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Sleepaway Camp (1983) – DVD Review

Sleepaway Camp DVD cover art


Written by: Robert Hiltzik
Directed by: Robert Hiltzik
Starring: Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tiersten, Christopher Collet, Karen Fields, Desiree Gould


  • Running audio commentary by director Robert Hiltzik and actress Rose, moderated by Jeff Hayes
  • Theatrical Trailer

Released by: Anchor Bay
Region: 1
Rating: R
Anamorphic: Yes.

My Advice: Own it if you are a fan of horror.

Poor Angela (Rose). Still withdrawn and disturbed by seeing her family slaughtered in a speeding boat accident years ago, she hasn’t been helped by being raised by her rather odd Aunt Martha (Gould). Camp Arawak doesn’t help either with its lecherous employees, malicious girls led by the queen bitch Judy (Fields), and hormonally challenged boys. Still she has her very protective cousin, Ricky (Tiersten), and a budding romance with his friend Paul (Collet). Along with the water sports, softball, and juvenile antics, the camp is having a lot of people die, horribly. The victims were all nasty to Angela before they died. Is shy Angela a brutal killer or is Ricky protecting his cousin to a deadly extreme? With the body count getting ever higher, will anyone escape Sleepaway Camp…alive? (Cue ominous music)

Sleepaway Camp screen capture 1

I have reviewed several really bad horror films for this site and it’s nice to see one that’s actually decent. There are some bright spots in what could have been a dreary movie. I liked that the director took the time to have scenes of the kids actually participating in camp events like softball and capture the flag and stupid teenage hi-jinks. It may slow the pacing some, but it helps make the setting and the characters more real. Having the kids be the age of the characters also helps with the realism. It’s always a little disconcerting seeing thirty-year-old actors playing roles aged sweet sixteen. The director did have to sacrifice acting experience and potential T & A opportunities, but it’s not a bad trade-off. So their acting isn’t that good, but what do you expect (or need, really) from potential victims?

Felissa Rose, who played Angela, is the exception. She has the most disturbing stare I’ve seen on anybody, especially a young girl like her. But her smile reminds (or fools) us into thinking that she’s a normal little girl. The deaths aren’t the typical hack-n-slash affair either. You get death by boiling water, drowning, bees, and curling iron as well as some good old-fashioned knife action. The special effects on these deaths are quite impressive considering the budget (the pus forming after boiling water is poured on one man is very effective).

Sleepaway Camp screen capture 2

As always there is the theatrical trailer on the disc as well as a running commentary. This commentary has the director and the star reminiscing about their movie experience from twenty years ago. I wish the so-called moderator had kept the two on track because I got tired of hearing about what almost every single person in the cast and crew is doing now. We also get how everyone got along in the cast and it was almost like summer camp for the kids. But the director didn’t go into enough detail about the special effects or the choices he made in production. There’s a particular scene where someone gets shot through the neck with the arrow and the effect is practically seamless. Hiltzik barely touches on it and the moderator should have called him on it. There were also hints made by the two about a possible romance and nasty break-up between Felissa Rose and Jonathan Tiersten. I wanted to hear about that. Still it was interesting to hear how the director worked to make the death scenes more creative and only had one murder feature blood.

All in all, this was a fun disc to watch. If you like murder and mayhem, get Sleepaway Camp.

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