Why Is Sleep Away Camp So Terrifying?

posted: 07/25/16
by: Sasha Brown-Worsham
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Summer camp cabins

For many of us, some of the best days of our childhood were spent at sleep away camp. Early morning swims in the freezing cold lake. Campfires and s'mores deep into the night. A sky full of stars so bright, you can't believe you once thought you'd seen stars. Idyllic. Bucolic. Restful. These are a few of the adjectives that come to mind when we think of summer camp.

So why are there so many horror movies that take place in them?

From the 1983 slasher film Sleepaway Camp to the entire series of Friday the 13th films, there is something about sleepaway camp that brings out the fear in us.

In many ways it makes sense. The "woods are lovely, dark, and deep" (to borrow a phrase from Robert Frost), but they are also creepy as hell. There are constant sounds. Was it an animal? A stick? A man in a hockey mask waiting to pounce? And all of that is to say nothing of the natural fear that comes both for parents and children who are separated from one another. Parents fear something may happen to their kids outside of their watch (just look at poor Mrs. Voorhees!) and children worry they may never come home.

The fears about sleep away camp stem from the fears we all have, both of things we can see and things we can't. And let's face it: There is something decidedly creepy about being out in the woods in unlocked cabins, exposed to the elements and vulnerable to basically... everything.

It could be the best summer of your life. Or it could be your last. Horror movies always tap into our most base fears and any parent can tell you, there is no greater fear than losing a child. Especially an on idyllic summer day far from their suburban home.