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Film / Summer Camp Nightmare

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Summer Camp Nightmare is a 1987 horror film featuring Chuck Connors and Charlie Stratton, which is based on the 1961 novel The Butterfly Revolution by William Butler. In the film, the teenage counselors-in-training stage a takeover of the all-boys Camp North Pines to liberate it from its strict camp director Mr. Warren, locking up all the adult counselors and also liberating the nearby all-girls Camp South Pines. At first things start off fun as they celebrate the takeover with a co-ed dance. However, as a rape and a murder occur during the takeover, things take a turn for the worse, and one counselor-in-training must get the police to rescue the children from the camp and put the ringleader, Franklin Reilly, under arrest.

This film provides examples of:

  • Accidental Murder: Stanley Runk accidentally murders Mr. Warren with his knife, leading him to have a My God, What Have I Done? reaction, and his body has been dumped into a cave to prevent anyone else from knowing what happened to him. The "official story" is that Mr. Warren has been transferred to the girls' camp for the time being.
  • Adaptational Modesty: This being set in The 80s, the boys of Camp North Pines swim in swim trunks instead of naked as in the original book.
  • Adults Are Useless: One scene in the movie that makes a big deal of this trope is where Donald Poultry is drowning, and the adult counselors near the shore of the lake are too busy with their own things to care. Franklin notices this and comes to Donald's rescue, drawing the attention of the adults as they notice Franklin bringing Donald back to shore.
  • The Alcoholic: Jack Caldwell, the sports director of the camp, who is seen taking quick nips even during times when he should be watching over the children for their safety. The children eventually get into his stash and use it to liven up their parties during the takeover.
  • Anyone Can Die: Pretty much the rule in the latter half of the story, as Mr. Warren and John Mason end up killed.
  • Asshole Victim: John Mason, who although acquitted of rape by surviving Franklin's trial by ordeal was taken out into the woods by the girls and hung from a tree.
  • Big Bad: Franklin Reilly.
  • Big "SHUT UP!":
    • This bit of dialogue between Stanley and Franklin during his gathering together the teenagers to stage a takeover of the camp.
      Stanley: (referring to Mr. Warren) Yeah, besides, he's a goddamn...
      Franklin: SHUT UP, STANLEY!
      Stanley: But Franklin...
      Franklin: Just shut up.
    • Later on, when Stanley reports to Franklin about Mr. Warren accidentally being killed:
      Stanley: (sounding really worried) Franklin...
      Franklin: SHUT UP AND LET ME THINK!
  • Blind Without 'Em: Donald Poultry drops his glasses into the ravine when he is forced to go across the rope bridge and Franklin has Stanley cut the bridge, causing Donald to hang onto the rope for dear life as the glasses drop and his vision is severely affected.
  • Bound and Gagged: Mr. Warren is presented at the first kids' dance at the camp with his hands tied behind his back and his mouth taped over, with Trixie playfully taunting him with some seductive dancing. Stanley and John tease her behind her back about this as they watch, saying that she must like older men.
  • Bring Help Back: With Donald Poultry captured after trying to tap into the phone lines to call for help near the end, Chris Wayne ventures outside the camp grounds to get help from the police. They show up in time just as the campers turn against the revolutionists and subdue them along with their leader, and Chris rescues Donald from the rope bridge.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: One of the kids, Peter, ends up wetting his pants on the bus ride to Camp North Pines at the beginning of the film. The same kid also had an accident when he reports to Franklin about Mr. Warren's "inappropriate actions".
  • Captain Ersatz: Donald Poultry is this movie's analog to the original book's protagonist Winston Weyn. Given the time setting of the movie, he is a tech nerd rather than a book nerd.
  • Co-Dragons: John Mason (until he was killed) and Stanley Runk are these to Franklin
  • Conflicting Loyalty: Donald Poultry during the early part of the revolution is conflicted over whether he should follow his friend Chris Wayne or Franklin Reilly, the counselor-in-training that saved his life. He decides to go with Franklin, but when things really get deep and people in the revolution start acting really strange, he chooses to turn against Franklin and side with Chris.
  • Cover Version: Stanley and John, the Horndogs, do their version of Fear's "Beef Baloney" during the talent show.
  • Date Rape: John Mason and Debbie Stewart's date in the woods turns sour as John turns aggressive and ends up raping Debbie.
  • Dean Bitterman: Mr. Warren is the camp director version of this trope, as he hardly allows the teenage boys of Camp North Pines to have any fun, going so far as to have the rec room's TV set only receive one channel which is full of religious programming. He also ends up cancelling the co-ed dance planned with Camp South Pines over John and Stanley's obscene performance of "Beef Baloney", and further restricts any contact with the girls' camp after Chris Wayne is caught making out with Heather. One of the teenagers comments that he used to be a very strict high school principal. He ends up killed halfway through the film, and his body is dumped into a cave.
  • Food Fight: The boys of Camp North Pines greet the girls of Camp South Pines with this inside the cafeteria.
  • Forged Message: When the young kids are writing postcards to their parents during the takeover, Peter writes on his postcard what's really going on while the camper next to him simply tells of what a fun time he's having at camp. One of the teenagers reads Peter's postcard message, then tears it up and tells Peter to copy the other camper's postcard message and to sign his name on it.
  • Forgot I Couldn't Swim: Donald Poultry goes back into the water after being checked by a visiting nurse from Camp South Pines for a skin problem, only to be told that it was a heat rash, but soon finds himself drowning and Franklin, after seeing what the camp counselors are doing about it, goes in to save him.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Donald Poultry, who constantly carries around a suitcase full of tools and uses them to do things such as hack into the box on top of the rec room building that controls the number of channels the rec room's TV set receives.
  • Head-Turning Beauty: The visiting nurse from Camp South Pines is given this reaction by the teenage boys of Camp North Pines upon her arrival at the beach.
  • The Hero: Chris Wayne, the counselor-in-training who turns against Franklin Reilly and his regime and also rescues his friend Donald Poultry when he is forced to go across the broken rope bridge as punishment.
  • Mistaken for Pedophile: Mr. Warren, who is accused of touching Peter, one of the young boys, although there is no evidence of such happening, as it was most likely fabricated by Franklin Reilly.
  • Porn Stash: One of the kids has a suitcase full of porn magazines that he starts to look through.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: John Mason's rape of Debbie, one of the Camp South Pines girls, becomes a point-of-no-return for the character, as he becomes such an irredeemable Jerkass that the teenage girls, after seeing that he survived the broken rope bridge trial unscathed, take him out into the woods to hang him from a tree.
  • Rope Bridge: The broken rope bridge that connects between Camp North Pines and Camp South Pines, which Mr. Warren tells the children not to use because it is dangerous, appears a few times used by the teenagers. The first time it was used, Franklin used it as a daring test to prove his theory about overcoming fear. The other two times it was used, it was used as punishment for both John Mason (for raping Debbie) and Donald Poultry (for attempting to call for help through the telephone lines).
  • Setting Update: This movie brings the original story's setting to The '80s, complete with music and technology from that era.
  • Silent Treatment: Because Chris Wayne and Heather wouldn't go along with what Franklin's gang of revolutionists want to do regarding control of the camp, they were given this even by their best friends by order of Franklin himself.
  • The Smart Guy: Donald Poultry, who constantly carries around a tape recorder and a suitcase of tools. He also narrates a good deal of the story.
  • Smash the Symbol: Mr. Warren's butterfly collection board, serving as a sort of symbol for the camp director's rather oppressive rule over the campers and junior counselors, gets smashed and taken down by the Revolution as they take the supports for it and use them for roasting a pig over an open fire.
  • Spiteful Spit: John Mason's rape victim Debbie Stewart spits in his face when he downplays the rape at his trial before Franklin.
  • Summer Campy: The first half of the movie starts off as a typical summer camp comedy, before the takeover of the camp gets serious.
  • Swapped Roles: In Camper-Counselor Turnabout Day, the campers and camp counselors swap roles for a day, which starts off as light-hearted fun, but then Franklin uses it as an opportunity to stage his takeover of the camp, freeing Chris Wayne from detention and putting the adult camp counselors into detention.
  • Teenage Wasteland: What Camp North Pines ends up becoming with the counselors-in-training in control in the latter half of the movie.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Franklin, John Mason, and Stanley Runk (a.k.a. Runk the Punk) are primary examples of this trope, with Stanley involved in a murder, John with a rape, and Franklin becoming Drunk with Power.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: Franklin takes over as the camp director, and things go from bad to worse during his rule.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The fate of the other adult camp counselors from both camps, particularly the friendly Ed Hines, is not mentioned as the police gather the children back into the buses at the end of the film.
  • Wild Teen Party: The Camp North Pines teenagers host two of them in this film, where liquor and sex become part of the activities while Franklin is in charge.
  • You Bastard!: Debbie's reaction to John Mason's denial of the rape he committed against her at the trial.