Reviewed by: Jamey Hughton
What's it about
An unidentified killer stalks the kids and counselors at a summer camp. Totally new concept!
Is it good movie?
SLEEPAWAY CAMP was released in the midst of FRIDAY THE 13THís success (I wonder if this was a popular time to send your kids off to summer camp). It is not exactly considered a classic of the slasher genre, but it is often remarked by people who have seen it that it is hard to shake. Most of the flick is your typical hack-and-slash fest from the 80s, saddled with gratingly amateurish acting that is played to the balcony seats. Then thereís the slightly twisted psychosexual undercurrent of the film, which culminates in a climactic twist that is bound to make anyone uncomfortable. Wow, what an ending. More on that later.
At the start of the movie, two siblings and their father are out for a swim when a tragic boating accident leaves only one child alive. Years later, Angela (Felissa Rose) and her cousin Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten) are shipped off to Camp Arawak by creepy Aunt Martha (Desiree Gould). The virtually mute, extremely shy Angela is teased by her fellow campers and even some of the adult staff. The counselors take part in plenty of their own depraved hijinks and wear shorts that are entirely too short (the dudes I mean). Of course, when the body count begins to ascend, itís the biggest bullies who seem to be on the hit list. Hmmmmm.
Director (and writer... and producer) Robert Hiltzik shoots the film with a level of competence, which is more than you could say about additional imitators that followed in its wake. Some scenes build suspense nicely, and some are capped off with kills that are appropriately grisly and amusing. Give Hiltzik and his special makeup team credit for concocting a few unusual demises for the cast (I especially liked the bees in the outhouse and the arrow in the neck - not the head :). There are a few times in the film where Hiltzik, whether accidentally or instinctively, manages to capture an indelibly disturbing image that results in shivers down the spine. Iím referring mostly to the movieís final shot, which should be laughable, except that the feral, animal-like expression of the killer (obvious to guess who that is, if you havenít already) matched with a shocking revelation may lead to nightmares. I woke up in the middle of the night after watching SLEEPAWAY CAMP and a visual of that final shot popped into my head. Funny maybe, but I wanted to get up and turn on the lights.... because of SLEEPAWAY CAMP. Do I need to get out more? At any rate, thatís an extra half-mug (at least) just for the ending.
Overall, SLEEPAWAY CAMP is campy, ridiculous, and made up of moments that are either unintentionally funny or inexplicably effective. The movie is largely mediocre, but made interesting by adding a few elements that are certainly unusual for the slasher formula.
Video / Audio
Video 1.85:1 Widescreen format
Audio 5.1 Dolby Digital
Audio Commentary with director Robert Hiltzik, Felissa Rose and moderator Jeff Hayes I wasnít a big fan of this commentary track. Although he fires off some good zingers, Hiltzik never really gets to the cold hard facts like you want him to. Instead he spends most of the time playfully ribbing Rose (who comes across as very sweet) while the two refer to actors by their first names and talk about where they are now. I felt a bit left out of their discussion from time to time because they seemed to be sharing a lot of inside jokes. There are some good anecdotes, but more fun trivia tidbits would have been appreciated. Whatís more, Hayes (who runs the website www.sleepawaycamp.com) barely makes a peep throughout the entire thing. I got the impression he felt a bit intimidated to jump in alongside Hiltzik and Rose, who seem like old friends. I was hoping for some fun stuff from him, but it didnít happen.
The movieís very amusing and vintage Theatrical Trailer turns up here as well.
SLEEPAWAY CAMP really is a curiosity item from the annals of slasher cinema. If youíve never seen it and you love cheesy trash, give it a chance. If nothing else - youíre going to be thinking about the ending for a while, I promise you.