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Interview With Michael Simpson (2002)

In August 2002 I had an opportunity to chat with director Michael Simpson via Instant Message about the DVD releases of the Sleepaway Camp Sequels now that they're out in stores. I thought it'd be the perfect wrapup coverage, to talk to the man himself.

"I am delighted to know that a new generation of fans will be able to enjoy these camp classics," Simpson said. The fans' enthusiastic interest in seeing these films come out on DVD gave Anchor confidence to invest the money necessary to bring them into the digital age in first-rate condition." Simpson stated that the DVDs were created from low contrast prints struck from the original negatives that were recently discovered in pristine condition at CineFilm Lab in Atlanta, Georgia. This process allowed for the best possible look for the movies. The DVD releases feature the original versions of the movies approved by Simpson and not the unauthorized edits made in some subsequent VHS releases of SC2&3 in international markets. "Fans can be assured that the DVD releases of Sleepaway Camp 2&3 do not feature additional cuts like the first Sleepaway Camp DVD did," Simpson stated. "I want the fans to enjoy these movies in all their rigor mortis glory the way they were intended to be seen."

Additionally, the soundtracks for SC2&3 were transferred from the original analog masters and have been digitally enhanced. A host of extras were gathered by the director. "I believe the behind-the-scenes documentary will be of particular interest to fans," Simpson noted. "It shows rehearsals for several key scenes including the infamous Mac Truck sequence in the opening of SC3. It also gives you a real feel for what it was like on the set during the production of the movies."

Sleepaway Camp Films: I have a bag full of questions from the campers visiting the site.

Michael Simpson: Fire away.

SCF: Unhappy Campers has gotten some particularly good reviews with its release on DVD. DVDManics gave the movie four stars, calling it a "cult classic." The review said "there's no question that this is one of the better horror movies from the 80s."

Simpson: I generally don't read reviews but I did read that one because someone sent it to me.

SCF: It appears that the critics finally caught on to what the fans knew all along. Not only is Unhappy Campers the best of the SC trilogy but it's one of the best horror films from the post-Golden Age era of slasher flicks.

Simpson: Movies are made for the people who watch them so in a way you could say that the fans are always right.

SCF: They called Pamela Springsteen's performance "wonderful and very memorable." They also noted that your movie's use of self-referential pop humor was an influence for movies like Scream and its sly humor makes Unhappy Campers all the more fresh.

Simpson: For me, the Sleepaway Camp sequels are where horror and comedy meet in a dark alley.

SCF: Great quote. It's also good to see Unhappy Campers get credit for its stylish and imaginative deaths. DVDManiacs called them "among some of the most memorable of any horror film." That's a helluva compliment.

Simpson: Pretty amazing for a movie made 15 years ago for a buck fifty. Richly deserved credit goes to Splat Johnson, his effects team and the rest of the crew who did a lot with a very small budget.

SCF: I gotta tell you the fans are really loving the gore footage that was cut from the movies. It bloody rules. You just gotta love the brains splatter in the flag pole scene.

Simpson: As they say -- a mind is a terrible thing to taste... or is it waste? J

SCF: I know the DVD sales numbers from Anchor Bay are huge. They apparently completely sold out of the first pressing and had to rush another pressing out before Halloween.

Simpson: Bo Altherr and the other people at Anchor Bay and Crest National did a great job of authoring the dvds. Their hard work shows in the finished product. And Anchor's marketing team is top tier.

SCF: How does it feel to be hailed as a "cult director" now? That moniker is splattered above the title on both sequel dvd boxes.

Simpson: I feel I should be serving Kool-Aid or something - J

SCF: You always have great Sleepaway Camp trivia for the fans. Anything new you'd like to share?

Simpson: I read a great piece the other day on the origin of the mullet.

SCF: The official hairstyle of the Sleepaway Sequels. I'd think it started with all the big hair metal bands of the 80s.

Simpson: Actually, the first golden age of the mullet was in medieval times.

SCF: That's pretty amazing.

Simpson: In Europe the peasants and noblemen cut their hair short in front so they had clear vision while working in the fields. I think it had something to do with being afraid of Viking raids.

SCF: No kidding? Maybe that's why all the campers were wearing them. They were afraid of Angela sneaking up on them.

Simpson: Sounds like a great topic for the chat room. J. The style can be traced back all the way to Egyptian hieroglyphics.

SCF: I bet most of the fans don't know that.

Simpson: Probably the first use of the term in a movie was Cool Hand Luke.

SCF: Great Paul Newman flick.

Simpson: In it, George Kennedy's character refers to some dim wit con with long hair as a "mullet head."

SCF: I'd say you're on top of your mullet trivia!

Simpson: I want to thank you for joining Fritz and me on the commentary.

SCF: Hey, I had a great time, man!

Simpson: It really was a big help to have a fan there who knew the movies so well. Usually when a director does a movie commentary track it's recorded a relatively short time after the movie is made. To try to remember something you did 15 years ago was particularly hard. It's like discussing some long forgotten ex-girlfriend or something. You don't even remember exactly what she looked like.



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