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June 20, 2014

Movie Review: Sleepaway Camp (1983, Blu-ray)

There have been numerous slashers based in summer camps produced over the years since Friday the 13th brought the horrors of Camp Crystal Lake to the forefront of horror lovers everywhere. Robert Hiltzik’s Sleepaway Camp is one of those unique body-count films that transcends what so many of the post-Friday the 13th slice’n’dicers tried to achieve with a story that doesn’t quite play by the rules like other films of its ilk. This classic in the slasher genre has just been released to Blu-ray thanks to the folks at Scream Factory and Shout Factory with some new surprises and a brand-spanking new transfer that blows away Anchor Bay’s original box set from several years ago.

The plot follows a seemingly innocent young girl named Angela (Felissa Rose, Satan’s Playground, and Slaughter Party) who at the urging of her very quirky Aunt is going to summer camp with her cousin, Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten). Camp Arawak is the destination for these two – it’s full of fun in the sun, marshmallow roasting and also the unfortunate bullying and attempted molestation of Angela. Ricky is there though, to protect her from some of it, but things get progressively worse when people start dying in some creative and at times gruesome ways. Did one of the counselors go crazy? Is it the creeper cook? What about one the bullies? Sleepaway Camp has its share of red herrings sprinkled throughout the story so you’re never quite sure until its shocking climax.

Being just young teenagers at the time the acting by Rose and Tiersten is very solid as is the direction by Hitzlik. One area that is bound to impress those looking for grue are the make-up FX by the Ed French (Nightmare, Breeders). Whiles it’s never overly gory, the make-up is especially unsettling when seeing the aftermaths of a drowning and burn victim. No one just dies in one particular fashion making this element one of the most satisfying things about Hitzlik’s film.

The restoration of Sleepaway Camp is super impressive as it’s full of vibrant colors in the day shots. You acan actually see everything that's going on in the many nights scenes as well. I also didn’t notice any wear on the elements used for the transfer. Right as the credits popped with the title in the beginning there was a nice indication of what was to come. Another thing you may be wondering, is this version uncut? Unlike the Anchor Bay version some short snippets have been restored that were excised from the previous release making this the most complete version available.


This Collector’s edition release comes chock-full with a pleasant array of extras that’s sure to keep viewers busy for hours. You get three audio commentaries with both cast and crew (two of which are brand-new and one carry-over from the last release), a short film called Julia, a music video showing of another talent of Sleepaway Camp star Jonathan Tiersten, a segment on the restoration, and a fantastic 45-minute documentary produced by Justin Beahm and Scream Factory called At the Waterfront After the Social: The Legacy of Sleepaway Camp. Cast and crew are on hand with stories and interesting tidbits on the production. Tiersten and Rose talk about crushes that they had on each other and even Rose’s mom has some input as she was on set with her daughter for the shoot. FX artist Ed French talks about how he created some of the memorable FX, and there is even some very amusing background on the actor who acted as the stunt wiener for Rose during the climax end. He is not interviewed for the disc and seems to not want any part of the movie. Why this fellow isn’t at horror conventions signing autographs for forty bucks a piece…I do not know. All-around, this is a nice collection of extra features.

Sleepaway Camp is one of those special horror flicks that truly needed the red carpet treatment, and here, Scream Factory does just that. An essential upgrade that must not be missed. Highly Recommended

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