Film Review: Sleepaway Camp (1983)

Also known as: Nightmare Vacation (alternate VHS title)
Release Date: November 18th, 1983
Directed by: Robert Hiltzik
Written by: Robert Hiltzik
Music by: Edward Bilous
Cast: Felissa Rose, Mike Kellin, Katherine Kamhi, Paul DeAngelo, Jonathan Tiersten, Karen Fields, Christopher Collet, Robert Earl Jones

American Eagle Films, United Film Distribution Company, 87 Minutes


“She’s a real carpenter’s dream: flat as a board and needs a screw!” – Judy

The first time you watch Sleepaway Camp, it is truly shocking and a film experience that you will never forget. In fact, you may find it hard to stop thinking about it, running the conclusion over and over again in your mind. Once you know the film’s big secret, it doesn’t get any less effective when revisited. The key here, is to watch this film through to the very end. I won’t spoil the picture beyond that.

For the most part, this is a pretty straightforward slasher picture. Everything before the big ending is very cookie cutter. There isn’t a lot of anything that a slasher fan hasn’t seen before. But, at least, the teenagers make the film amusing. Plus, some of the deaths are really good and well thought out.

This was made for half the budget of the original Friday the 13th and it shows. You don’t need a lot of money to make these films work though. There is just a really noticeable difference in quality. This also wasn’t put out by a major studio like Paramount, it was put out by a small company for the late night grindhouse and drive-in crowd. It was a picture for true splatter fans and it delivers, especially the final scene.

Unfortunately, I can’t say much more without potentially spoiling something. It takes place at a summer camp, it plays like a Friday the 13th clone but you know something is different… it just feels different.

The film is a standard slasher but with fun kills, brutal kills and a huge shocker. Sleepaway Camp is really a six out of ten but the ending alone bumps it up to a seven.

Rating: 7/10