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Interview: SLEEPAWAY CAMP Director Robert Hiltzik

Sleepaway Camp is one of the notorious horror movies to come out of the 1980s and believe it or not, I still hadn’t actually seen the movie until a few weeks ago. Having actually screened the film, I can easily say that it is without a doubt still just as kooky, over the top and downright weird as you’ve heard. The ending is considered one of the most shocking endings to a horror movie of all time and Nerdist had the opportunity to conduct a SPOILER FREE interview writer/director/producer Robert Hiltzik about making a horror movie, the legacy of Sleepaway Camp and if he thinks the movie would fly today.

When Robert Hiltzik was starting out as a young filmmaker, he decided to make a little horror film that took place at camp. The result is one of the most notorious horror films over the last fifty years. I started by asking Hiltzik if he was a horror fan before making Sleepaway Camp. He responded by saying, “You know what, I have to say not particularly. I was a movie fan. The fact that it’s a horror movie really came from an economic perspective. I wanted to do a film that I thought had the best chance of making it into the market place and that I could make on a relatively modest budget and I came up with a horror film in a single location. I thought economically that put me in the best position to get something into the market.”

Of course, I had to ask Hiltzik about that ending. Was he at all nervous about it? “I wasn’t nervous at all, that’s my ending! I mean, when I created the film I started out with the beginning and the ending so I had that ending first, almost before I had any other elements in the film and to me that’s, I needed people to walk away from that movie and talk about it and be shocked because the opening grabs them and the ending leaves them talking. I did contemplate shooting it another way incase they were going to give me an ‘X’ rating but I certainly had my fingers crossed that they wouldn’t because that’s my film right there.” Hiltzik continued, “I find that people that I know that have never seen it, when they see it, the reaction is basically, ‘Holy shit! What was that?’ They’re still shocked by that ending…”

Sleepaway Camp

All that being said, does he think that a movie like Sleepaway Camp could be made today? “I think that there are different sensibilities that the audience has now. I don’t know how shocking it would be. Do I think it can be made? I think it could. I don’t know if it could be made in the studio system but independently you know I’ve seen movies today push the envelope a little further. Even comedies today, you take a movie like The Hangover. As a comedy, that pushes the envelope in areas that you don’t necessarily expect. So, yeah, I think that filmmakers are pushing because you need to because what has the audience not seen? You know, everything they see on television – television is almost unfiltered now so you get people to a movie theater you want them to see things they haven’t seen before.”

Over thirty years later, does Hiltzik see a future for the Sleepaway Camp franchise? “We’ve been developing some projects. I never finished telling the Sleepaway Camp story. There’s still a final story to be told but I’ve also developed a remake that updates the original.” Will the proposed remake be going into production anytime soon? Hiltzik answered carefully saying, “Well, we’ll see. It’s still not been financed yet.”

Sleepaway Camp, written, directed and produced by Robert Hiltzik and starring Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tiersten and Karen Fields is available on Blu-ray from Scream Factory on May 27.

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