Thursday, February 2, 2012

CHEERLEADER CAMP (1988) - high concept exploitation meets low brow inspiration

Dream sequences are usually inserted into horror films as a cheap way of getting another shock sequence shoehorned in. However, Cheerleader Camp goes the symbolic route and begins with a furious slip of Freudian intensity. Betsy Russell, the lead cheerleader and star, is running around an empty locker room, opening locker doors, looking for her lost childhood or perhaps deodorant. We can hear the field announcer repeating the phrase “we’re waiting” while the camera roams around at dutch (read: foreign) angles. She runs out onto the stadium field, empty except for her parents, and slips on some mud (there’s that Freudian slapstick I was referencing earlier). She yells and pleads to her folks, something about needing love or whatever, but they ignore her. She copes with this rejection the only way she knows how; cheerleading. Naturally, the pom poms slice the shit out of her arms.

Now, with a movie called Cheerleader Camp, you’d expect it to begin with some fat guy peeping at teenage knockers and then farting on some nerd’s face. This is obviously not the case here, as the filmmakers were much more adventurous, pushing back the parade of tubby shenanigans to the second reel. Instead, we initially explore the various psychoses haunting our main character. Presumably, it’s got something to do with her using cheerleading to cope with the lack of affection from her parents, resulting in a potentially murderous eruption of suppressed trauma. Luckily, as a devout Jungian, I’m in my element here, and I’ll just add that the audience is sure to become collectively conscious when she strips down to her underwear.

As our cheerleading troupe heads for camp in a van, we get to know them and their accomplishments:

-Leif Garrett: starred in Skateboard: The Movie, rode his heroin addiction to an appearance on VH1-Behind the Music

-Rebecca Ferratti: Playboy Playmate, star of the Gor franchise

-Teri Weigel: Playboy Playmate, porn legend

-Lucinda Dickey: starred in Breakin’, Breakin’ 2 – Electric Boogaloo, Breakin’ 3 – Eccentric Bungalow, Breakin’ 4 – Eclectic Bugaboo, and Breakin’ 5 – Epileptic Ballyhoo

-Lorie Griffin (Teen Wolf; a role in an episode of Charles in Charge)

And the previously referenced “fat party guy”, Travis McKenna, who managed a part in the brilliantly visionary Road House. Unfortunately, his career mostly consists of TV walk-ons, but at least he's getting some exercise. Of course, our head cheerleader heroine is Betsy Russell, star of the third movie in the Angel series, which is an entire slate of films dealing with the travails of a schoolgirl who goes undercover as a hooker (or a hooker that goes undercover as a schoolgirl, I can never remember which).

The fat guy is often seen filming with his camcorder when not adding much needed slapstick and overall fartiness to the proceedings. He does so with a robust absence of shame, even sticking his bare ass out of a van window at one point, bringing back memories of the time I tried to smuggle an elephant into my bedroom. “Camp Hurrah” supervisor and general miss stuffy-pants Miss Tipton (and her gosh darn poodle) saves the day by slapping the humongoloid tuckus with her clipboard. The buns celebrate their new found freedom the only way they know how; by letting loose a farty fartful of gas.

Miss Tipton does her roll call, and this becomes an opportunity for further character development, as well as just plain funny humor. She explains that a simple "present" will suffice, and Lorie, playing the dumb blonde, repeats "a simple present". Hee hee. She is already aware of the fat guy’s presence, “a fact made a-bun-dantly clear". I don’t think that’s a word, but I laughed anyway. Ho ho. Not to mention, Leif tells big boy that the reason he isn’t getting laid is because he is too shy, leading one to assume that if he ran around with his ass cheeks hanging out more often, girls may become smitten with his particular brand of fun. Maybe they’ll overlook the fact that he is a gravy covered biscuit short of being a beached whale.

Well, once in a while, somebody gets slaughtered, and Betsy has a variation on the opening dream, somehow lending gravitas and context to the stabbing of former Playboy playmates. However, following this subtext may prove difficult to some but, luckily, there is a constant stream of moronic shenanigans that will entertain people form all walks of academic life. Stuff like:

-A sex tape starring the local sheriff, which I’m sure has a clever title like "I Shot the Sheriff…With My Love Gun…Which is Code for 'Penis'".

-Dialogue like “I’ll drop dead if you’ve ever tried head”, or “she should spend less time trying to get honey on her muffin”.

-More dialogue like “she’ll make your pee pee harder than a ten pound bag of jawbreakers”, courtesy of George “Buck” Flower, who, after Berserker, goes back to his roots by playing another greasy old pervert.

-A rap musical sequence (more “Caucasian spoken word meets drum machine” admittedly).

-Gratuitous Leif Garrett album product placement-fu

-A life-size chicken breakdancing (boy that Breakin’ movie shit sure has caught on)

-Fatty chugging from a six-pack beer hat, doing the drunken robot on the dance floor (yes, he’s a freakazoid and yes, he has reported).


Of course, there’s a twist ending where everything the movie has been pointing towards with the dream sequences is a bunch of bullshit. Instead, Betsy is the victim, and the killer pulls a motive out of their ass (keeping with the running buttock motif). I guess in the end, the important thing is that Betsy feels guilt for the mass slaughter of her friends, and this festers like a bitch. As Voltaire said, “Man is guilty of all the good he didn’t do”, and that includes preventing evil fucks with no conscience from lobotomizing porn star cheerleaders with garden shears.


  1. Seen this a few years ago and remember that I totally hated it, especially because every single character here is completely unbearable :)

  2. Speaking of greasy old perverts, I'd like to stuff Miss Tipton's pants. Now, I don't know what that means exactly, but it sounds vaguely sexual.

    The makers of The Music Vest would definitely benefit from product placement-fu.

  3. @Maynard
    Personally, I can't help but like a cheerleader, no matter how bitchy or annoying she is. :)

    George Buck (The Buckinator) was in some softcore (and even a few hardcore) films early in his career, and I remember one in particular where you get to see him in all of his greasy glory (Dirty Mind of Young Sally, I believe).

    I'd like to think they threw in a Leif Garrett LP as a shout out to the 70's Tigerbeat Leif fans who ere still on board by the late 80's.