Sleepaway Camp Blu-Ray Review
Blu-Ray Review- Sleepaway Camp
Distributor: Scream Factory
Street Date: May 27th 2014
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, DTS-HD Master Audio Mono, Color, 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio
Runtime: 85 Minutes
Ah…the Summer Camp slasher films of the 1980’s. From Friday the 13th to The Burning, there are an abundance of fun movies in this subgenre that have become yearly staples for a Horror fans’ summer viewing experience. It’s an odd cocktail of entertainment we’re talking about here: a blended concoction of the innocence of youth, being away from the watchful eyes of our parents, and an evil stranger hacking our peers to death. Sleepaway Camp is a bizarre but extremely memorable entry, standing alone in a class of films that often feature repetitive villains, deaths, and characters. I will never forget seeing it for the first time during a sleepover as a teenager, my jaw literally hanging open in shock during the ending moments, as goose bumps tingled up my spine and the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. Though for some it may be a chore to get there, once you’ve been, it’s a film that you will revisit time and time again and appreciate anew with each subsequent viewing.
Eight years after a terrible boating accident kills her Father and brother, Angela Baker (Felissa Rose) now lives with her whack-a-doodle Aunt Martha and her cousin Ricky (Jonathan Tierston). Sent off to Camp Arawak for the summer, the shy and withdrawn Angela quickly experiences bullying and torment from her peers, and Ricky is always there to defend her. Though a dash of romance could be in the cards for Angela when fellow camper Paul takes a liking to her, the atmosphere at Camp Arawak has grown increasingly eerie as campers begin to turn up dead. But who could be the killer? Could it be the snotty and flirtatious Judy? Perhaps even the shy and withdrawn Angela? Or even a cousin who is fed up with her sister’s tormentors? Half the fun of Sleepaway Camp is the journey in answering that very question, and the resulting answer will not only shock you, but it will remain engrained in your memory long after viewing.
Benefitting from its naïve charm and creepy atmosphere, Sleepaway Camp remains one of the better slasher films from the era. Sure, it features some wooden and hammy performances, some incredibly creepy characters (the cook), and cheesy dialogue that will have you howling at parts, but it’s about the whole package. As I stated before, it is a film that Horror fans will revisit time and time again and appreciate the corny performances (Aunt Martha is a standout), the fun kills and makeup effects, and the rather genius ending that will haunt your dreams.
Scream Factory’s Blu-Ray release of Sleepaway Camp is, simply put, stunning. Featuring a transfer from a 2K scan of the original camera negative, this company has gone above and beyond to treat fans of the film with a beautiful viewing experience. Film grain is intact here and authentic to the time period, with no digital scrubbing to be seen. Colors look better than ever, with the lush green lawns of the camp and clear blue water of the lake in full view. But the standout aspect of this presentation is the fine detail; from hair to clothing, the textures look incredible. There is some minor damage to the print from time to time, but this is to be expected from a film this old. For Horror fans and Blu-Ray aficionados, this is as good as it gets, and I can guarantee that you have never seen Sleepaway Camp look this incredible.
The DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track provided here suits the film very well. All of the dialogue comes through clean and clear, background noise at the camp (birds chirping, water splashing, crickets chirping) sound great and never “tinny”, and escalating swells in the score are handled nicely. I was surprised how dynamic this seemed for a mono track. Fans will be pleased with its authenticity and power.
Scream Factory has once again gone above and beyond to include some amazing special features for fans of the film. Though I do question the inclusion of a couple of them, the majority of these features are fantastic. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- At the Waterfront after the Social: The Legacy of Sleepaway Camp– Running over 45 minutes, this documentary from Scream Factory and Justin Beahm’s Reverend Entertainment is the standout feature on a release already jam-packed with gems. We not only get the opportunity to hear from cast members such as Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tierston, Karen Fields, and more, but the amount of depth and detail the cast and crew go into regarding the development of the film is incredible. From how the cast members won over their director during auditions to the screenwriting and filming process and on-set crushes, there is truly something for everyone here. The behind-the-scenes discussion and special effects that went into a particular scene from the ending, is especially hilarious and engaging. The entertainment factor aside, Justin Beahm and Scream Factory have delivered the goods to the Horror fan-base with a top quality documentary filmed in high definition with great title logos and animations. The final shot of Felissa becoming emotional discussing the impact of the film is especially sincere and moving. Excellent work.
- Judy: A Short film by Jeff Hayes- Judy is an incredibly silly low budget short film from Jeff Hayes, the webmaster at sleepawaycampmovies.com. Featuring Karen Fields reprising her role from Sleepaway Camp, the ridiculous plot has Judy exacting revenge on a flirtatious married man. It’s fun seeing Karen bring back her Judy-tude, but the majority of this is mostly cringe worthy. Sorry Jeff!
- Princess: A Music Video by Jonathan Tierston- Actually titled The Princess, this music video from Jonathan Tierston is not related to the film in the slightest. Though it features some nice camerawork, it’s five minutes worth of b-i-z-a-r-r-o lyrics and awkward lip-syncing with Jonathan promoting his music career. This wasn’t for me, and I’ll leave it at that.
- Camp Arawak Scrapbook- Over nine minutes worth of behind-the-scenes pictures from the cast and crew. Everyone involved clearly had fun making the movie, and it’s nice that these were preserved over the years and included on this release for fans of the film.
- Theatrical Trailer & TV Spots- The original theatrical trailer and two television spots are included back-to-back. You have to appreciate the campy voiceover and out-of-context footage used to promote the film. I could watch 80’s Horror previews all day long, so this was a short and sweet treat.
- Rare Images from Make-up effects artist Ed French- Roughly a minute and a half worth of rare storyboard drawings for the makeup and effects shots featured in the film. Though it’s a short montage, there are some fascinating pictures here from Ed French’s archive, and the final effects they achieved are impressive for a low budget horror film.
- A Demonstration of the 2K film scan process- Ian Turpen at Technicolor runs us through the impressive 2K scanning process that Sleepaway Camp underwent for this Blu-Ray release. Running exactly nine minutes long, this segment reminded me of some of the restoration featurettes that the Criterion Collection and Arrow Video have included on their releases before. Though it’s a welcome addition to this release and we get some interesting technical information on the scanners themselves, we never get to see a “before and after” shot of the print. It’s even more confusing that the footage from the film that is included in this segment is all in standard definition. I would recommend the half-screen comparison shot next time interspersed with footage from the Technicolor labs. That slight criticism aside, as mentioned above, the transfer on this release is simply stunning and I’m so glad that Scream Factory went the extra mile to deliver a 2K scan for the Blu-Ray release.
- Audio Commentaries (3)- Scream Factory was kind enough to include three audio commentaries on this release. The first features actors Felissa Rose and Jonathan Tierston, the second Director Robert Hiltzik (moderated by Jeff Hayes), and the third features both Hiltzik and Rose. Felissa and Jonathan’s commentary is especially fun and the two obviously enjoyed their experience working together all those years ago, and seem appreciative of the enormous cult fan-base their movie has now.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray release from Scream Factory features newly commissioned artwork on the slipcover from fan favorite artist, Nathan Thomas Milliner. There is little doubt that Milliner captured the spirit of the film with his atmospheric and brutal art for this release. For nostalgic purists, Scream Factory has also included the original theatrical artwork as a reversible case slip with the classic “knife through the tennis shoe” design. On the reverse of the packaging you’ll find a plot synopsis along with the aforementioned special features listed. The interior of the case includes some nice disc art to boot.
Sleepaway Camp remains a bizarre and shocking entry in the summer camp sub-genre of 80’s slasher films, and one of my personal favorites. Scream Factory has gone above and beyond to provide an absolutely gorgeous 2K scan of the original camera negative, a surprisingly dynamic and authentic HD mono audio track, and a wealth of bonus material to peruse for fans. Special marks have to be given for the beyond entertaining At the Waterfront after the Social: The Legacy of Sleepaway Camp from Justin Beahm, which will go down as one of the definitive bonus feature documentaries of 2014. Highly Recommended.