Friday the 13th and sleeping camp are two of the most notable horror franchises of the 1980s, each for very different reasons. Both emerged after the 1978s Halloweenriding the wave of slasher films that defined the genre for the decade. Friday the 13th became an unlikely standard-bearer for the trend – stumbling backwards into horror immortality in many ways – during sleeping camp surpassed its rival’s basic shtick with a final twist that horror fans still call one of the most shocking of all time.
So which one is better? Both have a similar summer camp setting, and both follow the slasher film formula cemented by Halloween. And while one is clearly more influential than the other, its rival possesses a certain pedigree that it has never been able to match. The better franchise depends on how its various qualities are judged.
Sleepaway Camp is a better movie
One of horror’s dirty little mysteries is that the Friday the 13th Movies were never very good. Unlike other slasher movie franchises – which usually had at least one solid entry to kick off their inevitable series of sequels – the original Friday the 13th already felt dated and underdeveloped when it opened in 1980. With stunning makeup effects by the legendary Tom Savini, the distance was closed to some degree, resulting in unusually imaginative kill shots, such as the infamous arrow that pierced Kevin Bacon’s throat. Beyond that, however, it’s of little interest beyond its fame, and indeed many of the franchise’s most famous tropes — like Jason Voorhees’ hockey mask — were added bit by bit later in the series.
sleeping camp benefits immeasurably from better storytelling and more effective filmmaking. It possesses an unusual camp feel (pardon the pun) that caught the eye of critics, as well as a stronger narrative that plays the whodunit elements more effectively. Then there’s the revelation in which a seemingly innocent girl is exposed not only as a killer but also as a boy. The twist came at the end of a film that’s unusually rife with homoeroticism, and while it’s portrayed as deeply transphobic, that moment has garnered the film far more scholarly attention than its predecessor. Regardless, the difference in critical standing is clear. sleeping camp enjoys a 79 percent tomatometer rating on Rotten Tomatoes while the first Friday the 13th is only 63 percent. Metacritic is even harder to come by a miserable 22 metascore to the Friday the 13th and a much healthier 58 metascore to the sleeping camp.
Friday the 13th is more influential
Good or bad, there’s no denying the success Friday the 13th. The original film grossed $60 million on a budget of $500,000, resulting in a ten-movie franchise, a 2009 reboot, and a 2003 crossover A nightmare on Elm Streetis Freddy Krueger. The impressive gore effects combined with the unique hook of an abandoned summer camp and a “vacation” with enough spooky connotations to match Halloween, gave him instant notoriety among horror fans. That in turn helped it become an acronym for the slasher genre as a whole, especially after Jason got his hockey mask and completed his iconic look Friday the 13th Part III. Apart from their comparable quality as a single film, horror cinema would be inconceivable without them.
sleeping camp, on the other hand, never escaped the shadow of his rival. While it was profitable — bringing in $11 million on a budget of $350,000 — it turned out to be only a fraction of that Friday the 13th‘s Haul and its three sequels failed to garner significant attention. Furthermore, sleeping camp borrows a lot from the earlier series, from the summer camp setting to the startling revelation of a seemingly benevolent character as a killer. It gets to work with more vigour, but still ends up following in the footsteps of its predecessor.
Friday the 13th vs Sleepaway Camp: Which Movie Wins?
In this case, overall impact wins out over head-to-head quality. sleeping camp is a better film, but its charms fall firmly within cult appeal, and an expansion beyond that has never been in the cards. Also, it can never escape the fact that it is imitating Friday the 13th, not the other way around, by proving its rival’s superior influence simply by its existence. The two films make interesting comparisons, but one blood-soaked summer camp is a step above the other.