One of the interesting aspects of “Sleepaway Camp” that’s managed to keep it legendary is that, despite not being a very good horror movie, it garners a shocking surprise ending that no one saw coming. Even during its initial release. Though it’s mostly common knowledge among horror buffs, if you’ve never been aware of the closer to “Sleepaway Camp,” you’re in store for a pretty haunting final scene that will boggle your mind. Despite the low tech approach, it still warrants a gasp from me to this day and is a worthy turn of the screw that earns the entire film a place on any horror fans’ collection. Scream Factory gives the new Collector’s Edition the absolute best treatment possible, and it’s nothing short of an impressive re-release for horror fans both old and new.
One of the byproducts of the “Friday the 13th” boom, the Robert Hiltzik directed film is set primarily in a summer camp where things go awry. After a terrible boating accident takes the life of her father and brother, young Angela is sent to live with her aunt and cousin Ricky. As a means of getting them out of her hair for the summer, she sends them to Camp Arawak, where Angela’s introverted personality becomes the target of many campers that delight in bullying her. Ricky is tags along with Angela acting as her protector from the bullies and annoyances in camp as Angela wanders around, experiencing aggressive campers and a creepy camp cook with shifty motives toward her.
But things become very violent very quickly when campers and camping staff begin turning up dead. What’s worse is whoever (or whomever) is committing the murders are violently killing the folks in camp with some of the most sadistic methods possible, prompting the campers to look for the individual committing these horrible tasks. Is it Angela committing these murders? Is Ricky taking his guardian role toward his cousin a bit too far? Is there someone out there murdering people to please Angela and Ricky? Is it perhaps their eccentric aunt, or a long lost relative? “Sleepaway Camp” succeeds in being generally atmospheric and reveling in an uneasy often bipolar tone works well for the narrative.
At times the movie reverts to “Meatballs” levels of summer camp antics and comedy, and then shifts directly in to a vicious and violent whodunit that compiles a list of really horrible murders, including a death by a beehive, and a chef’s unfortunate meeting with a boiling pot of water. Star Felissa Rose is also entertaining as the alienated Angela who makes an effort to socialize, but is punished for it. “Sleepaway Camp” is a definite eighties gem with a twisted mystery that really is rather brilliant in countering any resemblance toward “Friday the 13th.” It’s also a slasher classic and one that is very deserving of the Scream Factory deluxe treatment.
Scream deals up the film on DVD and Blu-Ray, and exclusively for Blu-Ray users, there’s a new commentary with Felissa Rose and co-star Jonathan Tiersten, as well as a commentary with director Robert Hiltzik as hosted by Jeff Hayes, the webmaster of the SleepawayCampMovies website. There’s also the original audio commentary with writer and director Robert Hiltzik and the star of the film Felissa Rose. I highly suggest watching the extras after you’ve seen the film, as “At the Waterfront After the Social: The Legacy of Sleepaway Camp” gives away the surprise ending in the opening title sequence.
The forty five minute documentary from Shout! Chronicles the making of, and legacy of “Sleepaway Camp,” and features brand new interviews with the cast and crew, as well as the make up effects artist. “Judy” is a goofy short film from Jeff Hayes that’s set after the movie and centered on former bully Judy. It’s nice to see Karen Fields return once again. There’s the music video “Princess” from co-star Jonathan Tiersten, and a still gallery from the film featuring production photos. And rare photos of the special effects from the film. Finally, there’s the theatrical trailer and original TV spots. Finally, there’s a ten minute look at the 2K Scan of the original film negative that was used for the uncut version of the film for this release.