Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Scream Factory - SLEEPAWAY CAMP and EVILSPEAK on Blu-ray ""

Friday, May 9, 2014

Scream Factory - SLEEPAWAY CAMP and EVILSPEAK on Blu-ray

SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983; Robert Hilzik)
It's hard not to talk to anyone who has ever seen SLEEPAWAY CAMP without some mention of the ending. I'd never spoil such a thing here, but suffice it to say that it is one of the more disturbing endings that I've seen in a long time. I know I had seen this film on VHS back in the day, but somehow the ending had dropped out if my mind (or was blocked out). I don't know how that is possible considering its impact on me after a rewatch of the movie a few years back, but yeah somehow it was a brand new experience for me then. For all the edgy and troubling things we see in horror cinema today, it's interesting that a little film from 1983 could be so memorable. What's always been interesting for me about SLEEPAWAY CAMP is that even though it came out only a few years after the biggest 80s slasher film boom of 1980-81, I still think of it separately from most of the other slashers I know and love from that time. I mean it's got a lot of the standard elements of the slasher genre - an inciting incident of sorts, a summer camp etc, but I think the standout elements have to do with all the twisted stuff packed into this thing. It's not just a straightforward teenagers having sex, doing drugs and getting hacked up - there's more going on here in terms of sexuality as is revealed by the time everything is said and done. There's also mentions of pedophilia and so forth. This stuff is all made more disturbing by the fact that the cast consists of real teenagers (as opposed to older actors playing younger). That is one fairly unique thing about SLEEPAWAY CAMP is the young cast. It gives the movie a little more weight somehow through the fact that we are watching younger kids go through all this. The performances from the youngsters are not too bad (a little stilted at times perhaps). Felissa Rose is pretty fantastic though. I think that overall, the character of Angela is really unforgettable in general. Stoic and shy, she comes off creepy even byt the time you get 15 mins into the film. Rose delivers a ton of unease and eeriness in her nearly mute performance with just her eyes alone. Her eyes and the very simple way that she moves them during many scenes is enough to create a remarkable sense of disquietude in short order. In just watching her in the present-day interviews included on the disc I found myself drawn to her eyes and unnerved by them. Not because of anything odd she was doing in those interviews, but more because I have so intertwined them with the character and my memories of the film. I've rarely been affected in this way by an actor from a horror movie I saw as a kid as I was by her. That's pretty impressive to me.

Special Features:

This disc has a nice looking transfer and is sporting some solid extra features. First up is an audio commentary with director Robert Hiltzik and star Felissa Rose. It's a track ported in from a previous release, but it's not bad. It starts out a little slow, but eventually some interesting tidbits come out. Next up, and the big new draw for fans, is the new 46-minute retrospective documentary "At The Waterfront After the Social: The Legacy of SLEEPAWAY CAMP". It includes interviews with Director Robert Hiltzik, actors Felissa Rose (& her mom), Jonathan Tiersten, Karen Fields, Frank Saladino, Desiree Gould, & Paul DeAngelo. Hiltzik talks about why he chose to make a horror film (commerical viability) and casting "kids as kids". All the actors discuss how they were cast and have some stories from the production. Edward French (Practical FX man on the film) talks about his work on the movie including how they created that remarkably memorable final shot. 
Also included on the disc is a short film called JUDY by filmmaker Jeffy Hayes.

EVILSPEAK (1981; Eric Weston)
EVILSPEAK was a film that had completely passed me by as a kid. My fascination with ROCK 'N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL (and in turn, Clint Howard) wouldn't start until I was in college and by then, EVILSPEAK was not as common in the video stores I frequented. Plus, I had just never heard of it so never thought to keep an eye out. It first came to my attention when it was shown as part of the "Terror Tuesday" series at The Alamo Drafthouse in Austin Texas by genius horror-programmer extraordinaire Zack Carlson. Zack's track record with Terror Tuesday was quite phenomenal, and though I was never able to fly out to Austin to catch one of his events in person, they were regaled throughout the land as amazing spectacles which were fantastically curated and introduced by the man himself. If Zack endorsed a film like this, then it must be something quite special indeed. After hearing about it, I immediately tracked down the old Anchor Bay DVD release and gave it a look. Well of course when you see it you realize that it's just one of those movies that has a cult fanbase for many reasons. It's got some very dated and silly stuff with computers, devil worship and evil pigs as well as Clint Howard who is something of an icon at this point. On top of all that, it's a revenge movie and I think we can all appreciate a good revenge picture. Like myself, I expect most people were bullied or picked on a bit at some point in their lives so it's obviously cathartic to see Clint get back at his tormentors. Bullying is of course a very prevalent thing especially today, which may go a long way towards helping this film continue to connect with new audiences. What's memorable about EVILSPEAK is  the methods by which Clint Howard's character enacts his revenge in the movie. It really goes into WTF territory with killer pigs, ritual sacrifice and gore which is absolutely the big reason why it's cult item. It's really memorable to say the least, kind of a love it or hate it proposition. A quick note for fans though - this cut of the film apparently has lots of gore put back in which had been cut out previously. It's a bloody mess and you'll love it.

I have included the EVILSPEAK blurb that Zack wrote for the Drafthouse website here as it's damned amusing as hell:
"It's a well known fact that computers are Lucifer's Weapon of Mass Destruction in his continuing battle against the human race. But at the apex of mankind's evolution (a.k.a. 1981), ol' Beelzebub needed only a Commodore 64 and dot-matrix printer to unleash an apocalyptic storm of demonic possession and extermination. Legendary character actor Clint Howard (THE ICE CREAM MAN; THE WRAITH) stars in this harrowing, vicious tale of tortured military school dweeb Stanley. When pushed to the brink of human endurance by his bullying classmates and drunken, rape-crazy elderly janitor ("I'm gonna show you how I turn little boys into little GIRLS!"), Stanley allies with an electronic incarnation of The Dark Lord to level the playing field. Featuring blazing decapitations, fountainous gore, man-eating Hell-hogs and enough clergical dismemberment and digital anti-Christian imagery to forever reinforce the fact that Jesus Christ is a goddamn wimp. Hail Satan slash sideways smiley face dot wink" - Zack Carlson

This Blu-ray has some fun supplements for us fans. 
-"Satan's Pigs and Severed Heads: The Making EVILSPEAK" (28 mins) This is a good little retrospective documentary piece with some fun interviews with cast members Claude Earl Jones, Haywood Nelson, Richard Moll, Loren Lester and Lynn Hancock. I especially enjoyed Richard Moll's interview bits in this. All the actors seemed to have a good senses of humor about the movie and how odd it is which is refreshing. It's got to be interesting as an actor to look back on making a movie like this which has become a cult favorite over the years.
-"Effects Speak with Allan A. Apone" (15 mins) There are quite a lot of crazy practical effects in EVILSPEAK which is part of why we love it as I said. This featurette is an interview with practical FX man Allan Apone and he goes into nice detail about how many of the big set pieces were done. I personally always love stories about old-style special effects and what was involved in making them. Very nostalgic.
-An audio commentary with director Eric Weston. It's a solid track as director commentaries go for sure. I must say, it's too bad Scream Factory couldn't port of the Clint Howard commentary from the old Anchor Bay DVD, but this track has plenty of information and stories about the production that fans will enjoy.
Cast Interviews  
-Clint Howard (12 mins) -This is a great interview with the man himself wherein he covers a wide range of topics and stories concerning the film and acting and his career in general. Interviews with actors Don Stark (10 mins) and Joe Cortese (7 Mins) are also included and both have some good stories about their involvement with EVILSPEAK.

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