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Robert Hiltzik
Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tiersten, Karen Fields, Desiree Gould
Writing Credits:
Robert Hiltzik

...you won't be coming home!

After a terrible boating accident killed her family, shy Angela Baker (Felissa Rose) went to live with her eccentric Aunt Martha and her cousin Ricky. This summer, Martha decides to send them both to Camp Arawak, a place to enjoy the great outdoors. Shortly after their arrival, a series of bizarre and violent accidents begin to claim the lives of various campers. Has a dark secret returned from the camp’s past…or will an unspeakable horror end the Summer season for all?

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 84 min.
Price: $29.93
Release Date: 5/27/2014

• Audio Commentary with Director Robert Hiltzik and Actor Felissa Rose
• Audio Commentary With Actors Felissa Rose and Jonathan Tiersten
• Audio Commentary with Director Robert Hiltzik
• “At the Waterfront After the Social: The Legacy of Sleepaway Camp” Featurette
Judy Short Film
• “Camp Arawak Scrapbook”
• Photo Gallery
• Music Video
• 2K Film Scan Demonstration
• Trailer and TV Spots
• DVD Copy


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Sleepaway Camp [Blu-Ray] (1983)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 13, 2014)

When I originally requested a copy of Sleepaway Camp on DVD in 2000, I did so for one reason alone: because I thought Bruce Springsteen's sister Pamela starred in it, and I was curious to see the Boss' sibling in action.

Close but no cigar. As it happens, the Bossette appeared in two Camp sequels but not the original. While Camp does feature one celebrity relative – James Earl Jones’ father Robert - no Springsteens appear, so the entire point of my request went down the drain.

As did the 84 minutes of my life that disappeared forever in the mists of time. Message to God: I deserve credit for that time when I die, because it's not fair I lost it due to this movie. I won't say that Sleepaway Camp is the worst film I've ever seen, but if not, the two are close cousins.

On the surface, Camp is nothing more than a cheap rip-off of hit "slasher" films like Friday the 13th and Halloween. Actually, dig as deep below the surface as you can and it's still just a cheesy imitation of those more successful pictures. Camp lacks any depth and offers some of the worst writing, acting and directing one could possibly imagine.

At the start of the film, we see a father and his roughly six-year-old son and daughter as they boat on a lake. Some dopey teenagers accidentally run over Dad and one of the kids in one of the most ludicrous accident scenes ever staged; the teens couldn't have done more damage if they'd tried! Anyway, surviving child Angela goes to live with relatives, and we meet her as a teen (Felissa Rose) along with her weirdo Aunt Martha (Desiree Gould) and her cousin Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten).

Angela and Ricky go away for the summer to Camp Arawak. The aftereffects of her childhood trauma leave Angela extremely quiet and shy, which means that the other kids frequently make fun of her. Ricky defends her most of the time, and things start to look suspicious when those who mess with Angela end up dead. Who possibly could be the killer? And just exactly why won't Angela go in the water or shower with the other girls?

If you really want to know those answers, watch this movie, but don't come crying to me when you discover how bad this clunker is. Somehow this stinker has built up a cult following, which leads me to believe that everything is loved by someone somewhere. Frankly, I have no explanation how someone could even tolerate this movie, much less really like it; it has no redeeming value.

I'd like to be positive and state what worked well in the movie, but there's nothing good about Sleepaway Camp. The story offers regurgitated slasher junk, and the characters provide stiff and lifeless cardboard cutouts.

The script makes little sense most of the time, as it never attempts a coherent narrative or any form of character development, and the pace seems slow and pointless. For instance, we find an extended baseball game among campers that exists… I don’t know why. It just fills space. Dialogue appears cheesy and artificial, and the actors deliver uniformly atrocious work; there's not even a semi-talent in the bunch.

Maybe some folks like Camp for its trashy pleasures, though I never found any "it's so bad it's good" sentiments from its fans; some people seem to get an honest charge out of this thing. Frankly, the incompetence viewed on this project does lead to some amusement, mainly from the cartoony acting; the performances are so absurd that it's impossible not to laugh at the moments of highest drama such as the aforementioned boat disaster. Let's not forget the beyond-cheesy tune "Angela's Theme (You're Just What I've Been Looking For)" that runs over the end credits; Frankie Vinci's “classic” may be the worst movie song I've ever heard.

Many fans of Camp appear to love it largely for the film's "shocking" surprise ending. I won't give away the movie's conclusion, but it seems that many folks were genuinely stunned by its "revelation".

Puh-leeze! I saw it coming from a mile away and had figured it out no later than halfway through the movie. Even if I hadn't guessed it, the ending becomes just more silly cheese and adds nothing to the film other than to make it even more ridiculous and distasteful.

The highest praise I can offer Sleepaway Camp? It's often in focus. Other than that, I have nothing positive to say about this horrible film. Sleepaway Camp is one of the crummiest pictures ever made – and it might actually be the worst.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

Sleepaway Camp appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Given the movie’s age and low budget, I thought the image held up pretty well.

For the most part, sharpness looked fine. A little softness cropped up on occasion, and I couldn’t call the film razor-sharp, but it showed pretty positive delineation the majority of the time. No issues with jaggies or shimmering materialized, and I saw no signs of edge haloes.

Print flaws became the biggest problem with the image. That said, they weren’t bad for a 31-year-old flick. I noticed sporadic specks and marks plus a few blotches, but these remained pretty infrequent. The movie could’ve been cleaner, but it also could’ve been much dirtier.

In terms of colors, the film opted for a natural palette. Overall, the hues seemed fine; while they didn’t leap off the screen, they showed reasonable pep and clarity. Blacks were fairly dark and tight, and low-light shots offered decent smoothness. No one will mistake this for a demo-worthy image, but it represented the source better than I expected.

When we moved to the film’s DTS-HD MA monaural 2.0 soundtrack, it showed its age but usually sounded fine. Dialogue was acceptable, as the lines tended to be reasonably natural. At times they showed some roughness – especially at a dance scene – but speech was mostly adequate.

Music wasn’t particularly bold, but the score and songs showed reasonable clarity and vivacity. Effects seemed clean and without notable distortion; though they didn’t have much kick, they reproduced the material well. While nothing here dazzled, the mix held up acceptably well for a 31-year-old mono track.

The Blu-ray mixes old and new components, including three separate audio commentaries. From the 2000 DVD, the first features director Robert Hiltzik and actor Felissa Rose. Along with moderator/Camp website owner Jeff Hayes, almost no quality information about the film shows up in this commentary.

Instead, the remarks fall into a few different categories. Hiltzik seems to think he's on "Amateur Night at the Improv" as he devotes much of his time to supposedly-witty statements about the movie; he provides gems like frequently asking why the kids aren't better supervised. He also likes to pretend he doesn't know what's going to happen, and he involves Rose in this game as well; it gets old incredibly fast. When she doesn’t go along with Hiltzik's inanity, Rose points out people in the cast and tells us how much she loves everything about the film.

Hayes says almost nothing and is a virtual non-presence throughout the track. In his defense, however, the other two ignore his rare attempts to involve them in the discussion. Hayes asks a few questions about specific parts of the filmmaking process and either gets no response at all or receives a joke answer. Hiltzik often pretends not to know how something was done or the facts behind parts of the plot - all part of his "who knows what will happen?" game - and he likes to defer questions with vague statements about "movie magic".

As such, any opportunities to provide actual information about the film that might interest or entertain listeners are quickly quashed. In the end, that means that we find a pointless commentary. Actually, it's worse than useless; the participants - especially Hiltzik, who doesn't appear to understand the point of an audio commentary - make it frustrating and tedious. I didn't think it was possible, but I disliked Camp even more after I heard this miserable commentary; if that doesn't indicate how awful a track this is, I don't know what will.

The next two commentaries fall into the “new” category. First comes a piece with director Robert Hiltzik and moderator Jeff Hayes. Does this reunion create a better listen than its predecessor? Maybe a little bit, but not nearly as much as I’d like.

On the positive side, Hayes plays a more significant part. He barely participated in the 2000 commentary, but he says a lot this time – and contributes almost all of the track’s concrete info. Hayes seems to know a lot more about the film than Hiltzik, so when we learn something, it usually comes from Hayes.

Unfortunately, Hayes defers to Hiltzik much of the time, and the director continues to play the same silly games that marred the 2000 track. Hiltzik likes to act coy about various elements and remains reluctant to tell us much about the production.

For instance, Hayes asks about Aunt Martha’s relation to Angela, and he does so in a tone that hints he believes something deeper lies beneath the surface. In response, Hiltzik states that Martha was either the sister of Angela’s father or of Angela’s mother. Hayes’ attempts to elicit additional thoughts fail, as Hiltzik won’t explore the topic.

And so it goes. If this had been Hayes on his own, it could’ve been a good commentary. Alas, the director once again refuses to discuss much about his film, and that makes this another tedious, frustrating track.

Finally, we hear from Felissa Rose and actor Jonathan Tiersten. Taped with moderator Justin Beahm, they emphasize their experiences on the shoot. This means mostly a discussion of other cast and crew as well as various anecdotes about the production.

Objectively, I can’t call this a good commentary, but it does become the best of the three. On the positive side, Rose and Tiersten show a nice chemistry, as the long-time friends interact in a bubbly, likable manner. They also give us a more honest look at the film. While they praise it a lot, they at least manage to throw out some insights and show a willingness to cover different topics, unlike they obnoxiously coy Hiltzik.

That still doesn’t turn this into a particularly informative piece, though. As much as I like the interactions between the actors, Tiersten devotes too much of the commentary to unsuccessful attempts at humor; he jokes around a lot more than he chats about the film. Rose seems much less gushy than in 2000, but she still tends toward happy talk a lot of the time. Ultimately, this discussion seems more enjoyable than its predecessors, but it’s still flawed and inconsistent.

For a new video piece, we get At the Waterfront After the Social: The Legacy of Sleepaway Camp. This goes for 45 minutes, 43 seconds and provides info from Rose, Hiltzik, Tiersten, Hayes, Rose’s mother Joan Esposito, makeup effects artist Edward French, and actors Frank Saladino, Karen Fields, Paul DeAngelo, and Desiree Gould. We learn how various participants came onto the project, the movie’s roots, various effects, locations and aspects of the shoot, relationships on the set, cast and performances, the movie’s release/reception and its continued cultural presence.

Overall, “Social” delivers a pretty good take on the project, though it lacks coherence. The show tends to flit all over the place, so it doesn’t deliver its components in the most logical progression. Still, it’s good to hear from so many of the participants, and they offer mostly useful thoughts.

Directed by Jeff Hayes, we find a 15-minute, 53-second short film called Judy. Karen Fields reprises her Camp role as the title character and acts as a curling iron-brandishing vigilante who extracts revenge from awful people.

Woof. Judy is so thoroughly awful that it makes Sleepaway Camp look like The Godfather. It gives us such incompetent filmmaking that I can’t help but wonder if it’s bad on purpose; could something this atrocious intend to be good? I don’t know, but it’s as terrible as terrible can be.

Next we get a music video called “The Princess”. Performed by Jonathan Tiersten and Ten Tiers featuring Mitch Dezwarte, both the song and the video are painfully awful. They take themselves extremely seriously, which makes the inanity of the project more horrifying – or amusing, depending on your POV. Sample line: “The Princess doesn’t always smile/Sometimes I’m like a little child”. Ouch, and based on his grimacing/pouting for the camera here, Tiersten’s acting skills haven’t improved since he shot Camp.

Within a Camp Arawak Scrapbook, we find 70 stills. Provided by Felissa Rose, these show candid shots from the set. We also find the original poster for the film. This becomes a nice collection of images.

Another Photo Gallery comes from the collection of makeup effects artist Ed French. It delivers 10 images; in these, we see storyboards, makeup effects and other behind the scenes tidbits. Though brief, the stills offer decent material.

When we check out a 2K Film Scan Demonstration, we see a nine-minute reel. It features Technicolor imaging technician Ian Turpen as he leads us through the process. A few decent notes emerge, but the featurette moves slowly and could’ve used better editing to focus it – do we really need to hear Turpen tell us that he’s rewinding the film and the watch it rewind?

Finally, we locate a collection of ads. We view a Trailer and two TV Spots. They’re fun in their awfulness.

A second disc gives us a DVD copy of Sleepaway Camp. It includes the same extras as the Blu-ray.

It’s possible I’ve seen a crummier movie than Sleepaway Camp, but if so, I can’t think of it. A ridiculous, amateurish, idiotic excuse for a horror movie, everything about it fails. The Blu-ray brings us reasonably positive picture and audio as well as a long roster of inconsistent bonus materials. I can’t stand the film itself, but this becomes a quality release.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5714 Stars Number of Votes: 7
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