Sleepaway Camp

 

 

 

   I haven’t even written it, but this is going to be my favorite review yet. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Sleepaway Camp (1983) from its TV showings or various video releases, the story goes like this- in an after-credits sequence, a boating accident kills a father and a little boy, leaving the daughter as the lone survivor. Shipped off to live with her Aunt, the painfully-shy little girl Angela is sent to Camp Arawak with her cousin Ricky. And that’s when the killings start happening- by decapitation, archery impalement, pillow and hair accessories (among others). The kids are scared; the counselors don’t know what to do, and who is that wielding that ax?…

 

 

   This movie was a pretty big deal when it was released and made some nice money through the years as well as gained a cult-y reputation. It spawned two sequels which were made back-to-back by a different cast and crew than the first (Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers & Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland); an aborted third sequel (Sleepaway IV: The Survivor) that only has a 20 minute workprint left after being abandoned; and a long-time-coming completed third sequel (Return to Sleepaway Camp) which will be released straight to DVD in October 2008 (IMDB also has an announced ANOTHER sequel- Sleepaway Camp Reunion for 2010- but there seems to be some disagreement if that is an actual movie being targeted for Production). The Director left the film biz to become a lawyer (only to go back to Directing for the 3rd sequel). The fan base is so big that there is, in my opinion, two of the most impressive web sites ever created for a movie that cost around $300,000 to make (http://www.sleepawaycampmovies.com/ & http://www.sleepawaycampfilms.com/ ). All this based on, let’s be honest here, a pretty weakly-made flick with (mostly) poor acting, a dredge-like pace, and an unoriginal premise even at the time of its release…

 

 

   What DOES it have then? Well, it has a damned-creepy atmosphere- something comes off the screen that is almost palpable. The SFX (by Ed French; who’s done a ton of these kinds of movies) are simple but effective. A few of the actors have a screen presence, if not exactly acting chops- specifically Angela (Felissa Rose– a role that gets, uh, more difficult as it goes along) and Aunt Martha (played by Desiree Gould– who has the most bizarre chirpy cadence to her voice; the actress HAS to be a real-life nut-case). And, most famously, the freak-out ending that comes from left field. I don’t want to throw out any spoilers for those who don’t know (or WANT to know!), so I’ll do something a little cute here right now- just highlight the line right after the asterisks below:

 

 

   **The chick is a DUDE!!

 

 

   This is a budget DVD review blog, and that’s what I have- this time by the folks at Canada’s Legacy Entertainment, Inc. (SURPRISE! Web Site is “Under Construction”). The whole series of movies have been released legitimately a few different times; on VHS from Video Treasures and a great boxed set from Anchor Bay (with the special packaging and “lost” 4th disc only available at Best Buy– OOP and I proudly own) with a bunch on nifty special features. And what does the Legacy release bring to the table? A HORRIBLE full-frame VHS dupe that is so dark that it almost ruins the shock ending (it doesn’t appear to be the Video Treasures’ tape release as that was edited; this seems to appear fairly complete compared to the AB DVD version- it could very well be a copy of a taped-off-of-the-air copy). The most boring menu on a DVD I have yet to review. Box art that is home-made and cheap (and also kinda gives away something that it shouldn’t). They even drop the ball on the TRAILER- instead of a promised movie clip instead you get a scroll of the other titles available from Legacy (*yawn*). There is no way that this is licensed product, though it’s available at places like FYE and (where I picked this up) D.D.’s Fashions- a low-rent version of Ross clothes, but not only that, but Legacy released ALL THREE movies in brazen bootleg form; all with bad art and even worse transfers. If you DO insist on getting this weak version of the movie to save a few bucks, then at least look for Legacy’s “Night of Horrors Volume 1” which includes this and Lucio Fulci’s House by the Cemetery also in badly-duped tape copy on a flipper DVD. It’s rated “R” for killings, nudity, etc…

 

 

   The upshot is- if you don’t already own it and want to fill out your collection (and can find it cheap- I paid $1.99 for this copy) then go ahead and get it. Then watch it and see if you like it- if you do then pick up the REAL release of this; and if you DIDN’T like it…uh, well… there’s always eBay…

 

 

   Sleepaway Camp– 2-1/2* out of 5

 

   Legacy’s quality- 1* out of 5

 

 

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