Release Date(s)1983 (May 27, 2014)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: A
Sleepaway Camp is one of those strange horror movies that you hear a lot about before actually sitting down to watch it, which includes having the twist ending spoiled for you beforehand. At least, that’s my experience with the movie. So I can only imagine how audiences responded to it in 1983 when it was originally released. It did really well at the time and it’s held up today as a cult classic.
By this point in time, the slasher craze was well underway and there was a plethora of both small-cabin-in-the-woods and summer camp type horror movies being made and released by virtually everybody thanks to films like The Evil Dead and Friday the 13th. Self-parody hadn’t reared its head quite yet, but you could argue that Sleepaway Camp IS a bit of a parody. My only real complaint about it is that the movie that comes before that spoiled twist ending is just slightly above mediocre, and really not much else.
As a horror film, it doesn’t fully deliver on the gore, but it makes up for that with weirdness. There’s a lot of kooky dialogue and some goofy character actions taking place. Some of the deaths are also interesting and creative. Not every victim is just stabbed with a knife or slashed with a machete. They instead opted to go for something a little bit more psychotic. But again, Friday the 13th and its sequels were trying to come up with new ways to slice and dice their teenage fodder, so other filmmakers in the same genre had to be just as creative... perhaps even more so.
It’s not a major secret that the big reveal at the end is the reason why Sleepaway Camp is remembered so well. It’s not as if the filmmakers didn’t know what they were doing while they were making it, but you can’t deny that there’s a high cheese factor at work, as well as some unintentional hilarity. Either way, it’s still better and more memorable that most summer camp horror films.
Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release of Sleepaway Camp sports a transfer taken from a newly-created 2K scan of the film’s original camera negative, which yields some pretty amazing results. If you’ve seen this film before, then you’re in for a treat. Despite its low budget origins, it boasts a remarkably sharp transfer. Grain is prevalent while appearing very natural and film-like, but sticks out the most during some of the nighttime scenes when it lightens up the dark areas of the frame. Color reproduction is especially beneficial, looking more accurate and much fuller than ever before. As I said previously, blacks aren’t deep and feature a lot of grain, but the contrast and brightness are mostly perfect. There’s the odd film defect here and there and some possible signs of compression artifacts, but overall, the quality is miles above any previous release of the film on any home video format. The same can be said of the soundtrack, which is a single English 2.0 DTS-HD track sourced from the film’s original mono soundtrack. While it doesn’t feature a whole lot of high-end fidelity, it’s still rather clean and spacious. Dialogue is always comprehensible, sound effects always have some nice impact, and the film’s memorable score works itself well into the proceedings. There was also some surprising low-end moments, which weren’t abundant or even overtly amazing, but it’s still nice to have them. It’s a well-balanced track with a bit of age to it, overall. There’s also an English subtitle track for those who might need it.
The extras, which are pretty bountiful, feature three audio commentaries: one with actors Felissa Rose and Jonathan Tiersten, another with writer/director Robert Hiltzik and moderator Jeff Hayes, and another with Hiltzik and Rose; the new At the Waterfront After the Social: The Legacy of Sleepaway Camp documentary; a short film by Jeff Hayes entitled Judy; a music video for “Princess” by Jonathan Tiersten; a still gallery entitled Camp Arawak Scrapbook; the film’s original theatrical trailer; 2 TV spots; an art gallery with rare images from the film’s makeup effects artist Ed Frensh; and finally, the featurette A Demonstration of the 2K Film Scan Process.
Cheese-fest or not, Sleepaway Camp is still a fun movie that holds up remarkably well years after its release during the slasher craze. And with Scream Factory’s release of the film on Blu-ray uncut for the first time in the U.S., you’re sure to have a good time with it.
- Tim Salmons