One of the most charming things about Scream Factory is their genuine fondness towards the red-headed stepchild of the horror genre, the slasher film. They always find room in their release slate to do high-def workups of titles like The Burning or Slumber Party Massacre. They recently turned their attention to one of this subgenre’s biggest cult favorites with a blu-ray/DVD combo release of Sleepaway Camp — and the results are as lovingly realized as a slasher addict could hope for.
Things start nicely with an excellent new 2K transfer of the film that is included on both discs in the set. The blu-ray was viewed for this review and the results are impressive, offering a nicely-detailed and colorful image that blows away past DVD versions of the film. Fans will be happy to note that this is the uncut version of the film and thus includes the scenes that were snipped on the old Anchor Bay DVD. The audio portion of the transfer utilizes the film’s original mono mix, presented in a lossless format on the blu-ray, and it offers a crisp soundtrack with no distortion or mix issues.
Scream Factory has also packed this release to the rafters with special features. The first pairs stars Felissa Rose and Jonathan Tiersten, along with moderator Justin Beahm. It’s an easy listen as Rose and Tiersten have a funny, teasing interplay. Beahm pipes in with the occasional question but it’s barely needed as the two main participants have plenty to say. Rose has vivid memories of most of her castmates and both she and Tiersten have interesting theories about the mysteries inherent to the plot. The track is also laced with funs bits of trivia, like how the film’s camera crew had just worked on Creepshow.
The second track pairs writer/director Robert Hiltzik with moderator/Sleepaway Camp superfan Jeff Hayes. Hiltzik enjoys acting cryptic when asked about effects or the mysteries of the film’s story, a schtick that gets a little tiresome as the track progresses, but Hayes is able to fill the gap with plenty of trivia about the film. Here and there, Hiltzik opens up and offers a few interesting thoughts about motivating the killings in the plot and the social darwinism inherent to summer camps. The third track originated with the old Anchor Bay release and features Rose, Hiltzik and Hayes. Rose is the star here, fueling the track with enthusiasm and nostalgic memories.
The centerpiece of the extras is a 45-minute retrospective piece on the film’s legacy, helmed by Beahm. It’s an expansive yet tightly-paced featurette that covers the film from preproduction through release and all the way up to its cult reputation today. Rose, Tiersten and Hiltzik all appears as well as a variety of other cast members and even FX man Ed French.
This piece is a fast-moving delight for ‘80s horror buffs because all the participants seems grateful for the film’s cult fame and tell their tales in a witty, fun-loving style. Highlights include getting to meet Desiree Gould (the actress behind Aunt Martha), hearing French explain how effects like the amazing “Angela mask” were achieved and Rose and Tiersten’s wry account of the ups and downs of their on-set romance. Rose is the undeniable star of the show, lighting up the proceedings with her enthusiasm and even having some unexpectedly touching final words. This segment is a winner for fans of the film and anyone into ‘80s horror in general.
Also included is Judy, a 16 minute video short made by Hayes. It revives the titular character from Sleepaway Camp, turning her into a curling iron-wielding serial killer with a social conscience. It’s pretty rough in terms of technique and acting but fans of ‘80s horror will appreciate its Troma-style excessive gore and the return of Karen Fields as this fan-favorite character. Another surprise video inclusion is a music video for a song by Tiersten. Entitled “Princess,” it’s a moody slab of alt-rock balladry that illustrates the ex-actor’s present day passion.
Next up is a pair of image galleries. The Camp Arawak Scrapbook is drawn from Rose’s collection, offering around seventy photos’ worth of on-the-set snaps that show Rose having the time of her early-teen life palling around with the cast and crew. Shorter but still fairly impressive is a brief gallery of diagrams and photos from French’s collection that show how the film’s makeup effects highlights were designed and enacted.
Elsewhere, there is a reel of trailers that offer one theatrical spot and two t.v. spots. All three are effective yet generic ads that sell the film’s slasher element without giving any indication of how offbeat the film actually is. The most unusual inclusion amongst the extras is a 9-minute piece on the scanning process used to create the transfer for this set. It features a technician from Technicolor running the viewer through the all the specifics of how a transfer is done, demonstrating as he actually transfers the first reel from the film’s cut negative. It’s a nice inclusion for fans who are curious about how transfers are done.
All in all, Scream Factory has done very well by Sleepaway Camp. Fans will enjoy the transfer and the wealth of information while new viewers will find this an ideal way to get acquainted with this offbeat gem.
To read Schlockmania’s film review of Sleepaway Camp, click here.