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Sleepaway Camp – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Sleepaway-CampWay back in November when I wrote my first wishlist piece with 14 movies for 2014, Sleepaway Camp was right at the top of the list.  Then, magically, two days before I was getting ready to post that article, BOOM-Scream Factory announces that they are going to put out a special Collector’s Edition of the film.  Later, Justin Beahm announces he’s heading up the special features making this release even more hyped.  Needless to say, if you follow me on Twitter or are Facebook friends with me, I was pretty excited.  When I did my “Favorite Films Of My Lifetime” retrospective series for my blog this past January it made the list for 1983.  I couldn’t wait for this Blu-ray release to come out either.  I was checking off the months and Scream Factory releases til we could get to this one.  And, it’s finally here, so not only do I get to have this awesome new edition, I get to write about the film too!

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Film 

Years after a boating accident took the lives of her father and sibling, Angela is living with her eccentric aunt and her cousin Ricky.  It’s summer time and Ricky and Angela are getting ready to go to summer camp at Camp Arawak.  Camp Arawak is full of kids looking for love, shennanigans and cock measuring contests.  The place also has devious and weird adults on the staff, including a dirty pedophile.  Oh and its also got murder.  Plenty and plenty of murder.  Who is it killing the staff, counselors and kids at Camp Arawak.  Once you discover the answer, you’ll never ever forget who was viciously murdering the attendees of Sleepaway Camp.

I friggin’ love Sleepaway Camp.  And for those coming to it now with fresh eyes, please note the word “camp” is in the title.  This is a slasher film with a memorable cast of crazy characters, some solid effects, kill and an ending that’ll slap you in the face.  On first viewing it may feel like a “ho hum” “been there done that” Friday the 13th knock off from the early 80s, but oh no, just you wait.  Sleepaway Camp has its very own identity.

My first experience with Sleepaway Camp was back in the days of VHS and video rental stores.  The film and its two sequels weren’t ones that were stocked at your local blockbuster.  Nope, this was a Ma and Pa video store horror section staple.  I think what may have caught my eye more than the original film was the box to the second film that featured a girl with a backpack that had a a hockey mask, Freddy’s glove and a chainsaw visible hanging out of it.  It kinda made me go “What?” and made it a priority to see these movies.  Which, on a lazy Friday or Saturday night, my friend Schaf and I rented all 3 and marathon’d them.  And what a fun night that was.  I’ll save my chatter on the sequels for a date in the near future, but this first movie had quite the impact.  And we rewound the ending over and over and had to take like an hour break to sit and discuss and realize what we had just seen.

Summer camp is a novel setting for a slasher film as it is usually in a place far from anywhere and devoid of pure adult supervision.  There are 3 slashers that are pretty much the kings of the summer camp slasher films and those are easily Sleepaway Camp, Friday the 13th and The Burning.  Unlike Friday the 13th, Sleepaway Camp and The Burning weren’t afraid to bring the kids to the camp (Friday the 13th films dealt with the counselors in 1&2, left camp until 6 which is the first and only one with kids at camp).

Speaking of those kids, I absolutely love how they are written.  They opt to go for casting kids who are actually the age or close to the age of the characters they are playing as opposed to adults that look younger.  They actually speak like normal teens.  Cursing comes right off their lips right and left. The subjects, things they talk about and the way they talk about them are not only comical, but they feel pretty damn genuine too.  The kids are also pretty vicious to each other.  A big reason this film is so much fun to watch over and over again isn’t the killings or to get to the ending, its the entertainment of watching Ricky and other boys and girls spew venomous words at one another and treat each other like dirt.

Another fun thing to look out for in Sleepaway Camp is the incredibly goofily dated fashion that appears in just about every frame of the film.  It’s absolutely hilarious checking the short shorts featuring (like exaggerated) bulges in the crotch.  If your shorts aren’t pulled up to your chest, then you’re not wearing them right!  There’s also things that just play weird, like when Ricky wears the ten gallon hat to a social event.  Oh oh oh and the guys wearing the cut off shirts all the time too, and trying to act so suave.  So much greatness!

One thing going for Sleepaway Camp too, is its not afraid to “go there” in areas and it has some really crazy characters.  There’s the aunt who is really made so by the actress who plays her giving a huge performance.  You also get the guy who runs the camp who is a complete loon and tries covering up all the murders as they are getting in the way of running his operation.  And who could forget the head cook Artie, who refers to the children as “baldies” and is a total dirtbag.  It seems all talk, but then he actually tries to force himself upon Angela and you’re like “OH WOW, they really went there”.  There’s a lot of bizarre, hilarious, strange and disturbing character work done in Sleepaway Camp, making it more than just a run of the mill slasher.

Folks, that score above for this movie is 100% how this movie is to me.  I can understand many of you would see this film and probably rate it a bit lower.  I have had so much fun revisiting this film for about 2 decades now (didn’t see it til the 90s) and always am incredibly entertained with each viewing.  On the surface it seemed like just a direct Friday the 13th knock off, but its so much more than that.  Its a weird “midnight movie” level feature that has such a weird vibe, strange characters and happenings and then packs on one of the most surprising twists in cinematic history (no I’m not kidding).  Its one of those cult movies that I think everybody really needs to check out.  Personally, I love it!

Sleepaway Camp 1

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1:78.1

Clarity/Detail: This film looks gorgeous.  From my experience of the film in the advent of VHS to the First Aid DVD box set, this is the BEST I think Sleepaway Camp will ever look.  It features a nice sharpness, a lucious detail all over the map.  I now can see what the kids in the movie’s shirts say.  One kid is even wearing an Asia t-shirt (“Heat of the Moment” forever!)!  Hats off to Scream Factory, as they had mentioned the source was in rough shape when they got it.  They’ve done some great work here and should be commended for this 2K scan.

Depth:  I was quite surprised with the level of depth on display in the film.  There are some great moments with foreground and background featuring boats on the lake and scenes taking place on the dock.  I also thought the scenes at the socials had an ideal sense of distance.

Black Levels:  Black levels are at a solid and ideal level.  In the end minimal detail is lost in the darkness, but it helps to enhance the mood and sharpen the detail present on screen.

Color Reproduction:  There’s a healthy 80’s level palette that pops off your TV screen in the film.  I thought the greens were bold but at times a tad faded feeling (but always seemed pretty rich).  While the camp itself offers just the basics, the outfits of the campers fill your screen with a wide array of strong colors.

Flesh Tones:  The skin tones in the film were very consistent scene to scene.

Noise/Artifacts: The print isn’t without some like specs and dirt, but overall you’ll be quite amused at how clean it is.

Sleepaway Camp (Robert Hiltzik, 1983)

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  We get the original audio here, and its fun, but has a couple problems.  The score is sometimes mixed in a bit too loud and peaks at times.  It seems to be set much higher than that of the effects and dialogue.  This could be a source issue as the score may have been set higher to increase the jump scare effect for audiences.

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is clear and crisp.  No real issues at all.

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Extras 

Sleepaway Camp – Collector’s Edition comes with a DVD copy of the release.  Also, it features reversible artwork featuring the original poster design for the film

Audio Commentary With Actors Felissa Rose And Jonathan Tiersten – Justin Beahm moderates the two actors as they go through the film.  As always, Justin keeps the conversation going, asks incredible insightful and interesting questions and gets genuine responses and behavior from the film’s two leads.

Audio Commentary With Writer/Director Robert Hiltzik, Moderated By Jeff Hayes – A new commentary featuring Robert Hiltzik and SleepAwayCampMovies.com webmaster Jeff Hayes.  I haven’t listened to the original commentary in full in a long time, so I really can’t compare if anything overlaps or if its all fresh.  But I’m sure Jeff Hayes made sure it didn’t fall into that trap.  Its an informative and entertaining listen.

Audio Commentary With Writer/Director Robert Hiltzik And Star Felissa Rose – This commentary, also moderated by Jeff Hayes, has been ported over from the previous Anchor Bay release.

At The Waterfront Social: The Legacy Of Sleepaway Camp (HD, 45:43) – This is what these Collector’s Editions are all about.  And once again, it does not disappoint.  We get stories of onset troubles, romance, friendships and the whole process.  Whenever one of these retrospective docs appears on a Scream Factory release, it feels like an immediate recommend.

Judy: A Short Film By Jeff Hayes (HD, 15:53) – Karen Fields reprises her role from the original film in this 2010 short by the webmaster of the official Sleepaway Camp fan site.  Its super duper low budget and looks like its shot on VHS, but that adds to its charm.

Princess: A Music Video By Jonathan Tiersten (HD, 5:33) – Wonder what Ricky is up to nowadays?  Apparently making music.  Here’s a little taste of his talents.

Camp Arawak Scrapbook – 70 photos from the shooting of the film from actress Felissa Rose’s personal collection.

Theatrical Trailer & TV Spots (HD, 2:13) – 1 trailer and 2 TV ads.  But, c’mon, I LOOOOOVE this trailer.  Its so great and gets at my retro horror inner geek.

Rare Images From Make-up Effects Artist Ed French – 11 slides of drawings and polaroids of the effects planning and execution.

A Demonstration Of The 2K Film Scan Process (HD, 9:00) – Well this is new, Scream Factory!  What a welcome addition to the bonus material.  We get to see quite a bit of what goes into transfering the film to Blu-ray.  As a Blu-ray nut, I always always like bonus features like this.  Sometimes they’re the first I go to.  Hopefully there’s more restoration-based featurettes like this in the future.

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Summary 

This release is any Sleepaway Camp fan’s dream!  An outstanding video presentation (seriously, I’ve been following this movie since VHS and I’m comparing it to historic editions of Sleepaway Camp of the past and not how the video quality of Sleepaway Camp looks compared to the Thor: The Dark World like some other sites might).  There is a healthy and wealthy lot of bonus material lumped in here as well as not 1, not 2 but 3 commentary tracks.  Without question this is the definitive release of Sleepaway Camp.  If you’ve never seen the film before, you’re in for a real treat with to inaugurate yourself with Scream Factory’s new 2K transfer.  Fantastic job!  Now I cross my fingers and hope, just hope that a Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers and Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland double feature disc is in the works!

Sleepaway-Camp-Blu-ray

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

5 Responses to “Sleepaway Camp – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Eric Flapjack Ashley

    Oh dang. I love this movie. I love the sequels (except the 2008 one). That ending is one of the best in horror history, and its too bad that it is so good that it is about the only thing people remember from this gem.

    I can’t wait to dig into those commentaries. I hope the new one with the director is better than the old DVD one… he was rather vague and aloof in that one. I bet the one with Felissa Rose and Jonathan Tiersten is an absolute blast!

    I had a total fangasm just reading this review!

  2. Brian White

    Fangasm! Haha! Good one!

  3. Cheryl

    Great review!! Just a note on the “JUDY” short film- if you watch it on the DVD it looks better than it does on the Blu Ray. SCREAM FACTORY didn’t encode it properly onto the HD format which is why it takes on a VHS look on the Blu Ray… but if you watch it on the DVD, you can tell it was shot in digital with no artifacting. Give it a spin on the DVD and watch Karen play JUDY like she never left the character in 30 years! 🙂

  4. Eric Flapjack Ashley

    The commentary with Felissa Rose and Jonathan Tiersten is fantastic! Manages to be both very funny and informative at the same time. They have a lot of Facebook interaction together, so they are quite close and it shows in the commentary.

    The new one with the director and Jeff Hayes was a chore to sit through. It may have been the most informative of the three, but it was like pulling teeth. I don’t know why Director Hiltzik is so offputting and secretive. It’s a great movie that is very beloved, he should be proud of it and excited to talk about it!

  5. Eric Flapjack Ashley

    I should also mention that the documentary is great, despite few people participating. But the ones that do spill a ton of great info. And it ends on a very nice, whimsical note.