Sleepaway Camp (1983)
Director: Robert Hiltzik
Starring: Mike Kellin, Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tiersten, Karen Fields & Christopher Collet
Released by: Scream Factory
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
In the wake of Friday the 13th’s massive success, the slasher genre was in full boom and the innocence of campgrounds were far from safe. Familiar but yet wildly unique, the campers of Camp Arawak expecting a summer of fun are met with an onslaught of death by a mysterious killer. Effectively grizzly and featuring a shocking ending you’ll never forget, Sleepaway Camp is a true slasher classic that still entertains and charms 30 years later. The mecca of horror home entertainment, Scream Factory, proudly presents this terrifying gem in a rightly deserved collector’s edition choked full of new special features. Welcome to Camp Arawak because you won’t be coming home!
Sleepaway Camp centers on shy Angela Baker (Felissa Rose) living with her off kilter Aunt Martha and cousin Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten). With summer in full swing, the kids are sent to Camp Arawak for a season of fun and hijinks. Shortly after arriving, multiple campers begin turning up dead courtesy of a mysterious killer destined to turn the summer into a nightmare.
Sleepaway Camp was already riding the coattails of Friday the 13th’s second sequel and 1981’s camp-centered slasher, The Burning when it debuted in 1983. What appeared as a blatant cash grab at a seemingly simple formula became one of the finest slasher installments of the 1980s. Director Robert Hiltzik’s sole effort (before returning to helm 2008’s Return to Sleepaway Camp) genuinely captures the spirit of summer camp aside from the brutal slayings. The success and charm of this slasher gem is practically owed to the young cast who look, act and speak the way actual kids at a summer camp would, a feat that can only be compared to lightning in a bottle. In addition, the unfazed use of profanity from the young cast gives the film an added dose of realism without making a fuss about it. Jonathan Tiersten’s trucker mouth is quite comforting in a time where adolescents’ cursing in films is taboo. The youthful cast is littered with anti-Hollywood types including Karen Fields who plays the bitchy role of Judy. Far from ugly but not quite the prototypical image of a knockout, Fields perfectly encapsulates an honest representation of a summer camp hottie.
Sleepaway Camp makes great use of its slasher movie label by relying on shots of the killers POV and knife slayings. Interestingly enough, instead of premarital sex and smoking dope, the murders committed in Sleepaway Camp are the result of much deserved revenge on the likes of a molesting cook and obnoxiously cruel campers. While, the introverted Angela (Rose) is the butt of everyone’s jokes, the mysterious killer gets crafty with his victims thanks to the help of a swarm of bees and a steaming hair straightener. Softball, summer love and the Camp Arawak counselors that include the righteously cool Gene (Frank Trent Saladino) and the unintentionally hilarious meathead Ronnie (Paul DeAngelo) add to the overall enjoyment of Sleepaway Camp. As tension rises and countless more campers end up dead, the film leads to an unexpectedly wild and unforgettable climax that I dare not spoil. Perfectly capturing the spirit of summer camp and rising to the call of its slasher formula, Sleepaway Camp is a prime example of a camp carnage classic. Carried out by a brilliantly capable cast and a twist ending that will leave you jaw-dropped, Sleepaway Camp has earned its due and is still as entertaining and bloodcurdling as ever!
Scream Factory presents Sleepaway Camp in a 1080p High-Definition widescreen transfer (1.78:1). Marking the label’s first 2K scan from the film’s original camera negative, Sleepaway Camp looks marvelous! While, the film still retains a slight, inherited softness, the film looks remarkably true to its source with colors gaining a nice boost especially in the campers’ brightly colored shirts. In addition, flesh tones are relayed accurately with a wonderful amount of detail. The film projects a nice, scratch-free presentation that makes one appreciate the glorious film grain. Black levels are respectable if not a tad hazy but still a terrific upgrade from previous releases. Make no mistake, Sleepaway Camp has never looked quite this good and campers will be more than pleased.
Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix, Sleepaway Camp sounds fantastic with dialogue coming across clear as crystal with no noticeable dropouts of any kind. A terrific companion to a near perfect video presentation.
- Audio Commentary with Actors Felissa Rose and Jonathan Tiersten: Justin Beahm steps in as moderator for this newly produced commentary that brings together on-screen cousins Angela and Ricky who have a ball recalling the shooting of the film.
- Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Robert Hiltzik moderated by Jeff Hayes: Another newly recorded commentary with Hiltzik that covers similar ground as its predecessor but still informative nonetheless.
- Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Robert Hiltzik and Actress Felissa Rose: Also moderated by Jeff Hayes, this fun commentary has been kindly ported over from the previous DVD release.
- At the Waterfront After the Social: The Legacy of Sleepaway Camp: In his final collaboration with Scream Factory, Justin Beahm delivers fans an incredible 45-minute companion piece to the classic slasher film. Capturing new interviews with Director Robert Hiltzik, Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tiersten, Karen Fields and more, this look back finds the cast and crew reminiscing on the formulation of the film, how they obtained their roles as well as on set drama. Felissa Rose offers a heartfelt and emotional credit to the film for giving her the life she has. Beahm has certainly outdone himself with this terrific documentary that ranks as one of Scream Factory’s finest extras to date.
- Judy - A Short Film by Jeff Hayes: Host of SleepawayCampMovies.com, Jeff Hayes, directs this amateur effort that stars Karen Fields reprising her role of Judy. Having survived the tragic murders at Camp Arawak, Judy is now grown and dishing out her own form of punishment to those deserved.
- “Princess” Music Video by Jonathan Tiersten
- Camp Arawak Scrapbook: 70 behind the scenes images from the making of the film.
- Theatrical Trailer
- TV Spots
- Rare Images from Make-Up Effects Artist Ed French
- A Demonstration of the 2K Film Scan Process: Technicolor Imaging Technician, Ian Turpen, hosts this informative behind the scenes look at Scream Factory’s first 2K scan for Sleepaway Camp.
- DVD Copy
- Reversible cover art: Utilizing the iconic 1-sheet poster imagery.
What could have been seen as a mere Friday the 13th knock-off has become a bonafide slasher classic that has stood the test of time some 30 years later. Beautifully capturing the summer camp spirit and weaving a unique tale of slasher carnage that leads up to one of the best finales of the genre will easily make Camp Arawak an annual visit for viewers. Scream Factory’s collector’s edition of Sleepaway Camp is hands down one of their finest releases to date with a breathtaking video transfer, an ample audio mix and an overwhelmingly awesome abundance of special features that includes Justin Beahm’s terrific final ode, At the Waterfront After the Social: The Legacy of Sleepaway Camp. Slasher enthusiasts owe it to themselves to add this definitive version of Robert Hiltzik’s original classic to their growing Scream Factory collection!