Sleepaway Camp 4: My First Time

I was still purchasing Fangoria on a regular basis in late 1992. I remember the day I got my hands on #122 because it was the best issue – a bumper sequel issue. I always loved sequels and franchises, and the continuing storylines or elements they offered. I walked home paging through the listings of upcoming sequels, stopping by a Coke Machine for beverage fulfillment as I read a small blurb on… Sleepaway Camp IV: The Survivor.

This issue for me represented what early 90’s horror was all about. The 80’s had relied on repetition to keep the horror mill churning out product but by the end of it, there was an unspoken civil upset in response to this. The audience would have no part so the industry moved on to new fads for a new decade. For any horror franchise to survive the numerical changeover it would have to evolve or die. This is best illustrated by the many titles in Fango #122. Heavy hitters like New Nightmare and Jason Goes To Hell had to shed so much baggage that not only did their trademark series names not survive, but their villians were radically different in many ways. While those that would not embrace change did chose ‘die’ by default (Texas Chainsaw Massacre for one) this essential evolutionary leap held true for even smaller franchises, like Sleepaway Camp.

So it was by this secret decree that the blurb for The Survivor, by Michael Gingold, read nothing like the similar plots of the previous three movies nor seemed to contain perpertual killer Angela.

Tormented by nightmares, a young woman who lived through three previous sleepaway camp massacres returns to the site of the horrors under the direction of her psychiatrist. Soon, everyone she meets begins to die a horrible death; is someone stalking her or is she the killer herself? Jim Markovic produces the directs the Double Helix Films production which shoots this coming May; Carrie Chambers, John Lodico and Victor Campos star.

Thoughts raced through my mind. It seemed to refer to the previous films so I racked my brain for anyone besides Angela who could have been present at all three – if it were Angela, surely Gingold would have mentioned it. And I’d never heard of the cast or crew. This was a mystery. Not just the plot, but the project itself as a whole.

Months went by and nothing further was said in Fangoria. Before the rise of the internet all I could do was haunt the video stores, and constantly check their master catalogue listing binder books. Even if it had been released in the US by now, I reasoned, the chances seemed slim that it’d make its way down here. Part 3 hadn’t, remember. Years clocked in and I began to see resolution to every sequel in development listed in the mag. Psycho Cop 2, Subspecies 2 & 3, Howling 7, etc.

It was becoming more and more an obsession. The plotline teased the very fabric of my interest in horror. Grim enigmas. Mental puzzles. Was the title character Angela, or someone else? Then was the stalker someone else… or Angela? The nightmare element was an interesting framework to unfold clues as the film progressed. And the mention of the previous plots sounded like the story would unify, tighten and complete the story arc of Angela and her legacy. At least I hoped. It only barely scraped my mind that this could have nothing to do with the others, but only barely (and that would become common thought among horror fans for years who would champion its disappearance because it had “nothing to do with the others”).

The next nugget came was around 1997 when I discovered internet surfing. By now evident that it was never released, it was time to hit the search engine (then Altavista, the big boy) for answers. I eventually turned up a link via‘s once legendary message board, to Roger’s Video. An out-of-stock listing for incomplete footage. I knew it had to be for real because a writer’s name was listed. Fangoria hadn’t provided a writer’s name so this seemed to be movement. The possibility that the film existed in even some small form kicked me into higher gear. I didn’t know it at the time, but my course was set.

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