I remember seeing this film in the horror section when we'd go to rent movies as a child - Cheerleader Camp, along with 1985's Slaughter High (which I've done a review for) and '88's Night of the Demons (which would later turn out to be a favorite of mine) stood out to me; the cover art especially. I'm sure I'd be a broken record if I uttered this phrase, but I'll say it once more for posterity's sake: they sure don't make 'em like they used to! The same could be said for the premise of Cheerleader Camp, too...it follows the path of the "Slasher"; a sub- category within the horror genre that was cleverly constructed before the formula gave birth to a near-limitless barrage of underlings. Cheerleader Camp arrived late in the '80s; that is to say, numerous films that were released prior exercised the usual Slasher-esquire routine ad-infinitum.
Cheerleader Camp focuses on a group of high school students who attend Camp Hurrah - a cheerleading camp that features opposing squads that compete to win the All-State finals. The film's protagonist and primary point of interest is Alison - a girl who suffers from feelings of inadequacy compounded by her boyfriend Brent's (Leif Garrett) unscrupulous behavior. It's not long after their arrival that a death occurs on the camp grounds. Initially ruled as a suicide, sketchy characters are introduced and explored respectively that may offer a clue to the killer's true identity.
I'm sure many of you are curious as to why Leif Garrett, a former '70's teen idol, headlines this film. It is a bit out of place but I find the situation comical. Garrett was not exclusively tied to child-stardom - his filmography is extensive and since 1977 he's released 8 studio albums. I'm still curious as to how the budget of Cheerleader Camp was able to afford someone like Garrett...but I suppose stranger things have happened. The girl who fills the position of Alison is none other than Betsy Russell. Horror audiences would fully recognize her 18 years later in Saw III, portraying the character of Jill Tuck - Jigsaw's wife.
Garrett and Russell are probably the only two that actually display a shred of talent in this mess of a film. Perhaps I should be more honest and mention George "Buck" Flower too - a man who was a very experienced character actor with a career that spanned over 35 years. Flower seemingly starred in just about everything - his accolades achieved within the profession of acting are quite extensive, having been featured in over 100 films. Horror was certainly no stranger to him as he filled roles in films like The Fog, Maniac Cop, Pumpkinhead, They Live, 976-Evil II, Waxwork II: Lost in Time, Warlock: The Armageddon, and the John Carpenter/Tobe Hooper anthology collaboration, Body Bags. Buck Flower was involved with many other horror films as well but I've chosen to be kind and keep my rambling brief.
What else is worth mentioning about Cheerleader Camp? Are you curious about the film's director, John Quinn? He's virtually unheard of and this feature was his third film as a director - that's where his developments in the genre start and end, I'm afraid. Since Cheerleader Camp arrived so late in the scene with many well-known Slasher titles firmly established, the production values and supposed imaginative death sequences do not measure up to a satisfactory standard. The acting by the rest of the gang present in this film is a joke - a cruel, twisted joke, like getting dowsed by a bucket of urine while asleep in your bed as a wake-up call. While the gory sequences do not boast overly- impressive results they could be worse. My complaints in this department are kept to a minimum.
In true Slasher representation, the audience is left to wonder who the real killer is; several red herrings are strewn about in a sloppy and predictable fashion, trying so desperately to trick and fool you but lacking the intelligence to do so. If I actually gave one idiom of a damn, I could have guessed who the killer was too; alas, I sat motionless through this 88 minute feature while scornfully disapproving of the stupidity therein. One could argue that all of these ingredients help comprise that of a cult classic, and normally I'd agree with you, if 50 other Slasher films didn't re-live this exhausting demonstration. I would spend far too much time listing the many films that share a similar premise all throughout the 1980's - many of them before 1988.
All-in-all, I'd say Cheerleader Camp qualifies as another "campy" 80's Slasher with predictable elements and a borish amount of filler so thick you could spread it on a sandwich. Supposedly a sequel to this movie was in production in the early 90's but was scrapped - a different production company picked it up, however, and changed the name from Cheerleader Camp 2 to Camp Fear. It was released on television in 1991 and allowed the return of Betsy Russell. If you love Slasher films, by all means, watch the original to complete your mission in life. As for me, I've done my duty and I'd only agree to watch this film again under the pretense of doing something else...which doesn't include watching it. Does that make sense?