Sleepaway Camp

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Sleepaway Camp
Theatrical film poster
Directed by Robert Hiltzik
Produced by
  • Jerry Silva
  • Michele Tatosian
Written by Robert Hiltzik
Music by Edward Bilous
  • Benjamin Davis
  • David M. Walsh
Edited by
  • Ron Kalish
  • Ralph Rosenblum
  • Sharyn Ross
American Eagle Films
Distributed by United Film Distribution Company
Release date
  • November 18, 1983 (1983-11-18)
Running time
87 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $350,000
Box office $11 million

Sleepaway Camp (also marketed on VHS as Nightmare Vacation) is a 1983 American slasher film written and directed by Robert Hiltzik,[1] who also served as executive producer. The film tells the story of a young girl and her cousin who are sent to a summer camp, where a group of killings begins shortly after their arrival.

Released at a time when slasher films were in their heyday, the film is infamously known for its twist ending, which is considered by some to be one of the most shocking endings among horror films.[2] Sleepaway Camp is also notable as the last film of Tony-nominee Mike Kellin. The film has since become a cult film.


In 1975, John Baker and his boyfriend, Lenny, take John's children Angela and Peter on a boating trip. After the boat capsizes, John and the children attempt to swim ashore. However they swim into the path of a reckless motorboat and are struck. John and Peter are killed.

8 years later, in 1983, Angela is now traumatized. She has been living with her eccentric aunt, Dr. Martha Thomas, and her cousin Ricky Thomas. Angela and Ricky are sent to Camp Arawak. 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 as well. Later, an unseen figure causes Artie to get severely scalded by the water he is boiling. Artie's incident is deemed accidental by camp owner Mel Costic.

Campers Kenny and Mike also mock Angela, prompting Ricky and his friend Paul to get into a fight with them. Paul befriends Angela. Kenny is later drowned, his death also ruled accidental by Mel. Paul asks Angela to attend a movie with him and kisses her. Campers Billy and Jimmy pick on Angela, and Billy is killed next, stung to death when someone traps him with a beehive. Mel starts thinking there is a killer in the camp.

The relationship between Angela and Paul grows strained when Paul kisses her again, causing Angela to have a flashback to her youth when she and her brother witnessed their father in bed with Lenny. Paul is seduced by Judy, and the two are found kissing by Angela. Guilty, Paul attempts to explain himself but is shooed away by Judy and Meg, who throw Angela into the water. Angela then has sand flung at her by small children. She is comforted by Ricky, who swears revenge on her aggressors. Meg is killed next in the shower.

A camp social is held. At the event, Paul apologizes to Angela again and she tells him to meet her at the water. Mel finds Meg's body. Four of the six children who threw sand at Angela are found hacked to bits. Soon after, Judy is killed by being raped with a lit curling iron. The camp is thrown into a panic with all the deaths. Thinking Ricky is the killer, Mel beats him mercilessly, only to be shot in the throat and killed with an arrow by the real killer.

Police begin searching for the missing campers. Paul is at the beach with Angela, who suggests they go for a swim. The policeman discovers Ricky, unconscious but alive. Ronnie and Susie find a naked Angela humming and clutching a hunting knife and Paul's severed head. 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. It is implied that Peter was mentally affected by seeing his father sharing a homosexual embrace with another man.

The nude and blood-covered "Angela" (with male genitalia in full view), stands before the shocked Susie and Ronnie who discover that she is the killer; Angela looks at both of them while letting out an animalistic hissing sound.


  • Felissa Rose as Angela Baker / Peter 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 Angelo
  • 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 Thomas
  • Owen Hughes as Artie
  • Robert Earl Jones as Ben
  • Frank Trent Saladino as Gene
  • Rick Edrich as Jeff
  • Fred Greene as Eddie
  • Allen Breton as Frank Breton
  • Michael C. Mahon as Hal
  • Dan Tursi as John Baker
  • 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.


Sleepaway Camp received positive reviews from critics, with many critics praising the film's twist ending.[3] Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 83% based on 17 reviews.[4]

Bloody Disgusting gave the film a positive review, praising Felissa Rose's performance and the film's twist ending calling it "one of the most shocking seen since, possibly, Hitchcock's Psycho".[3] AllMovie wrote in its review on the film, "While most of the gender-bending story's sexual confusion is ultimately half-baked", "Sleepaway Camp is distinctive enough to warrant required viewing for genre enthusiasts."[5] Over the years, the film has gained a cult following from fans of the slasher genre.


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 reassignment surgery. 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 in the early 1990s 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 complete visual effects. 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 the digital effects were redone from 2006 to 2008. The film 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, ruining the surprise ending.

The purportedly final film in Hiltzik's Sleepaway Camp trilogy, titled Sleepaway Camp Reunion, was also announced to be in the works. Distribution had been arranged via Magnolia Pictures. Creator Robert Hiltzik stated that he would make the film if his budget was met. However, Hiltzik and "Return To Sleepaway Camp" producer Jeff Hayes have since started working on a reboot/remake that would retain the key characters and elements of the original film with additional storyline elements and a dose of modernizing. As of Summer 2014, Hiltzik was reportedly tweaking the script. Although he had no rights to the film series, 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.


Series creator Robert Hiltzik now owns the rights to the Sleepaway Camp franchise, which, as of 2013, is to be rebooted.[6]


  1. ^ "Sleepaway Camp". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ "25 Best Horror Movie Twist Endings - Best Twist Endings in Horror Movies". 2010-11-17. Retrieved 2010-12-30. 
  3. ^ a b "Sleepaway Camp -". Bloody Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved 18 September 2015. 
  4. ^ "Sleepaway Camp (1983) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 18 September 2015. 
  5. ^ Beldin, Fred. "Sleepaway Camp - Review - AllMovie". AllMovie. Retrieved 24 July 2012. 
  6. ^ Jen Yamato (October 31, 2013). "Cult '80s Slasher 'Sleepaway Camp' Eyed For Franchise Reboot". Retrieved July 30, 2014. 

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