Franchise Review: Sleepaway Camp

Painfully shy Angela Baker is sent away to summer camp with her cousin. Not long after Angela’s arrival, things start to go horribly wrong.

That’s right, I’m rebooting my Franchise reviews and I’m starting with one of my favourites, “Sleepaway Camp”!

The 80’s was seriously packed with an abundance of Horror films, some have sadly been long forgotten but others have gone on to be cult classics. “Sleepaway Camp” is one of the latter and for very good reason. For those of you who have seen the film you’ll know it’s remembered for it’s shocking and now pretty iconic ending, problem is the film is overshadowed by that ending.

The films characters are all great, from freaky ‘Aunt Martha’ to bitchy ‘Judy’ to ‘Ronnie’ and his short shorts, each character may be one dimensional but they sure are memorable. Talking of ‘Judy’ though, she has to be one of my most favourite characters, Karen Fields did a great job of playing the character and that line that involves a carpenter (you know the one) gets me every time.

The film contains some horrifically great scenes, I think my favourite has to be the one that features a certain chef. You can feel the pain he’s in (even though there’s no doubting his character deserved it) and it still makes you cringe, well it makes me cringe anyway no matter how many times I’ve watched this film. The other that springs to mind features a curling iron, it was simply shot yet very effective.

There are a few subtle undertones in the film, some didn’t like them but in my opinion I felt that they helped enhance the film. It also ties in with the ending of the film, an ending that still shocks people to this day. I’ve introduced people to this film and my favourite part is seeing their reaction to it, it never gets old. I won’t ruin it for those of you who have yet to see it but I urge you to watch it if you haven’t.

“Sleepaway Camp” is a film that I consider to be essential viewing for any Horror fan out there, if you haven’t watched it yet then you’re truly missing out on something very special.

Miscellaneous facts about the film:

Willy Kuskin, who plays one of the bullied camp boys, was genuinely bullied during filming. Frank Trent Saladino, who played a camp counselor, had to step in when the other members took things too far.

The film became an unexpected hit, and something of a cult favorite for horror movie buffs. It made 30x more than what was spent on it.

As a child, writer/director Robert Hiltzik actually went to the camp used in the film.

This is Mike Kellin’s final film. He was sick during filming, but did his best to conceal it. He died of lung cancer in August 1983, three months before the film’s release.

Felissa Rose (Angela), Karen Fields (Judy), and Katherine Kamhi (Meg) were actually all quite close during filming. Katherine Kamhi said the scene where they throw Angela into the water was hard for her to shoot for that reason.

Jonathan Tiersten was given the role of Ricky after an unusual audition in which writer/director Robert Hiltzik asked Jonathan to cuss him out.

Some of the campers getting off the buses at the beginning of the film are relatives of the cast and crew.

Felissa Rose was paid $5,000 for her performance.

The movie was shot in early fall. It was set in mid-summer, so the crew had to spray paint brown leaves and grass green to keep continuity.

The police officer entering the rec hall at the end of the film wears a fake moustache. The reason being he had shaved off his actual moustache during filming and didn’t have enough time to grow it back.

Director Robert Hiltzik dedicated the movie to his mother.

Felissa Rose was only thirteen at the time, which is unusual for a feature film. Studios usually cast actors eighteen and over who look younger due to restrictions on using actors under eighteen for extended hour shoots. Also, at thirteen, she was too young to see her own movie in theatres.

While filming the scene in which the canoe flips over in the lake, John E. Dunn cut the top of his hand open against a sharp rock on the lake bottom and had to be rushed to the hospital.

When casting for the role of Angela, writer/director Robert Hiltzik would have the actresses stare wide-eyed and straight ahead while also pretending to eat a candy bar.

Felissa Rose’s relatives appear as background campers getting off the buses.

Katherine Kamhi (Meg) and Thomas E. van Dell (Mike, Kenny’s friend) dated during filming. She said she thought he was going to be “the next Robin Williams” because he was so funny.

Felissa Rose and Jonathan Tiersten developed a romance during filming, but broke up soon after. He was 17 and she was 13 at the time.

When Leslie swims back to shore and gets up onto the dock after the canoe flips, Robert Hiltzik’s wife, Missy, plays Leslie. Lisa Buckler got mono and was too sick to shoot that segment.

This movie and Friday the 13th: Part III (1982) inspired ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic’s song “Nature Trail to Hell.” Both films feature the cutting up of campers and an ending you have to see to believe.

During the filming of the scene where Artie hits Ricky against the shelves in the pantry, Artie actually had to repeatedly slam Ricky against the shelves. At the end of filming, he had lines on his back because they had to keep doing it so many times.

Three original songs were used in the movie, but only one was released on a soundtrack album.

Rare is the slasher whose victims are almost all between twelve and fifteen. Also, a couple of people get attacked but not killed, which is also rare for a slasher.

Christopher Collet had a latex version of his head created for the final scene. Someone on the set took the head.

Jane Krakowski, originally cast as Judy, dropped the role once she learned of Judy’s death. She found it too grisly.

The paramedics who carry away the injured cook were real-life paramedics from a nearby town.

Felissa Rose’s mother did not want her to be the killer because she was so young. Jonathan Tiersten was the stand-in and hand double for all of Angela’s actions during the murders. His more masculine hands, with veins, could better throw off the audience. He even donned a wig for the back-lit shot in which Angela finds Judy in the dark.

For Artie’s severe burn sequence, the actor was propped up on a fake floor and underneath, liquid gelatin was pumped through the blisters giving the impression that they’re pulsating.

Body count: 13.

For the hive death scene, a dummy was made of Billy and a sugar mixture was applied to the face to draw the bees to it.

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