Guest Contributor Seamus Flynn:
Sleepaway Camp is one of the most iconic slasher films of all time. I discovered the film at age 11, and fell in love with the characters and the 80s cheese. I still believe to this day that Angela is one of the best characters to grace a horror film. The ending shocked me and that last image that rolls over the credits was stuck in my head for quite some time. I was almost angry at the film for pulling the rug out from under my feet, until I re-watched it and realized all of the hints. It took me a while to realize that the reason the ending had such an impact on me was because Angela was so relatable.
For more than ten years, the best version of Sleepaway Camp on home video was the Anchor Bay DVD. The film looked good for an early-2000s transfer of a 1983 movie, but was unfortunately cut. Apparently, Anchor Bay did not realize the film was not complete (although it was quite obvious to Sleepaway Camp fans), but never reissued the disc to fix their mistake. Eventually, a Canadian bootleg somehow made it into Wal-Marts which, besides missing the opening logo/ dedication, was uncut, although it was an open-matte sourced-from-VHS transfer. Rumors circulated for years of a Sleepaway Camp Blu-ray, and they finally came to fruition when Scream Factory announced their Blu-ray, which is fully uncut.
The Blu-ray is a revelation compared to the DVDs. The transfer is beautiful, and the colors (especially the green fields) really pop off the screen. You can see more detail than ever before. You really can’t even imagine how great this Blu-ray looks until you see it for yourself. There is some slight print damage (white specks and small scratches), but the problem seems to disappear after the first 20 minutes. Surprisingly, the special effects still look great in HD, but it is clearer now than ever before that the person in Judy’s doorway before her death is Jonathan Tiersten, not Felissa Rose. The film, as stated earlier, is entirely uncut, and since the footage was in theaters and therefore on the original negative, there is no difference in quality as there is on the My Bloody Valentine Blu-ray. It still isn’t clear what happened with the Anchor Bay DVD, but the most likely circumstance is that parts of the print AB used were damaged and they just cut them out.
The DTS-HD Mono audio sounds great, and is definitely and improvement over the Anchor Bay DVD. Everything sounds crisp and clear. I would have loved a 5.1 remix, but I am more than pleased with this.
The Anchor Bay DVD of the original film only had an audio commentary and the theatrical trailer. This new Collector’s Edition, in addition to including a DVD copy of the film, has a ton of extras. First up are three audio commentaries. The first is a commentary with Felissa Rose and Jonathan Tiersten, which is moderated by Justin Beahm. Felissa and Jonathan clearly have a lot to talk about, and they seem to be having a lot of fun. They provide a lot of behind-the-scenes info, and make a lot of jokes. The commentary is a riot to listen to, and is my personal favorite of the three.
The next commentary is with Robert Hiltzik and is moderated by Jeff Hayes. This commentary deals more with the technical aspect of the film. It’s very interesting, and provides some great tidbits of information (who knew the actor who played young Peter is Jersey Shore’s Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino’s brother?). There is quite a bit of dead air, however, and Robert sometimes either forgets or chooses not to answer quite a few of Hayes’ questions, making the commentary a little awkward.
The third commentary is the one from the old DVD, with Felissa Rose and Robert Hiltzik, and again moderated by Jeff Hayes. This is a great commentary; Felissa and Robert seem more than happy to talk about the film, and it provides a middle-ground between memories and technical talk.
Next is a 45-minute long documentary entitled Meet Me At the Waterfront After the Social. I was not expecting to see such an in-depth documentary on the Blu-ray. Tons of people are interviewed, warm memories are shared, and some tears are even shed. We hear from Felissa’s mom, and it was great to hear her experience having her daughter cast in the film.
We get the short film Judy, which is fun to see here. Also on the Blu-ray are some never-before-seen photos/ storyboards of the scenes that include gore effects, provided by Ed French. We also get a “Camp Arawak Scrapbook,” which has about nine minute worth of behind-the-scenes photos.
Also on the disc is a clip of the process of making a 2K scan of Sleepaway Camp. Jonathan Tiersten’s new music video, “Princess,” (a damn good song if you ask me), is also here. Finally are the theatrical trailer and 2 TV spots that weren’t on the AB disc. Oddly enough, both the documentary and the clip of the restoration use the clips of the old AB disc instead of the new transfer.
Overall, this is the be-all end-all version of Sleepaway Camp on home video. The picture is beautiful,the film sounds great, and has a great assortment of extras. Definitely pick this up on May 27. If you are a horror fan, this is a must-own.