The Film (4/5)
As much as I miss the experience of renting from a video store, one thing I do not is being forced into watching series out of order due to the limited selection of a retail outlet. The first Friday the 13th film I saw in it's entirety was Part VII: The New Blood, and although my not quite 10 ass begged the owner to get in part VIII because I thought the title was cool, it was years before I would get to see another entry in the franchise. The same would go with my viewing Evil Dead 2 at least a year before the Evil Dead, and Army of Darkness, but the greatest gap between viewing a sequel before the original for me would be the Sleepaway Camp series.
I first saw the excellent Sleepaway Camp 2 at a Halloween party thrown at my Step-Aunt's house as part of a double feature with Rosemary's Baby, but did not see the original until at least 7 or 8 years later, and while I found 2 an excellent slasher film in it's own right, when I finally saw the original years later I knew that it was different, a little bit stranger, not as playful with the slasher genre as it's sequel, but more haunting, and THAT ending. A nice little shocker that took the film out on a bang.
Director/Writer Robert Hiltzik had injected his film with a bizarre anything goes atmosphere that nonetheless feels grounded in the reality of the years of it's main characters. The kids curse like their parents aren't around to tell them to watch their language, and their sexuality is over the top and upfront as it tends to be at that age. On top of that Hiltzik comes up with a great number of interesting kill scenes for his characters. With that being said, don't go into Sleepaway Camp expecting a wall to wall splatter fest, the death scenes are interesting, but in some sequences you are more likely to see a silhouette of the action then the full gory details. Also, Hiltzik manages to inject his film with a few moments of interesting attempts at surrealism that really help to separate it from it's slasher contemporaries. The performances across the board work for the film, with only the performance of Desiree Gould as Aunt Martha truly standing out amongst the cast (I would watch an entire movie with those kids and that woman). Aside from that the performances from the kids at least feel naturalistic to a bunch a kids at camp.
After 1980's original Friday the 13th, Sleepaway Camp might be the prototypical camp slasher film. The film stars Felissa Rose as Angela and Jonathan Tiersten as her cousin Ricky. As the film begins they are sent away for the summer to Camp Arawak. Ricky is expecting a repeat of the wonderful summer he experienced previously, Angela who is extremely shy and reclusively wishes to be left alone and seemingly just wants to get through it all and get home. However, things are never that simple, and things are not ideal for either of the cousins. Judy, Ricky's love interest from the prior summer has moved on from him, and has decided to make Angela and he miserable. Outside of that strange and violent things begin to happen at the camp, and a body count begins to mount.
Scream Factory have presented Sleepaway Camp in a 1:78:1 1080p transfer taken from the original camera negative. This is without a doubt the best Sleepaway Camp has looked to my eyes. The transfer has strong detail, bright, but natural colors, and for the most part solid blacks. The flesh tones are accurate, and there is a healthy level of grain present on the transfer. There are some soft spots throughout, but for the most part this is a very exciting visual presentation of Sleepaway Camp.
The audio is simarly excellent and presented in a DTS-HD MA track in English. The dialogue is audible and clear throughout, as is the score and sound effects.
Scream Factory have put together an excellent extras package for Sleepaway Camp. The package kicks off with 2 commentary tracks one is new and features "cousin" actors Felissa Rose an Jonathan Tiersten. We then have the archival commentary ported over from the old AB disc with Robert Hiltzik, Felissa Rose, and Sleepaway Camp fansite webmaster Jeff Hayes. We have a series of interviews with the cast and crew, a series of photo galleries, a short film entitled Judy by the aforementioned Jeff Hayes, and the theatrical trailer for the film.
Sleepaway Camp is one of the greatest, and most iconic slasher films of all time. The A/V restoration courtesy of Scream Factory is excellent, and the extras package truly pushes this one over the top HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.