|Directed by||Robert Hiltzik|
|Produced by||Jerry Silva
|Written by||Robert Hiltzik|
|Music by||Edward Bilous|
David M. Walsh
|Edited by||Ron Kalish
|American Eagle Films|
|Distributed by||United Film Distribution Company|
|Running time||87 minutes|
Sleepaway Camp (also marketed on VHS as Nightmare Vacation) is a 1983 exploitation slasher film written and directed by Robert Hiltzik who also served as executive producer. The film is about the killings of teen campers at a summer camp. The film came at a time when slasher films were in their heyday, and is largely known for its twist ending which is considered by some to be one of the most shocking endings among horror films.
The film opens in summer 1975, with John Baker and his two children, Angela and Peter out on a lake. After their boat flips, John and the children head ashore, where John's lover, Lenny is calling. They try to swim back, but are stuck. While unoccupied, a motorboat accidentally runs them over, killing John and Peter.
Eight years later, Angela is now living with her eccentric aunt Dr. Martha Thomas and cousin Ricky Thomas. Angela and Ricky are sent to Camp Arawak. Martha gives them their physicals and tells them not to let anyone know where they got them as she believes they wouldn't approve at all. Due to her introverted nature, Angela is bullied, her main tormentors being fellow camper Judy and camp counselor Meg. The head cook, Artie attempts to molest Angela until Ricky interrupts, and the two children flee. While Artie is boiling water for corn, an unseen figure knocks him off the chair, scalding him with the water. Ben eventually storms in, to the sound of Artie's terror-filled screaming. He is shocked by the chaos casted. Artie's incident is deemed accidental by camp owner Mel Costic.
Campers Kenny and Mike begin to mock Angela, prompting Ricky and his friend Paul to get into a fight with them. After the brawl is broken up by Gene, Ricky and the rest of the boys involved in the fight leave, while Paul stays behind and befriends Angela. Later, Kenny is drowned by an unseen figure, his body found the next day and his death also ruled accidental by Mel. Campers Billy and Jimmy also pick on Angela, pelting her with water balloons. Billy is killed as well by a mysterious assailant who locks him in a bathroom stall and drops a beehive inside it, leaving him to be stung to death.
The relationship between Angela and Paul grows strained when Paul kisses her twice as a goodnight kiss, causing Angela to have a flashback to her youth when she and her brother witnessed their father in bed with Lenny. Paul is then seduced by Judy, who lures him into the woods and the two are found kissing by Angela and Ricky. Guilty, Paul attempts to explain himself to Angela while on the beach. As Paul talks to Angela, he is shooed away by Judy and Meg, who throw Angela into the water. After being taken out of the lake by lifeguard Hal and having sand flung at her by several small children, a clearly disturbed Angela is comforted by Ricky, who swears revenge on her aggressors. After the affair at the beach, Meg prepares for a date with Mel. During her shower, she is killed by the unseen killer, who slices down her back through the shower stall with a hunting knife.
Meg's disappearance goes largely unnoticed and a social is held. At the social, Angela is approached by Paul, whom she tells to meet her at the waterfront after the social. The six children who threw sand at Angela are taken out to go camping with counselor Eddie. When two of them ask to go back, Eddie takes them back to his car and drives back to the camp. The other four children are found hacked to bits with Eddie's axe when he returns. Soon after, Judy is killed by being raped with a lit straightening iron. The camp is thrown into a panic when Eddie announces the deaths of the four children. Ricky overhears this news before being attacked by Mel, who had discovered Meg's corpse and blames Ricky for her death. After beating Ricky mercilessly, Mel stumbles into the camp archery range, where he is shot in the throat with an arrow by the killer.
As the counselors and the police scour the camp, they discover Ricky, unconscious but alive, and Angela meets Paul on the beach, suggesting they go for a swim. Ronnie and Susie find a naked Angela humming to herself and clutching both a large knife and Paul's severed head in her hands. They are shocked to discover that "Angela" is actually Peter, her thought-to-be-dead brother. It is revealed that the real Angela died in the accident and Peter survived. After Martha gained custody of him, she decided to raise Peter as the girl she always wanted, already having a son and coming to the conclusion that another boy "simply would not do." It's also implied that Peter/Angela was mentally affected by seeing his father sharing a homosexual embrace with another man. The film suddenly ends with the nude and blood-covered "Angela", male genitalia in full view, standing before Susie and Ronnie, letting out an animalistic hissing sound. The image freezes on Angela's face, which fades to green over the course of 10 sec., then the credits roll.
- Felissa Rose as Angela Baker
- Jonathan Tiersten as Ricky Thomas
- Karen Fields as Judy
- Christopher Collet as Paul
- Mike Kellin as Mel Costic
- Amy Baio as Brooke Warner
- Katherine Kamhi as Meg
- Paul DeAngelo as Ronnie
- Susan Glaze as Susie
- Tom Van Dell as Mike
- Loris Sallahain as Billy
- John E. Dunn as Kenny
- Ethan Larosa as Jimmy
- Willy Kuskin as Mozart
- Desiree Gould as Aunt Martha
- Owen Hughes as Artie
- Robert Earl Jones as Ben
- Frank Trent Sorrentino as Gene
- Rick Edrich as Jeff
- Fred Greene as Eddie
- Allen Breton as Frank the Cop
- Michael C. Mahon as Hal
- Dan Tursi as John
- James Paradise as Lenny
The film was released theatrically on a limited basis by United Film Distribution Company on November 18, 1983. On its opening weekend it grossed a total of $430,000. When it opened, it was the top grossing film in New York, beating out its horror competition by taking in almost double the gross of Amityville 3-D. The film attained a modest success during its initial run.
In the late 1980s, Michael A. Simpson directed two sequels, Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988) and Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (1989). In them, Angela (now played by Bruce Springsteen's younger sister, Pamela Springsteen) resurfaces at a nearby summer camp, but this time masquerading as a counselor after a sex change that made her entirely female. Much like at the previous camp, she gleefully tortures and kills anyone who misbehaves or annoys her. These films had more of a comic tone than the original.
Another rogue sequel, Sleepaway Camp IV: The Survivor, directed by Jim Markovic, was partially filmed but never completed. In 2002 the unfinished footage was released and made available as an exclusive fourth disc in Anchor Bay/Starz Entertainment's Sleepaway Camp DVD boxed set. In 2012 the film was completed and released on DVD and Amazon Video on Demand.
A new film, Return to Sleepaway Camp, was completed in 2003 and initially struggled to find distribution. It was directed by Robert Hiltzik, the director of the original 1983 film. He decided that this chapter will ignore the story lines of the previous sequels, stating that he wanted to pick up from where the original film ended. According to Fangoria.com the digital effects were redone from 2006 to 2008. The film finally found distribution, and was released November 4, 2008, by Magnolia/Magnet Pictures. Review copies of the film had been sent out, and the movie's screener had already been leaked prior to the release.
The purportedly final film in Hiltzik's Sleepaway Camp trilogy, titled Sleepaway Camp Reunion, was also announced to be in the making. Distribution had been arranged via Magnolia Pictures . But it looks like it's unlikely to be made. Michael Simpson, the director of Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers and Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland, wrote a script for his series of Sleepaway Camp movies as well, titled Sleepaway Camp: Berserk. The other film in this continuity, Sleepaway Camp IV: Survivor, was released in 2012 as a final cut originally intended by the filmmakers.
Resurrection and legacy
In the late 1990s, Jeff Hayes brought the fan base of Sleepaway Camp into the open, with the first official Sleepaway Camp web site. Hayes did audio commentary for the first Sleepaway Camp on DVD.
The film has been referenced several times in pop culture, such as:
- Art punk band The Blood Brothers borrowed the title of their song "Meet Me at the Waterfront After the Social" verbatim from a line spoken by Angela.
- Metal band Frightmare wrote a song about the film, simply titled "Angela".
- Senses Fail named a song after Angela Baker, titled "Angela Baker and My Obsession with Fire".
- Robot Chicken aired a sketch about the movie, which included a horrified Robert Hiltzik exclaiming "Oh my god! Someone remembered this movie and wrote a comedy sketch about it!"
- The band (and movie features) CKY (Camp Kill Yourself) is named in reference to the movie. They also released an EP entitled Disengage the Simulator, the cover art for which features Angela. Lead singer Deron Miller is also married to the actress who played Angela. They met on the set of Return to Sleepaway Camp.
- The film's sequels feature songs performed by metal band Obsession (featuring Mike Vescera) including the title track for Teenage Wasteland, "Methods of Madness".
- Post-hardcore band These Arms Are Snakes' album Oxeneers begins with two song titles which refer to the Sleepaway Camp series. The first song on the album is called "The Shit Sisters" after two characters in the second film, and the second song on the album is called "Angela's Secret".
- The fictional film in "Weird Al" Yankovic's song "Nature Trail to Hell" (from "Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D) is partly based on Sleepaway Camp, evidenced by the fact that the film was in theaters when the song was recorded, and that the song contains references to the film's plot and advertising campaign.
- "Sleepaway Camp". The New York Times.
- "25 Best Horror Movie Twist Endings - Best Twist Endings in Horror Movies". Horror.about.com. 2010-11-17. Retrieved 2010-12-30.
- "Sleepaway Camp - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2014-05-31.
- Beldin, Fred. "Sleepaway Camp - Review - AllMovie". AllMovie. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
- Jen Yamato (October 31, 2013). "Cult ’80s Slasher ‘Sleepaway Camp’ Eyed For Franchise Reboot". Retrieved July 30, 2014.
- Official Sleepaway Camp Site
- Sleepaway Camp at the Internet Movie Database
- Sleepaway Camp at AllMovie