DVD Review: Cheerleader Camp (1987)


Liberal nudity, blood drenched murder shots and a menagerie of quirky characters contribute to this 1987 parcel of fun. It’s what made Cheerleader Camp the Cinemax staple that primarily exposed it to its many praisers. But the standout element is the central character of Alison Wentworth (Betsy Russell). Alison is not only frigid but self absorbed, evoking not sympathy but satisfaction at the terrors she faces throughout. Save for, perhaps, the implications of the final twist, which manages to brew a sense of unease in the viewer’s stomach.

Anchor Bay, as per usual, have implemented a first rate restoration, due in part to acquisition of the original negative. In conjunction with the letterbox framing, it reveals up to now unseen or unnoticed detail, such as an atmospheric set design and the vibrant colors of the girls’ camp uniforms, important when you’re staring at their chests for so long. Also, some off-putting close-ups from the old VHS are now visible in their correct framing/composition. Sound is clear enough in Dolby Mono – let’s agree off the bat that the sound of older films like this don’t benefit from being pulled apart and re-assembled into artificial sounding Dolby 5.1 tracks. The spooky nightmare laughs are all that assault the speakers, and all that need to.

There’s a simple way to divide a bare bones from a special edition: whether a disc has an audio commentary or not. If it does, and especially for Anchor Bay, it means the participants can usually provide materials for other extras. That’s what we have here. Director John Quinn and producer Jeff Prettyman lend their voiceovers, detailing everything you’d want to know about the flick. The information contained leads the listener to a newfound respect for many of the cast, especially Lief Garret (Brett) and Lucinda Dickey (Cory). I gotta grumble though, at the creators insistence that a whole bunch of dallies they had access to (with slight variations/extensions of scenes) weren’t worth including on the disc.

Three trailers seem almost identical but provide a subtle look at the evolution of the film’s marketing. An easter egg reveals a fourth: a promotional trailer composed of rough cut timecoded footage. An alternate title sequence is included under the original title, which is what everyone outside of the USA will be well accustomed to already.

On to the Still Gallery. Quinn contributes a stack of clear on-set photos that give visual insight to the production, but the gravy is a fabulously garish airbrushed foreign cover art – depicting an image that in no way matches any scene in the film. Ah, those were the days.

Leading slasher journalist Adam Rockoff has penned the liner notes for an included booklet (brief at two pages, but not loaded with photo padding) which thankfully doesn’t come off as too repetitious in spite of the commentary (as a few in the past have been prone to). The text ends with a paragraph on the fabled sequel – an ideal lead-in to our own extensive investigation that we’ve carried out over the years here at Retro Slashers.

AB have thankfully used the original artwork on the cover, altered only to include the principle actors’ names up top. The cheerleading skeleton is probably what most first remember about the film – that and mistaking it for Return to Horror High. The menu screens by Crest National’s facilities are of usual top quality – always a perfect mood setter for the film ahead in an age when menu screens look like glorified video games.

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6 Responses to “ DVD Review: Cheerleader Camp (1987) ”

  1. …and it’s not often you get to see Leif Garret as a cheerleader.

  2. love this movie maybe MAYBE my favorite slasher of all the 80s slashers. my modern favorite slasher is jennifers body

  3. Really enjoyed this flick when I watched it with my buddies. Leif’s sidekick is consistently hilarious.

  4. This movie is fun while it lasts, but it really doesn’t leave much of an impression. Still, I recommend slasher fans pick up the awesome (and cheap!) DVD while it’s still in print, because this movie won’t be worth the inevitably outrageous OOP prices.

  5. I got this the day it was released do to my obsession with this movie. I think it’s time for a sequel, especially since Betsy Russell is sort of back in the horror spotlight.

  6. I finally got ho;d of this thing and I liked it. Much better than Head Cheerleader/Dead Cheerleader, which unfortunately, I have also seen.
    I wish they would re-release the, frankly, immortal Wacko!

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