rest of the surviving team decide to celebrate before leaving.  Brent wants to get drunk, but Allison wants to leave.  He sends Bonnie to call someone to let them know what happened.  He also sends Cory to make sure she doesn’t make that call too quickly so he can finally get some of that sweet puss from Allison.  Allison is a little weirded out by Brent’s aggressiveness.  Cory returns, and tells them she can’t find Bonnie, and when he leaves, she tells Allison she knows Brent is the killer.

Cory gives Allison the gun she used to kill Pop and says they need to stick together to protect themselves from Brent and stop him before he kills Bonnie.  You see what’s going on here, right?  Cory is the killer.  You get that?  She was the only one who saw Allison with Miss Tipton, she has plausible deniability for the rest of the murders, but now manipulating Allison into killing the one guy who can definitely protect her.  Allison is cuckoo bananas with her nightmares.  Her prints are now all the fuck over the gun used to kill Pop.  Oh…  And when they find Brent just after he discovered Bonnie’s body, she instructs Allison to shoot him – which she does.  Oops.

So, the cops come, get a statement from Cory who states clearly that Allison is undeniably the killer, and they arrest her.  Why did Cory do this?  Well, she was kinda shit on constantly by all the cheerleaders.  She found the mentally unstable one with the issues of the pressure of being perfect all the time, and had those really bad nightmares that she had to take mood-affecting pills for, and decided to get her revenge.

Her revenge complete, Cory can now revel in the chance to be the #1 cheerleader on the squad.

I have lots to say about this movie.  First, the ending is actually really well done and kind of haunting how Cory celebrates by doing a cheer to spell out her own name while Allison is led away with the cops not believing her pleas of innocence.  Knowing how this ended, after viewing it a second time more intently, Lucinda Dickey definitely pulls off the shrinking violent who worms her way into Allison’s life and desperately tries to befriend someone on the squad – only to be the evil mastermind.  Also, she’s really, really hot in her cheerleader uniform.  But also chillingly haunting.  But also hot.  But, you know…  Also kinda spooky scary.

But also hot.

Unfortunately, as I’ve stated a few times already, this movie does not earn its fairly great ending.  The movie feels like two 45-minute stories Frankensteined together into some sort of shit sandwich.  On one hand, you have an attempt at being a slasher movie with a girl who has nightmares about things that kind of come true in some sense.  That means you have the opportunity to delve into a potentially psychotic lead – or a string puller who is manipulating the real world around the dreamer.  That’s how it ended.  Cory manipulated the facts that Allison was struggling with pressure to create a feasible story to tell the cops.  Great!  So, let’s play that up!

Instead, they went with this second idea to have shenanigans as if it was fucking Animal House with a horny Leif Garrett and a fat prankster.  That ended up destroying this movie and caused us to wait so fucking long to get to the actual horror element that I, for one, started to lose interest in everything going on.  Granted, I was pleased to see the eye candy that the other part of the story brought with it, but you can have the eye candy while still creating a thoughtful scenario in which we were with Allison in trying to figure out what was or was not real and what was a simple nightmare.  You teased it a few times, movie, why did you let that slip through your fingers?

I will say I positively loved Betsy Russell in this movie.  She’s at least pulling off the movie I wanted to see what with the tortured girl who can’t trust that she’s honestly sleeping and not going around and killing people in some fit of psychosis.  There’s a look she gives through the entire movie that has this blank stare that emotes a little more than you might think.  She honestly looks both scared and absolutely insane at the same time.  It’s probably helped by her deeply dark brown eyes.  They almost look blank and soulless.  Also that curly hair…  Yum.

But no, seriously, I was captivated by her each time she was on screen.

There’s a lot that could have been explored so much more.  At times the cattiness between the cheerleaders wasn’t just plot contrivance, but could have been used so much more to help inform the pressure that Allison herself tells Cory about.  That pressure itself is something that could be explored as, yes, the best cheerleaders or gymnasts or beauty pageant contestants or insert-girl-in-spotlight-activity-here IS indeed very pressure-filled on a social level.  Explore that, not Leif Garrett and that fat fuck trying to score trim in every other scene.  That shit wasn’t interesting or funny.  It just sucked.

And it made your movie suck too.

Next week, it’s time to really let summer sink in and hit the beach for the 1980 monster classic(?) Humanoids from the Deep!  See ya back here in seven days!

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