Newsletter: Summer Camp
Let's send the kids out somewhere to sleep in a tent for a month or two. Next to a lake? Even better.
Welcome to the Rewind Video Newsletter, the premier video store newsletter on the internet.
For years, our customers' favorite shelf in the entire store has been the Staff Recommendation Shelf. When we rotate new movies onto the shelf, the staff always adheres to a theme chosen by store management.
"The Shelf" has gotten so popular, in fact, that we now discuss our selections on the Rewind Video Podcast. In The Newsletter, we dive a little deeper.
This week, Robinzon Chavez takes a closer look at the movies he chose for the "Summer Camp" theme.
The greatest appeal of summer camp, from the parents' perspective, is to get the kids out of the house for a majority of the summer. The greatest appeal of summer camp, from the kids' perspective, is to get out of your parents house for a majority of the summer.
The whole reason school was invented, it seems, was to get your children under someone else's care for a large part of the day. At the very least, that's become the primary benefit, even if unintended.
Learning might happen, but it usually doesn't. The important thing is that families are separated, and all parties get quite used to the arrangement. Having that change just because it's summertime is enough to break down the social order.
For many, the only reasonable option is to ship their kids hours away to sleep in tents and bathe infrequently, and at great expense. Such is the cost of peace & quiet.
ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES
1993 • 94 min • dir. Barry Sonnenfeld
There aren't many kids movies that are as purely demented as Addams Family Values. None, that I can remember, feature a family of murderous psychos playing their patholigies up to such comedic effect.
Nearly every character at some point attempts to murder another character, and they're all constantly referring to their past crimes: torture, kidnappings, robberies, other murders.
We get probably ten minutes worth of trying-to-kill-a-baby scenes. Wednesday and Pugsley even go so far as to put their younger brother's head in an active guillotine, which he barely escapes.
All of this mischief gets them shipped off to summer camp, the worst kind of punishment for the proto-goth Addams kids. And as you might expect, the camp provides fertile ground for their murderous impulses.
A Thanksgiving pageant in the middle of summer is enough to send them over the edge, and the ensuing insurgency against camp leadership, and the elite campers they serve, results in, we have to assume, multiple casualties.
Prisoners are taken, parents seriously injured, and a fellow camper was likely burned alive. The movie certainly doesn't go out of its way to assure us that everyone survived.
If nothing else, Addams Family Values is a reminder that not every camp experience is a good camp experience.
WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER
2001 • 97 min • dir. David Wain
Wet Hot American Summer might be the summer-campiest movie of all time. Bad food, uncomfortable sleeping arrangements, having to walk outside in ankle-deep mud to get to the bathroom — these are the things that define the summer camp experience.
Most camp movies try to approximate that vibe, but Wet Hot lived it, suffering through a low-budget, on-location production at a real-life summer camp where it rained every single day of filming.
That misery is on-screen, but in true summer camp fashion, it only serves to make the experience as a whole more endearing, and it provides a soft landing spot for the barrage of jokes we get from this movie from beginning to end.
Comedy is generational, maybe even micro-generational. On top of that it's personal. So maybe I'm biased, or warped, because I grew up with MTV's The State, but I couldn't name more than 3-4 comedies that I like more than this one.
Not everyone agrees. Wet Hot flies either over or under most heads, but when it makes contact, it's generally right on the screws.
But if all you're looking for is that unsupervised, summer camp energy, Camp Firewood is a pretty rad place.
1986 • 107 min • dir. Harry Winer
SpaceCamp is not a traditional summer camp movie because Space Camp is obviously not your typical summer camp. There are no fires, no bikes. Canoe trips are out, and any sports, whether water- or land-based, will have to wait until camp is over.
In fact, it's more like school than camp. There's an awful lot of learning and training going on, and no camp I've ever heard of has such a rigorous testing regimen. Hey, at least they're away from home and free of parental supervision.
Some of that parental supervision probably would have been useful before all those kids were loaded into a space shuttle during a rocket test. Surely somebody's mom would have at least asked if maybe it's not the best idea to put a bunch of children on top of 50-foot bomb while it's being tested.
Not only could these campers accidentally get blasted into space — which, spoiler alert, is what this movie is about — but also, y'know, maybe the rockets explode? Isn't that kinda why you test them in the first place?
Which is only the second scariest thing about this movie. It's hard to contemplate on a real-world scale the nightmare that Kate Capshaw has to endure by being stuck in space with a bunch of kids.
Just in terms of its premise, and with all due respect to the slasher genre, SpaceCamp might be the scariest summer camp movie of all.