Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cheerleader Camp (1988)

by Jimmy "Push 'em back, push 'em back, way back!" Callaway

What is it about cheerleaders that holds them fast in the sexual fantasy life of the average American male, age 8 to 88? Is it because they act as a counterpoint to the sweaty, testosterone-soaked sporting events where they are so often found? Is it because they represent wholesome Americana and make us pine for a simpler time, when masturbation was satisfying in and of itself? Is it because we're all really, in our heart of hearts, the oily, creepy music teacher who lingers a bit too much around the lower field during cheer try-outs?

These are all burning questions for the intelligent pervert, and Cheerleader Camp seeks to answer none of them. The flick does, however, answer the question of why I kinda feel sorry for Leif Garrett. It's certainly not because he got all strung out on drugs. Hell, if anything I envy him that, even if only because he got to go out with Justine Bateman at the time. No, it's because of Three for the Road. That very short-lived show also featured Alex Rocco, better known either as Moe Greene or Roger Meyers, Jr., depending on who you ask. It also co-starred Vince Van Patten, who had the good sense to star in Rock 'n' Roll High School before taking the world of men's tennis by storm. See that? The show that launched Leif Garrett's career also thrust him into the god-awful world of '70s pop music, then left him hanging out to dry in the '80s in shithole movies like this one, while his two castmates barely noticed, one because he's talented and one because he's a Van Patten. I dunno, maybe I'm nuts, but it just kinda seems like a raw deal.

And trust me, you can see in ol' Leif's cutie-pie face as he slogs through this piece of shit, he wishes he'd never gotten that callback for Walking Tall. Cheerleader Camp is one of the slew of late '80s slasher flicks which, like the last two Sleepaway Camp movies, abandons all pretense of being a creative project. Tits, blood, bad jokes, more blood: that's the formula, and we're sticking to it.

The movie opens with a dream sequence that sets up one theme purposefully and another quite accidentally. Tonight's final girl, Allison, is dreaming that she's running late for a big cheer competition, and then she falls flat on her face in a mud puddle. Her mother and father are the only ones in the stands and they walk off disgusted as their daughter makes a fool of herself. Right off, you can see the filmmakers wanting to use the dream sequence as a motif to say something about the futility of competition; that empty ambition, a pointless desire to "win," is always going to be frustrated. And I so desperately want to concede that to them, I do. But the other theme this scene sets up is that these guys flat out suck at making movies. Whatever original or interesting ideas that are to be found in Cheerleader Camp are always almost immediately quashed by bad acting or bad hair or bad dialogue. An A for effort, seriously. But a big F-, all around.

The main kids in the movie are all from Lindo Valley. It's never clear just what sort of institution is Lindo Valley, exactly. Some of the dialogue implies it's not a high school, but is it a community college? A technical school? I dunno. I guess they didn't make it a high school since there's nudity and stuff in the movie, and that might imply kiddie porn of some kind. But Porky's and a ton of other movies never seemed to have a problem with this. Anyways, they all pile in the van and go up to Camp Hurrah, in order to further perfect their cupies and their teddy-sits. Leif Garrett plays Brent, the rarin' go-getter who's in it to win it (if he's in it to win anything except a receding hairline, however, he's shit out of luck) and also Allison's boyfriend. The only other dude in the group is Timmy, the standard big, fat party animal, the sorta guy we could blame on John Belushi if we wanted to (but St. Belushi can still do no wrong, in my eyes).

What is it with the late 1980s in that every single girl has the exact same hairstyle? It's almost hypnotising. They all have that poofy sorta poodle-cut, like each and every one of them are in Poison. This isn't to say they're not all quite easy on the eyes, especially future porn star Teri Weigel. Man, she's hot. She's got those sleepy eyes and pouty lips and everything. Definitely cold shower material. She still looks good today, even if she's had a bit of work done and mostly does MILF porn, which phenomenon is getting a bit creepy, even for me.

What were we talking about? Oh, right, tits. Right away, Brent starts making goo-goo eyes at the other cheerleaders at Camp Hurrah, yet somehow they're able to resist his trainer mullet. Allison is upset, naturally, but when one of the other girls ends up dead, Allison starts to wonder just how upset she really was. See, little Allie's been having nightmares and is all looped up on psychotropics, so she thinks she may be capable of anything while whacked on lithium. Cory, the Lindo Valley mascot (which renders her an untouchable by her cheermates), does her best to be a friend to Allison, and Allison returns the favor by having acting skills more wooden than the Black Forest.

Sadly, Pam as played by Teri Weigel is the next victim. Happily, there's a sex scene with her beforehand (although it is unhappily also with Leif Garrett). Oh well, there's only, like, ten minutes left, right? What? Another hour? Oh, man, this is not gonna be easy.

Everybody gets killed and they die, the end.

Now, I get that budget constraints are often going to be an almost insurmountable obstacle. And so I'm willing to look the other way on some things. The mascot costumes in this movie, for example. They all look like they were in the cut-out bin down at Party City on November 1st, certainly not top-of-the-line mascot wear. But hey, I get it, you work with what you have. But I'll tell you what, as soon as you get the screenplay and there's a scene that calls for Leif Garrett to rap, I will go into my own pocket to buy the Liquid Paper to fix that. If you wanna go ahead with it, then I got no sympathy for you.

Give up your dreams, filmmakers, that's all I'm saying. They're not that big a deal, especially when they seem to mainly involve getting girls to take their tops off. Hell, I've managed to do that more than once without having to tell them I'm a movie producer. Just stop making movies when you suck so hard. You can have all the C-list punk bands (by the way, Sounds of Suksexx, please do not reform) and all the Buck Flowers you want to keep your penny-pinching producers happy. Round up the local Bakersfield High cheer squad as extras, g'ahead. It'll be difficult to make a good movie with that thin a gruel, but it can be done. And if you can't do it, then it's simple: fucking give up.

How's that for school spirit?