It’s easy to forget that Peter is in fact a serial killer, especially during Sleepaway Camp where he initially begins killing. Was Peter born a serial killer or was he made one? Nature VS. Nurture. It is my feeling that like other serial killers, he had a predisposition to kill and even without the combination triggers of sexual maturity, multiple personality, and trauma experienced at Camp Arawak, he would have killed eventually.
Predisposition – SULLEN AND MOODY
In the screenplay, Robert Hiltzik describes Peter as “sullen and moody”. This sets the course for what Peter will be like as he matures. He will experience depression, mood swings possibly connected to mental illness, general anxiety disorder, and low self esteem.
Trauma – DEATH OF FAMILY
Peter’s first trauma was the loss of his family. His father and his sister. They died leaving him alone. He had his “Aunt” but that’s not exactly the same thing now is it. Especially considering what she did to him.
Trauma – PHYSICAL INJURY
Peter sustained a head injury and quite possibly brain damage. We will never know the extent of this injury nor the effects it had on his psyche. We can only speculate. Traumatic brain injury causes lots of unpleasant little monsters and in Peter’s case may in fact be partially responsible for triggering his actions.
Trauma – CHILD ABUSE
Call it what you want but recognize it as what it was. Child abuse. Peter certainly didn’t choose to live his life as a female. There is proof of this in the original Sleepaway Camp. Aunt Martha forced Peter to live as female thus changing the course of his very existence. To be technical, it is because of this that Peter was bullied and abused by other children. It is because of this one major trauma that Peter found himself confused and socially inept.
Peter clearly had an ongoing series of traumatic events disrupt his life, causing him post-traumatic stress disorder which is evident not only in the original Sleepaway Camp (avoidance of water, her selective mutism, flashbacks, anger) but the sequels as well (more flashbacks and nightmares, anger). Although it didn’t quite effect his everyday functioning, he was not living what one would call a normal life.
Peter lost his family to death leaving him with his aunt and cousin. Although the bond with Ricky was strong, Peter couldn’t have felt anything but betrayal and fear in the presence of Martha, who he was never able to properly attach to. She was domineering, controlling, and crazy. In the original Sleepaway Camp, we don’t get the full brunt of Marthas cruelty. To the outsider it is considered humorous or even bizarre but never abusive. Out of context, Martha even appears somewhat clownish, donning strange hats and bright colors, speaking slowly and deliberately, appearing almost mad but in an Alice in Wonderland type way as if she were putting on a performance, not being her true self.
The absence of father in Peters life. Peter did in fact appear to have a very good relationship with his birth father, but John died when Peter was only four years old. Whatever bond which was formed was eventually lost – most likely due to the brain injury Peter suffered and as he aged, that relationship would be forgotten. Since there was no other man in Peters life, he would never be able to replace that relationship. He was living in a one parent household, where the one parent was not only crazy but also most likely abusing drugs or alcohol in which case, the children would be taking care of Martha, despite her being a functioning member of society. The children would be acting as the adults, caring for her as well as themselves. It’s a shame we were never allowed to see what happened behind closed doors in the Thomas home.
The way Peter views adults and especially adults in power is clearly demonstrated in the original Sleepaway Camp time and time again. Martha was the only adult in Peters life after the accident and Peter learned from her that no adult can be trusted. He also learned to do what he was told without question, or else. He never fights when an adult tries to take him some place or do something to him. He is once again the abused child backed into a corner, unable to defend himself.
He has a stable healthy relationship with Ricky which sets the stage for his relationship with Paul, whom he feels able to open up to. Until Paul betrays him, like all the others. Peter has learned from Martha that relationships with adults are always a negative one. All adults are the same. Just as when Paul betrays him, he also learns that all relationships with his peers are negative also.
Peter is the victim of extreme bullying at Camp Arawak.
Angelas fantasy is clearly explored in Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers. Wherein she sees camp as a sort of heaven, where everyone gets along and loves each other. Where no one, especially her, is the victim of cruel bullying. I would have to guess this fantasy she created began as something else altogether, possibly involving her dead family and maybe even Ricky, but didn’t really flourish until she became a counselor at Camp Rolling Hills. This is the best case I can offer based on what the films have showed me and what I see for myself.
Her dehumanization of others is evident in Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland where she kills people as if she is simply taking out the garbage. If these people don’t meet her criteria for being “good”, then they are killed and the deaths are checked off the “to do” list like any other activity.
Organized, disorganized, and mixed
Angela begain killing people who inflicted some type of abuse on her or her cousin, and her method was highly unorganized. Bodies were left where they were killed, evidence was prominent. She did not clean up after herself. Why would she? She was only twelve. Had anyone been paying attention, Angela would have been caught after murder two.
By 1988 and 1989, Angela had retained some of her disorganization but gained some organization. Her kills were more planned, less impulsive, the bodies collected and stored in one specific area where she could return to them and do whatever it is she needed to do to/with them. She even went so far as to hold a person captive alive, amongst the dead, feeding her and nurturing her, attempting to gain her friendship. Angela definitely falls into the “mixed” category.
Angela was a missionary killer. She didn’t have a type, she didn’t pick people at random. Every person she killed abused or attempted to abuse her in some way. By act three, being a bad camper was enough to get you killed. Angela’s mission was clear from the beginning: to rid the world of “bad” campers.
For anyone wondering why Angela Baker does not fit the profile for the female serial killer, who is in fact considered “rare”, it is because Angela Baker is a man. Even if you believe he had a sex change, he is a man by nature.