“Which animal will you most likely be killed by in California?” This was one of the more challenging trivia questions posed to two groups of avid horror fans, volunteers in Camp Void’s pre-show contest. The two groups competed for desirable prizes including posters and a Scream Factory label Blu-Ray. “A dog?” “A horse?” No one answered correctly this round. Other rounds included questions about baseball and horror film trivia, questions answered with ease and enthusiasm by the fans. The moderators of this macabre contest, the hosts of Camp Void, held audience attention decked out in era-authentic 80’s summer camp attire of short-shorts, bright tees, and headbands. The wacky pre-show jovially introduced the night’s triple feature slate: 1981’s The Burning, one of the first projects realized with the involvement of Miramax and Bob and Harvey Weinstein, 1983’s Sleepaway Camp, the crowning achievement in the summer-camp themed 80’s slasher boom, and 1987’s Twisted Nightmare, a little-seen, low-budget, straight-to-video romp shot with the same sets used in Friday the 13th Part III.
The Burning is a seminal entry in the annals of slasherdom. Directed by Tony Maylam, co-written by Bob Weinstein, and featuring a musical score by Rick Wakeman of Yes, the film also marks the first time portraying the rabidly popular upstate New York urban legend of Cropsey. It was produced at the perfect time to cash in on the newly fueled slasher-craze following the successes of Halloween and Friday the 13th. Another fascinating trait unique to the movie is the feature-film debuts of Jason Alexander and future Academy Award winners Fisher Stevens and Holly Hunter. The king of horror film makeup himself, Tom Savini, was also onboard and created the amazing gore effects. The Burning is also a notable title in the notorious Video Nasties List of the United Kingdom during their censorship crusade against the popular home video market.
Before Sleepaway Camp began, another special guest, Ryan Turek, Development Executive at Blumhouse Productions, made a formal introduction. The film features all the required ingredients for summer-camp-slasher fare, but also includes some special flavors including a predatory cook, excessive baseball, and foul-mouthed, obnoxious children. Following the feature, Turek proudly presented to the stage the star of the film, Felissa Rose, while she excitedly launched to the theater-front with massive applause. The actress, who played the reserved and mysterious Angela, was nothing like her character, and was giggly, candid, and genuinely amused to share her experiences with the crowd. “The ending…” Turek began, “let’s begin there first.” “Of course! Where else would we begin?” She refers to the most shocking and memorable part of the film, the last few shots that *SPOILER ALERT!* reveal that the mousy Angela is actually a ferocious male-bodied killer, complete with all boy parts. “Originally I was supposed to wear a prosthetic penis, but in the end, the film features a nude 18-year old boy wearing a mold of my face. To this day, the actor has never revealed his identity.” Turek explains how important Sleepaway Camp is to him, and just how realistic it actually is in portraying an authentic atmosphere. “I talked just like those kids when I was in summer camp!” he says. When asked about the experience, Felissa remembers, “I was 12, it was my first movie, and my first time at camp. I also had no idea I’d be talking about this movie 35 f*cking years later! I was just a kid making a movie, it was real to me, not Hollywood. I had such a huge crush on my co-star Jonathon Tiersten.”
Felissa laughs while revealing her personal memories, ones forever important to her future career as an actress.“I first saw the movie when I was in 8th grade and invited my entire class to seeit with me for the first time… I thought it was f*cking weird… it was the first penis I ever saw… my parents were the ones who held the screening!” Felissa then takes a moment to express her gratitude at how cool her parents were for allowing so much. As the question and answer session opened to the floor, she was asked what was her least favorite part of filming. “Well, I could not stop laughing when the creepy chef was trying to take advantage of me in the kitchen. When he kept calling me ‘cupcake’, I couldn’t stop laughing. It was tough to get through filming that scene.” One of the final questions asked to Felissa was whether or not she and the cast had any input over their wardrobe. Felissa laughs, as she knows how much the film’s wardrobe brings so much laughter and amusement in the present day. “Sure, they had some stuff for me to wear… but I mostly brought my own clothes and so did the cast. It was 1982! That’s what they chose!” As the Q&A closed, Felissa expressed her hopes that another sequel, remake, reboot, or series would be realized in the future to continue on the legacy of Sleepaway Camp.
Before the final film screened, make-up artist and actor Cleve Hall took to the stage with his stylish black eyeliner. “I actually came to apologize for the film you’re about to see.” When asked to explain his apology, Hall recounts, “The truth is it’s not a good film… but it’s not a bad film either… it has its fun. Twisted Nightmare was pretty much a lost movie for a long time. It was only released on VHS in ’87, but recently a print was found somewhere in Australia. Code Red DVD is going to be releasing a newly restored Blu-Ray and, I’ll be providing a commentary track. Let me tell you, it’s going to be damn funny.” Hall remembered how he was brought onto the project after shooting already began, hired to help create improved special effects. He adds some funny anecdotes about working with the elderly actor portraying the sheriff, as well as having to sometimes drive the director to the drug store so the man could pick up his favorite whiskey to enjoy on set.
"Camp Void" continues at the Aero on August 19th at 7:30 with another triple feature screening including Friday the 13th, Summer Camp Nightmare, and Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers.