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Bert Dragin produced what many consider one of the most accurate portrayals of the punk scene ever made, 1984's downbeat wonder SUBURBIA, ably directed of course, by Penelope Spheeris. 2 years later Dragin took Spheeris' reworking of the Bill Butler book THE BUTTERFLY REVOLUTION and made his directorial debut with SUMMER CAMP NIGHTMARE. Smack dab in the middle of the era known for summer camp sex comedies and summer camp slashers, Dragin might have made the penultimate summer camp rebellion film.

SUMMER CAMP NIGHTMARE starts off like so many films with the camp as the main centerpiece. Young folks celebrating summer break, traveling on a bus to a destination some are familiar with and others are anticipating. Camp North Pines is the destination. Peter, one such kid wets himself before they can pull into camp. The bus also has the older teen counselors, the adult helpers, and a brand new camp… warden…maybe not be too strong of a word. Attention Campers! Welcome to North Pines! Where we got lots of Soul, Rock & Roll, Wild Times…strums a musical member of the camper elite!

The first ten minutes feels exactly like MEATBALLS; campers check into their cabins, unpack a variety of items from Porno mags, to snacks to a tape recorder. There are quick reference to good junior counselors (Chris), nerdy kids (Donald Poultry, I'm not making that one up) and of course bad eggs, like Stanley Runk or Runk the Punk as he refers to himself. Runk looks a little like a pimple faced less sexy and slightly less gay Billy Squier. When the new camp director, Mr. Warren is introduced by lovable Ed Hines (the camp's favorite African American adult) the kids get a slice of conservative, near-sighted bullshit from The Rifleman himself, Chuck (butt-fucking) Connors, that's right I said butt-err-Chuck Connors and Mr. Warren also makes mention of his pride and joy the camp's new meditation center. As Mr. Warren talks about rules and shit, he is interrupted every few seconds by quips from Runk and his pals, grab-dicking, referring to Warren as being a warden from Alcatraz, a pussy joke or two, a fruit reference and a bunch of chortles, giggles and guffaws. Marinara anyone, to go with those MEATBALLS.

But fill up because it's not long before we are introduced to Franklin Reilly, a military school rock jaw with a button downed shirt and even more buttoned down attitude towards camp. It seems Franklin is all serious and shit about camp and has taken some of his Nazi Military schooling a tad bit serious. He decides a broken down old swing bridge that separates North Pines from South Pines (the girls camp) is the perfect place to show he's not a coward by dangling across the bridge and back. The onlookers cheer him on until good ol' Ed Hines rushes to his aid just as he finishes the feat. Franklin, portrayed by Charles Stratton seems like a pretty good guy, albeit a little tight assed but he saves our nerdy Donald from drowning and then is off dry off when he walks in on little pissy Peter, who shares the possibility with Franklin that Mr. Warren may have tried a little pedophiliac pick-up on him….what? You say. Quickly we have left the realm of the MEATBALLS, Mr. Warren, who displays his butterfly collection to the camp and then invites the young kids on a butterfly "hunt" is a fucking camp directing QUEER or something!

Stratton, looks and acts a little like a lower echelon Kevin Bacon, if you are a true crazed made for TV movie aficionado you might remember him from his amazing performance as Randy Gardner in the awesome ON THIN ICE: THE TAI BABILONIA. In all seriousness I'm a little surprised he didn't do any more. Especially based on his performance here. Donald Poultry is a 12 year old, Adam Carl. Carl showed up recently in THE MEXICAN and has a little nerdom cred as the kid from the Bigfoot TV series as well as directing an indy movie or 2. Runk and his best pal Mason are really standout for the total 80s bathing they bring to the flick. Skintight LevisTM, wife-beaters, cut-off Iron Maiden shirts, these 2 jokers deliver. During the talent contest, which involves the gals from South Pines as well as the boys, they metal up the place as The Horn Dogs, with their performance of Beef Baloney! As in, she just wants my Beef Baloney! Runk played by Stuart Rogers who went on to do one more picture is the typical big haired metal bully. Mason, John Travolta's nephew, Tom Fridley, is a dead-on a 17 year old Barbarino type. Fridley looks a little like Joey Travolta, his mom is Ellen, and he still works usually in bit parts that his relatives have something to do with. He is that dark complected Italian dude that got laid daily when I was in high school. A cooler Ralph Machio…

After the Horn Dogs racy performance, Mr. Warren calls bullshit on the festivities, canceling the rest of the show, sending the girls camping (oh that is good) and also decides the upcoming dance between the camps is not going down. Franklin calls a meeting of teen counselors and urges them to take matters into their own hands during flip-flop day, a day when kids act like administrators and counselors and the adults of course act like campers. Franklin's firm yet likable nature lead the campers and teen counselors into a pact to help free Chris Wayne after he was caught kissing a girl from South Pines after the Talent Show is cancelled.

During the flip-flop fun Franklin begins to chant "Free Chris Wayne" the others join in and before long they are storming the meditation center to unlock Chris. Of course the adults charge after them to stop them. In all the hubbub, Franklin pulls a pistol he has stolen from the desk of Mr. Warren…

Franklin makes a citizen's arrest on Mr. Warren for what he claims "he done to Peter." He frees Chris, and locks up Mr. Warren, Ed fucking Hines, and all the adults. Franklin grabs the P.A. mic and explains to the campers that they have freed Chris and begins to call the acts a revolution but all in just "fun." The whole idea is for all the kids to have fun; Mr. Warren was "no fun." Franklin of course, frees the girl's camp, and locks up the lady administration, "all in fun" and of course, the dance is back on!

From this point on the film takes on a downbeat tone, kids fucking with reckless abandonment, Franklin is getting more and more power hungry, Chris is getting more and more frightened about what is happening. The leadership of the revolution does what ever it pleases including rape, murder and whatever else they can think of. Franklin has a skewed sense of doling out justice and the whole thing becomes reminiscent of LORD OF THE FLIES.

Dragin, does a bang up job, Franklin's Supreme Revolutionary Committee, is pretty fucking nasty and Dragin doesn't flinch much. The film seems slightly ahead of its time as I watch it now. With the current popularity of kid killer films like the Japanese genre winner BATTLE ROYALE and the rash of school shootings so abundant, not only here in the USA but abroad as well, SUMMER CAMP NIGHTMARE was quite a premonition. It is also a symbolic slice of the Reagan/Bush 80s. It's just a kiddy version of what adult yuppies were doing, "anything for fun and money." This film would make a perfect double feature with AMERICAN PSYCHO if you are in the mood to relive the "great 80s."

As for Mr. Warren, Chuck Connors in a pair of Charles Nelson Riley's glasses (no doubt directly from the old queen's nightstand) is well, Chuck Connors. His Mr. Warren seems a little too close to "from the heart." Warren programs the camp's TV to receive nothing but religious programming, there's plenty of right wing rhetoric being bandied about and then of course, the allusion to child molestation that the film makes. Later in the film this accusation is just sloughed off, but too late to do Mr. Warren much good. If you haven't heard, Connors, who died in 1992 after a battle with lung cancer, has been long rumored to swing both ways. There are supposed 8mm porn loops showing the former Boston Celtic, as well as International League Baseball player smoking quite the cock. Best known as a Western genre standout, Connors once dropped the "Fuck" bomb while doing commentary on Prime Time Monday Night Baseball. Ol' Chuck's career fell just short of 40 years and some of his work is damned right crucial for fans of stinky cinema. SOYLENT GREEN (gotta wonder if he and the oft rumored closeted fag Heston got it on), MAD BOMBER, TOURIST TRAP and BANJO HACKETT just a few of the now classic skuzz Connors has been a part of. Somewhere between ruggedly handsome and bucket headed ugly lies Chuck Connors and that strange combination along with some decent acting (Greydon Clark's SKINHEADS is a standout) make him a BOF Hall of Famer, not to mention his sordid dick sucking past.

The next time some fan boy starts warbling on about 80s "classics" like HALLOWEEN, FRIDAY the 13th or THE SHINING, fire back some SUMMER CAMP NIGHTMARE and chap some dipshit's ass. But the only way you can do that is to see the damned thing. Well, what in the Hell are you still doing here?

Mail Prof. Tread

Mr. Warren gets an old-fashioned Dick Tease, but they say he likes little boys.

The Revolution is on! FREE CHRIS WAYNE and junk!

That is a great look for an 11 year-old, guaranteed to get your ass kicked.

What? Where? Whoooooooa/? It's a little Travolta!

Pray for a copy of Summer Camp Nightmare and you just might get it.

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Chris Wayne
Chris, the goodnik, ain't he swell?

Doanld Poultry, he's the nerd, did you catch that, THE NERD!

Franklin, he's the the power hungry little Hitler.

Runk the Punk and Mason the Dago...

She just wants my Beef Baloney...

Mr. Warren, Mr. Chuck Connors, ladies and GENTLEMEN!

Ed "Slappy" Hines, He sho is likable.

Franklin aligns his strategy with the bedwetters.

Ahhhhh the 80s!


Nerds doing what they do best, chillin'.

So I said "No one will ever see those old pictures of me smoking a Johnson..."


Summer Camp is for "Homosexuals."

Well there are exceptions ot every rule.

Then again maybe not.

Brains On Film 2003