Sleepaway Camp (1983)
Director: Robert Hiltzik
Shy cutie Angela (Rose) is sent to camp along with her cousin Ricky (Tiersten). Once there, the camp tramps and camp jerk-offs pick on her because she’s introverted (damn kids). Lucky for Angie, someone on the premises is on a killing spree, disposing of the teen a-holes. This gives our little angel the room to fall in puppy love for the first time. Aaaaahh, those camp days…
"Sleepaway Camp" is a fun piece of 80’s slash with more padding than the average stab-stab film. Yes, we get what we’d expect from this type of picture: the hilarious dated fashions (some guys wear cut off t-shirts…lol), the unseen killer POV shots, the bloody kills, the woods setting, the one-dimensional evil kids and the token mega slut; but we also get a little more for our money.
This slasher reaches a higher level of class than the norm mostly due to its novel lead character of Angela. You don’t usually see shy little girls in big bad slasher flicks and the inclusion of this particular character brought an added layer of humanity to what is usually a more heartless and exploitive type of sub genre. It also helped that our pintsize protagonist is portrayed by the lovely Felissa Rose. She has a presence that kept me glued to the screen and she never failed to sway my heart with those puppy dog eyes of hers.
Amidst the body count, the movie also takes the time to develop two gripping relationships. The cute little love story between Angie and Paul (Collet) had me smiling and feeling all Cupid and shite. It’s sweet, portrayed in a realistic light and I for one relished the "innocence" of it all. The bond between Angie and her cousin Ricky (Tiersten) is also rock solid and is played up with mucho credibility. The fact that I cared about the lead characters and that most of the film felt very "down to earth" gave it all a more realistic feel and had me invested in its storyline on a deeper level than the average slasher opus.
On the downside, I didn’t particularly care for the over the top way Angie’s aunt was portrayed. I know she’s a little wacko but subtlety would have been more effective and would've given her involvement in all of this madness more impact. I also loathed the presence of the camp pedophile. He disgusted the shit out of me, but at least he wasn’t there long enough to ruin my ride. My last complaint is that the movie ends way too abruptly. It delivers a shocking ending and then leaves you hanging. I would have loved to have known at least a hint of what happened afterwards. My thirst wasn't fully quenched once the end credits rolled.
But overall, this baby is a fast paced, well-acted slasher flick with a wonderful central character in Angela. The director (who also wrote the flick) was aiming a little higher than just a meaningless slaughter and in my book of blood...he succeeded. Let's pull this one’s pants down.
A bit of a let down here. The murders are mostly implied. We do get an arrow through the neck (thanks!), a severed head, a bloody stabbing and death by hair curler (did the killer put that where I think he put it?). The last scene gives us an effect that will stay with you for a while and make you skip on dinner.
Felissa Rose (Angela) gives a strong show. All expressions are conveyed through her pretty eyes and she charmed the hell out of me. Jonathan Tiertsen (Ricky) is very natural as the tough but good-hearted Ricky. I liked him a lot. I guess Karen Fields does her job well because I hated her super beeyatch character of Judy….hated her a lot. Christopher Collet (Paul) is credible as the nice guy who lets his hormones get in the way of a not so good thing. Mike Kellin (Mel) plays it down as the owner of the camp. His moments of emotional acting did bring a light smile to my face though. Katherine Kambi (Meg) is effective as mega beeyatch number 2. She also has a great tush. Paul De Angelo’s decent acting is shadowed by his bulging biceps. Brother must hit the gym hard!!!
T & A
A let down unless you want to see five naked guys running around showing their white asses. In this camp, the tramps never offer any tit shots. What kind of loose girls are they??? Not my kind!
Hiltzick loves wide shots, fades, does great things with shadows and delivers one surreal flash. It’s obvious that the man is trying to deliver more than a standard slasher flick and Arrow appreciated his occasional artistic touches. On a bummer vibe, all of the murders were telegraphed and you knew exactly when the were going to happen. The suspense is also weak and the scares are nowhere to be found.
The score by Edward Bilous fits the bill. Although nothing standout, it gets the job done.
Distributor: Anchor Bay
IMAGE: The anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen image is clean and mostly sharp. We do get some occasional grain (especially during day sequences) and a few scratches here and there. But the flaws are far from overwhelming and the print is very decent overall.
SOUND: The Dolby Digital Mono sound is crisp, clear and at all the right levels. The score in particular benefits from the quality sound.
Audio Commentary: This commentary with Robert Hiltzick and Felissa Rose is moderated by Jeff Hayes (who doesn't say much) the webmaster of www.sleepawaycampmovie.com. It's a fun listen, but for all the wrong reasons. Robert and the always charismatic Felissa comment often with high wit on the scenes unraveling before our eyes, but I would've liked more information about the "shoot" itself and more insight on specific scenes from a filmmaking standpoint. Still a fun listen though.
We also get the Theatrical Trailer.
"Sleepaway Camp" isn’t scary or suspenseful and unlike most slasher flicks...its kills aren't its highlights. When you think of this honey-bunny, think more of a drama but with a body count. The flick moves fast, entertains on many levels and Felissa Rose is a just a delight. It's a shame that the sequels took the easy way and embraced comedy, gore and tits because this little ditty is more than that. I for one would love a darker return to Sleepaway Camp with Felissa Rose back as Angela. Till then I’ll have to keep on returning to this one for my "serious" Sleepaway fix…
Pamela Springsteen took over the part of Angela in the two following sequels.