Cheerleader Camp (1988)

a.k.a. - Bloody Pom Poms

A lesser slasher film from the end of the genre boom, with some good mystery but not enough sleaze. Anchor Bay US R1 DVD.

The Film

At a remote camp somewhere in America, cheerleaders from all over the state are gathering to compete. Tensions soon begin to run high when Alison, who is suffering from murderous nightmares, finds that her bodyfriend has been flirting with the other girls at the camp. However, when one of these girls is found dead, seemingly having committed suicide and when it turns out that the camp's eccentric leader and her creepy groundsmen have kept the body in the freezer instead of reporting it to the police, suspiscion builds that there might be a killer loose...

The 1980s are reknowned as the era of the American slasher films, but as with most genres, several years of over-saturation had seen the genre become repetitive and dull. By the time that Cheerleader Camp came around, the slasher genre had become associated more with sex and gore than the horror and mystery of the early films. From a brief synopsis, Cheerleader Camp sounds like the ultimate slasher movie - a remote campsite, a cheesy plot, dozens of attractive women and a mystery killer - however nothing actually seems to come together and the film simply fails to entertain a lot of the time. The camp itself makes no sense and although a logical plot is hardly a requirement for a low budget horror film, a little explanation of why a seemingly major state tournament had to be held at a remote campsite couldn't have done any harm.

Some attempts to make the film into an American Pie style sexy/teen comedy don't really come together because the characterisation is so poor, but there are a few laughs thanks to Timmy, the jolly fat guy. As for the attractive women, there are plenty of them, but only two brief topless scenes in the whole film make it a real let down in contrast to the softcore erotic Cheerleader movies of the 1970s. Fortunately the film does build some good suspense around the identity of the killer, especially in the final twenty minutes and it does build to a very clever ending that would have been rightly acclaimed in a serious slasher horror.

Production was obviously low budget but the general atmosphere is strong and the film is aware of its limitations, the gory effects for example are certainly not up to the scale of many other films such as the Sleepaway Camp series, but fortunately the editors realise this and keep shots of the effects to a minimum. The soundtrack is mostly a synthesised job but works well and does include one of the cheesiest rap films ever recorded, that really triples the cheese level of the whole film (although the director insists that for the 1980s it was very hot).

There are no real big names on this cast. Actress Betsy Russell who plays Alison is probably best recognised now for her recurring parts in the Saw films and performs well here in the variety of strange dream sequences, but never really gets too much to do (surprisingly considering her puberty-inducing nude scenes in Private School (1983) she keeps fully attired here). Musician Leif Garrett plays her boyfriend and looks decent in the role. Look out for the frequent cult star George 'Buck' Flower (The Fog (1980)), while a trio of Playboy/Penthouse stars get minor roles.

Ultimately, Cheerleader Camp is a light hearted slasher movie, but severely lacking in the all important sleaze department hinted at by the title and situation. Thanks to a very well written climax it will be of interest to slasher fans, but not really recommended.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? No-one of note.
Directed by anyone interesting? John Quinn, a complete unknown who has done some work on Playboy films.
Any gore or violence? A couple of strong but quite brief gore scenes.
Any sex or nudity? Some brief topless scenes and a little sex, minimal compared to other genre entries.
Who is it for? Enjoyable for slasher movie collectors.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.77:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour
The image is generally strong with minimal print damage and only light grain.
Audio Original English mono - sounds solid, although is very quiet.
Subtitles None.
Extras The disc includes:
  • Audio commentary with director John Quinn and Jeff Prettyman. Informative if a little dry and quiet in places.
  • Alternative Bloody Pom Poms title sequence.
  • Three original trailers, including one for the alternate Bloody Pom Poms title.
  • Extensive manual scrolling galleries of behind the scenes photos and posters/stills.
  • The DVD box also includes a short booklet including information on the film and the rumoured sequel.
Region Region 1 (USA) - NTSC
Other regions? Not otherwise available.
Cuts? The film is presented in the R-rated cut and a few brief moments are missing from the originally filmed version, including an extended gore and sex scene - the cuts are not noticable when watching.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 27th March 2007. Reviewed as part of Horror September 2.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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