How many people do you run into that claim to be movie buffs, and then bore you with stories of their obsession for typical, worn out, overrated films like "Saving Private Ryan", "Fight Club", "Evil Dead" and "Jaws"...you know the types. They think they know all there is to know about all movies no matter how obscure and underground. Yet many of them have never heard of the most crucial, entertaining and groundbreaking series to ever burn itself into cinematic history...SLEEPAWAY CAMP.
My personal introduction to the series was an obscure one that almost didn't happen. Back in 1987, before shops that sold video tapes were common, there was a chain of stores called Wall to Wall Sound & Video. After getting dropped off at the mall by his parents, my life-long buddy Dave Mosca and I wandered into the store and came across a video box that caught our eye immediately...the classic image of the hunting knife pierced through a child's sneaker immediately made its impression on our young pre-warped minds. On the back of the box on the original pressing of SLEEPAWAY CAMP, there was a letter from a camper to his parents saying "You've got to get me out of here right away!"...the letter went on about the horrible events that have been happening at camp, and then at the end of the letter it said "wait a minute, i hear someone coming up behin-----"...followed by a splatter of blood. I instantly wrote the cover art off as a priceless work of art and was instantly obsessed with the film and hadn't even seen it yet. For some strange reason, Wall to Wall sold Dave the unused SLEEPAWAY video without the box. It came in a plastic bag. We still have no idea why this happened, but nonetheless he threw the $10 down and we went home and threw it on.
We were not at all impressed with the first 20-30 minutes of the movie. At first it seemed like a bad after school special about a poor little girl that can't make any friends. So far, it was nothing like HALLOWEEN or FRIDAY THE 13TH...no one had died yet. The chef had been burned, but that was about all that had happened. The overlong baseball scene was the last straw. We stopped the tape. Dave was still angry about getting jipped on the box and that made it easier for him to want to hate the movie and take it back to the store. I wasn't about to disagree, because I was also uninterested.
But after the tape was returned, SLEEPAWAY CAMP stayed on our minds. We questioned the point of the movie, the director's intentions, and why nothing scary had happened for 30 minutes. We also joked about the video coming brand new in a plastic bag. It wasn't long after talking about SLEEPAWAY a lot that we became curious about what happened in the rest of the movie. So, one year for Christmas, my aunt and uncle got me a movie that i already had...KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM OF THE PARK. The price tag was ripped off, but from the remaining tag I could still see that it had been bought at K Mart.
I finally went to exchange the tape at K Mart and went searching for a different movie, and there...lying in the discount bin all by itself, was the hunting knife slashing through the sneaker. It didn't take long for me to realize that this flick needed a second chance. Without hesitation, I made the exchange and went home for another attempt to sit through the movie again...this time by myself.
I can remember feeling more comfortable and entertained this time during the first 30 minutes...I felt familiar with the characters...I could relate to them because they were around my age. After sitting through the infamous baseball scene where we had stopped it previously, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that all hell breaks loose after the camp social and I was instantly on the edge of my seat entertained by the murders of my could-have-been peers. I found myself extremely interested in the mystery of who was killing these kids. No, it couldn't be Angela...she's too small, too quiet, too shy. I was already satisfied by the fact that these jerks were dying horrible deaths and they all deserved it. another thing that caught my attention about the film was that these murders were extremely brutal without the aid of blood and gore. With that aside, the film was still effectively scary and creepy. The individuality of the film hooked me right then and there, and by the time I got to the extremely out-of-left-field ending...I was a happy camper for life.
I had to convince Dave to give it another shot...I don't remember it being easy to do, but we watched it again...and again...and again. Eventually we had memorized the entire movie...every scene, every scream, every joke, every mistake (such as Ricky's cowboy hat moving back and forth during his fight with Billy and Kenny at the social.) We felt like we knew these people. the characterization was so well developed in this unknown 84 minute classic that we actually felt like we knew the cast. We wanted to track down some of the actors but back then without the internet it was almost impossible. We wondered if anyone shared our obsession. Sadly months after I had gotten the movie, SC went out of print and pretty much was forgotten by everyone but us. Then came the sequels...