Cheerleader Camp (1988)

Rating: C+

Dir: John Quinn
Star: Betsy Russell, Leif Garrett, Lucinda Dickey, Lorie Griffin
a.k.a. Bloody Pom Poms

This feels like a quintessentially eighties movies: or rather, several of them. Particularly in the early going it feels like an awkward cross between an entry in the Friday the 13th franchise (the seventh of which, The New Blood, had just come out when this was released), Porky’s and Revenge of the Nerds. It’s part horror, part comedy, and part showcase for some impressively gratuitous nudity, courtesy of Playmates Rebecca Ferratti and Teri Weigel, as well as Penthouse Pet Krista Pflanzer. As such, you feel it might have been better had the makers decided to focus more on one field, rather than spinning the Wheel O’ Genres, before it eventually settles onto “slasher movie.”

Still, I can’t argue that the individual elements are decent enough. It begins with a mixed gender team of cheerleaders going to Camp Hurrah for a training session/competition. They’re led by the troubled Alison Wentworth (eighties scream queen Russell, whose career enjoyed an unexpected renaissance more than twenty years later with her role in the Saw franchise) and her boyfriend, Brent Hoover (former teen pop-star Garrett, whose career… did not). There’s also team mascot, Cory (Dickey) and the usual slew of cannon fodder, most notably fat pervy guy with a Handycam comic relief Timmy. It’s not long before one girl commits “suicide” and another has gone missing, with suspects including the creepy handyman, a rival cheerleader, or possibly even Alison herself, since she’s plagued by bizarre, bloody nightmares.

To be honest, all the characters are either painfully obviously red herrings or – in one case – painfully obviously the killer. Well, except Timmy, who is clearly destined for a sad, embarrassing death, once he has served his purpose, of being the audience’s surrogate for the purposes of that gratuitous nudity. I’m quite surprised he manages to survive as long as he does. It takes a while for the deaths to be anything except off-screen nothingburgers, but when it does, there are some decent effects – and I’m reminded that one of the best things about the eighties, was the lack of shitty CGI. It’s also refreshing to not have to worry about cellphones. There’s an actual land-line here, which doesn’t get cut. Who knew? 

On the other hand, Alison is rather too whiny and clingy to be sympathetic. Can’t blame Brent for having wandering eyes and hands, especially considering the alternative menu options. Also on the downside, things don’t get more quintessential than the staggeringly terrible attempt at rapping from Brent and Timmy. Even by the oceanic trench like level of eighties white-boy nonsense, it’s so bad, I feel I should demand reparations for my people. The new wave band who show up out of nowhere aren’t much better, though are less aggressively offensive. All told though, I enjoyed this more than expected, helped by an ending which is impressive in its downbeat nature. Not many slashers where the killer gets clean away.