directed by: Robert Hiltzik
starring: Mike Kellin, Katherine Kamhi, Paul De Angelo
(back of video blurb):
"The summer vacation of teenage cousins Angela and Ricki reaches a terrifying climax as a series of horrific and mysterious killings forces the Camp Arawak owner to the verge of bankruptcy and insanity..."
NIGHTMARE VACATION is one of those films that has, over the years, built up something of a cult following and was especially popular with 'youngsters' when it first appeared on video in the early 80's. Its not hard to see why; an invariably unsubtle, if occasionally surprising, blend of FRIDAY THE 13TH and PORKIES.
The first 20 minutes of the movie aren't especially easy to decipher. The credits roll over a deserted Summer Camp (Camp Arawak), whilst disembodied voices of happy campers gone by are accompanied by music which would be more at home in an old Universal Horror movie. The action cuts back (or it could be forwards- who knows!), to the camp and its lake- a dead ringer for Camp Crystal Lake (natch). A man and his children are involved in an accident with a speed boat. He and one of his children are (presumably) killed. Cut forward to 8 years later (we actually get shown a little title telling us this before things get too confusing!)-two teens Angela and Richard are getting ready to go to camp. They are being fussed over by a woman under the misapprehension that she is Mink Stole in PINK FLAMINGOS, she is either being ...umm...overenthusiastic or it is a ,non too subtle, hint at a mental imbalance. Just to confuse things further it is difficult to work out who she is the Mother of and who she is the Aunt of. Once we get to Summer Camp, Camp Arawak of course, the film really kicks into gear with so much juvenile pranking as to make that other 'camp slasher' THE BURNING (1981), seem like DEAD POETS SOCIETY. Away from the fart humour, Angela doesn't seem to be enjoying herself; she stares at the other girls in a zombie like fashion, she doesn't speak for three days and even one of camp counsellors hates her. But soon ,the kids and adults that make fun of her or intimidate her start to meet grisly ends....
One other thing that sets NIGHTMARE VACATION apart from a lot of the other Summer Camp slashers is the fact that most of the action involves the kids at the Camp and not the older teen counsellors. Most of the main characters, including Angela and Richard, are barely pubescent. But that doesn't stop the film being quite gory and occasionally sleazy. It is, however, fun in a cheesy way (probably another reason for its continuing popularity and the reason it spawned two later sequels). The motivation of the killer and the psychology of the crimes is suspect- to say the least. But, hell!- teen slashers were never known for their slavish attention to the works of Freud and Jung!....Anyway, however unlikely the final plot twist is, it is undeniable that the last 30 seconds of the film deliver a shockingly unsettling moment. One that completely transcends the previous 90 minutes and one of the most memorable in schlock cinema.
BODYCOUNT 11 female:2 / male:9
1) Man killed when a speedboat hits him
2) Child dies in the same accident
3) Male teen drowned by the killer
4) Male teen stung to death by bees
5) Female teen stabbed in back whilst in shower
6) Female teen smothered by pillow and it is...ahem...suggested that (hot) curling tongs are inserted into her nether regions!
7,8,9) At least three preteens found dead in their sleeping bags
10) Male has an arrow shot through his neck
11) Male teen decapitated