IMDB lists Robert Hiltzik as having credits only within the Sleepaway Camp sphere – having written, produced and directed the original, receiving story credit on the sequels, masterminding Return to Sleepaway Camp, and a cameo acting role in Jeff Hayes’ Grandma’s Secret Recipe. But one Robert Charles Hiltzik has tried his hand at several different screenplays that unfortunately never got off the ground, as revealed by some deep searching of the US Copyright Archives:
The Worms (1980)
The Sleepaway Camp script was registered in July 1980. Sometime the same year, Hiltzik crafted another script called The Worms, which superficially sounds similar to Jeff Lieberman’s 1976 film Squirm. Interestingly from a six degrees point of view, Lieberman’s 1981 campground slasher Just Before Dawn would star Mike Kellin who later wound up at Camp Arawak! Since they both clocked in at 97-pages and were written the same year and 1980 was well before shooting Sleepaway in August-October 1982, it’s a strange possibility to think we could have instead gotten The Worms instead of Sleepaway Camp in 1983! The watersnakes and bees of Sleepaway Camp are likely from the same mental place The Worms came from: a creative tangent in Hiltzik to have humans plagued by the smaller, lesser-feared lifeforms of the planet.
After Sleepaway Camp was released, Hiltzik considered his next project and wrote a 128-page comedy script in 1984 called Burgers, with an alternative title of Fast Food. Coincidentally, 1989 would see Michael Simpson’s first post-Sleepaway Camp 3 directorial project be a comedy called Fast Food starring Tracey Griffith!
Critical Mass (1985)
But what sounds like the biggest disappointment of Hiltzik’s career was his massive 152-pager Critical Mass in 1985, an apocalyptic epic. Hiltzik’s skill at the helm of Sleepaway Camp and much larger budget needed to bring this screenplay to screen saw the project placed before powerhouse producer Dino De Laurentiis and his company. The script was favored to go into production by vote, but just one measly against-vote wound up mothballing the ambitious project.
Shattered Dreams (1988)
Unsurprisingly after the sour flirtation with Hollywood, Hiltzik returned to safer waters by lodging a Sleepaway Camp sequel script (140-pages) in 1986 called Sleepaway Camp II: Alan. While it would not be realized on film until Return to Sleepaway Camp in 2003, at the time it kickstarted the road to Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers and Sleepaway Camp 3: Teenage Wasteland without Hiltzik’s direct involvement or approval. With a decade coming towards an end that saw seemingly as much disappointment as success for Hiltzik, perhaps tellingly is the title of a slim 96-page script he filed in 1988 called Shattered Dreams.
Oftentimes, Hiltzik writes long scripts rather than the 90-120 pagers that are common in the movie industry, with one page generally equaling one minute of screentime. This suggests a writer at ease with letting his ideas flow onto the page, then revising/editing later to focus in on his favorite material within the story. There’s more to the man than killings at camp, so hopefully one day we’ll get to experience one of these other stories from the mysterious mind of Robert Hiltzik.