One night at Camp Blackfoot, several campers pull a prank on the caretaker named Cropsy by setting a worm-riddled skull, with candles in the eye sockets, next to his bed. When the caretaker is awoken by the campers banging on his window, he gets frightened by the skull and accidentally knocks it onto his bed, starting a fire. The flames reach a gas tank, which ignites Cropsy and his cabin. He runs outside, engulfed in flames, and stumbles down into a river as the boys flee. Despite his horrific injuries, Cropsy survives.
Five years later, Cropsy is released from the hospital despite having to deal with failed skin grafts, and wears a coat and hat to hide his deformities. A prostitute lures him to her apartment, where he stabs her with a pair of scissors in a fit of rage. He then arms himself with a pair of garden shears and sets out to another summer camp, Camp Stonewater. At the camp, the counselors and campers are playing softball when Tiger, one of the campers, goes to search for the ball lost in the woods. She finds the ball and runs back to the game narrowly avoiding Cropsy.
The next morning, a camper named Alfred scares Sally as she steps out of the shower. Her screams bring the attention of counselors Michelle and Todd, and campers Karen and Eddy catch him. Michelle is furious at Alfred's actions and demands that he leaves, but Todd talks to him; he learns that Alfred has no friends, and was merely pulling a prank on Sally. Sally's boyfriend Glazer confronts Alfred, but Todd gets him to back off, and the latter apologizes to Sally. That night, Alfred spots Cropsy outside his window, but nobody believes him.
The following day, the campers are brought by Todd and Michelle on a canoe trip down to the river Devil's Creek. After Todd tells them about the legend of Cropsy, Karen and Eddy go to a lake to skinny dip. He leaves upset when she reconsiders having sex with him, and Karen leaves the lake to find her clothes scattered in the woods. As she collects them, Cropsy slashes her throat with his shears. The next morning, Michelle finds Karen and the canoes missing. Eddy, Fish, Woodstock, Diane, and Barbara search for the canoes on a makeshift raft. They spot a canoe and paddle to it, but Cropsy ambushes them by jumping out from the canoe and savagely murders them all with his shears.
Glazer has sex with Sally in the woods, but suffers premature ejaculation. When he leaves to get matches for a campfire, Cropsy shoves his shears into Sally's chest. Her boyfriend returns only for Cropsy to stab him through the neck and pin him to a tree. Alfred witnesses his death and wakes up Todd, but Todd is rendered unconscious by Cropsy who then chases after Alfred. Meanwhile, Michelle finds the mutilated bodies on the makeshift raft and brings the remaining campers back to the camp to contact the authorities.
Todd regains consciousness and chases after the killer with an axe. Cropsy grabs Alfred inside an abandoned mineshaft and pins him to a wall with his shears. Todd discovers Karen's body and sees Cropsy armed with a flamethrower, where he begins to remember being involved with the prank. He is attacked by Cropsy, who reveals his disfigurements, and Alfred frees himself to stab him with his own shears. Before they can leave, Cropsy reappears and Todd ultimately slams the axe into his face, killing him. Alfred ignites his body with his own flamethrower and they make their way outside to Michelle, who brought the police with her, as Cropsy's body burns away. At a campfire, another group of teenagers are seen retelling the story of Cropsy.
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