SLEEPAWAY CAMP Scholar and Retrosploitation Main Brain John Klyza II Brings the “Lost” Slasher Flick SLEEPAWAY CAMP 4 Back from the Cutting Room Floor and on to VHS! Get Stoked for a Re-Animation Celebration, Tapeheads!!
The cover page for the Official SLEEPAWAY CAMP website run by John, and a look at the SC4 DVD that's now available. DIG IT HERE.LM: Tell us about your entry into the film industry, the adventure and how you became involved with the SLEEPAWAY CAMP series. You’re the main guy over at the Official Sleepaway Camp site, right? Were you always a fan of the flick / horror fan growing up? JKII: Yeah, I was checking out horror flicks as a youngster because I had these hippie parents that basically said “if you believe you’re mature enough to watch this stuff, go for it” and I was really just into the craftsmanship of the Special FX, and worshipped Tom Savini while creating latex scars carved out of wax blocks. Having said that, I wasn’t allowed to watch BASKET CASE for some reason. Yeah, it don’t make sense. What a lovely piece of trash that movie is, by the way. You can feel the grime in every frame. By the late 90s I found out the internet wasn’t just for porn… you could make things happen with it and stuff. I was following SLEEPAWAY CAMP 4 since it was announced in Fangoria magazine back in 1992, and after years of wondering when it was coming out and pestering every video store I could find, I had this idea that I’d use the internet to track it down. Since I loved that whole series of movies I thought there would be more mass appeal to make a website for the franchise, which I did with Jeff Hayes, and began to attract interest from cast and crew from the original movies and we were designated official. Jeff was really proactive in getting another movie off the ground; I was more interested closing the book on the 1992 movie. Everyone said “stop chasing this movie which is a ghost and doesn’t exist” but I didn’t listen because I’m hopeless. I kept digging and sure enough, it existed. In the end we (Jeff and I) both got what we each wanted and the fans won because there are two extra SLEEPAWAY CAMP flicks now!
A look at the SLEEPAWAY CAMP SURVIVAL KIT DVD BOX SET that John helped bring to life. Can you spot John in these pics?! ME NEITHER, MAN!! Image nabbed from Mondo-Esoterica!There seems to be a little confusion about SLEEPAWAY CAMP 4 concerning the actual release and some additional scenes. Was it actually released in 1992, and was it actually all shot then? Sure, mang. It was going to be like SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT 2, full of “best of” clips. The footage they shot in 1992, although unfinished, had enough variety to it that director Jim Markovic was able to still fashion a movie together relying on clip footage, really a 60 minute demo to show the intent of the project, and try and get the production back on track. That was something the company was still mulling over as late as 1999. When we put the DVD boxset together in 2002, we only had access to what the company had, which was the raw, unedited scenes. Literally what was transferred off the camera when they were done shooting – clapperboards, multiple takes, flubs, running around etc. – no context. So that went into the boxset as a freebie disc for Best Buy purchases. I didn’t get in touch with Jim until several years later, and he started looking around for the actual movie and found it.
A first look at the SLEEPAWAY CAMP 4 VHS release from John and Retrosploitation. Lookin' GOOD.You’re releasing SC4 on VHS soon through your imprint Retrosploitation. Which version will this be, and can you give us specs on the VHS release, e.g. how many, extras, artwork, etc.? Can you tell us a little bit about Retrosploitation? I knew I absolutely was going to do this one day, so back in 2011 I had Dustin put together some extra versions for me to look at, that replicated the ratio and photography of early 90s era VHS. Now that it’s coming to fruition I wanted to make the package as authentically 1992 as possible. So, I bought up shrinkwrapped commercial stock from the 90s, and I remember that back in the 90s they slowed down using large clamshells and opted for the slim style ones, here in Australia at least, so that’s what it’s going in. I designed the cover so the spine lines up with Nelson Video’s releases of SLEEPAWAY CAMP 2 & 3 in the late 80s. It’s an approximation of what should have come out in 1993, and definitely what I spent years daydreaming about holding, because I was a big ol’ horror geek. A spot is reversed on the back cover to be signed and numbered because it’s going to be limited, like most stuff coming out these days on video. I’m including a poster reproduction and mini lobby card to sweeten the package. Retrosploitation is something I started because I had so much fun putting the SLEEPAWAY CAMP 4 DVD together in 2012 that I wanted to do more titles. I licensed a bunch of modern horror flicks that were out of print, like the fourth BOGGY CREEK, and took a look at some older movies, especially public domain titles, and examined where our versions could improve on current releases in the marketplace or at least offer an alternative to the same old prints being thrown onto disc. It was gratifying re-releasing CATHY’S CURSE recently, because that was very first VHS I rented when we got a VCR in the early 80s. So that was really cool to come full circle.
Wait... I haven't moved on! I still love it! BRING IT ON AGAIN! Peep it RIGHT HURR.You’re also a writer, and your most recent credit is for the faux-found flick DOLL KILLER which was released on video through VHS IS DEAD and is now sold out. Can you tell us a little bit about this project? The idea was that the film was found in a rickety old warehouse after being produced straight-to-video, right? Why go for that? That was a crazy project. Totally Dustin Ferguson’s baby. He isn’t just an editor but a director, and I guess he got the fever on SLEEPAWAY CAMP 4 for the idea of a “lost” horror movie. And we’ve both spent hours discussing a whole bunch of genuine lost movies, some of which I’ll be releasing, others which are completely lost in time. So he came up with the idea of creating the ultimate lost movie from scratch, because then we could recreate that feel of chasing buried treasure but without the disappointment on the other end of never finding it, or having the results deflate our lofty hopes. Instead of relying on luck, we could control the path to dodgy discovery and make sure there was a pot of dirty gold at the end, you know? He came up with the whole story, and the story behind the story, with the fake director Jesus Satan and everything. I wrote a draft of the script for him, which ended up pretty much what they shot. This was set up as a Retrosploitation release from the start, only before my label existed so it was pimped out through Retro Slashers, a website I started ten years ago. Once it was done I started expanding the faux back story with director diaries charting the troubled production and a fatal accident on set. I wrote those all myself – Dustin kind of set up the character to be this Rob Zombie of the 80s type guy, but we were recreating bad shot on video flicks, which was slightly incompatible, so I added in some personality based on THE ROOM’s Tommy Wiseau and others to smooth over the cracks. The specific point of a renegade VHS release being lost in a warehouse was something Rod Lanham of VHS IS DEAD came up with as a way to justify a mass release within context of the backstory, when we already said at the start that it was never released and only pieced together in the last year or so, long after VHS officially perished. I don’t think we ever fooled anyone, and that was never the intention. It was us having fun and letting horror fans join in. Chris Seaver of Warlock Video was an innovator in this regard, and at one stage early on he gave me solid advice on rolling with the punches and sticking to plan.
The now sold-out Limited Edition VHS for DOLL KILLER done in collaboration with VHS IS DEAD. Baby got (it in) the back. JESUS SATAN, INDEED!You recently wrote the chapter on the 80s VHS boom for the book Empire of The 'B's: The Movie Madness of Charles Band. Can you tell us how that opportunity came to be, and about the experience writing the chapter? Dave Jay was one of the principle authors on that book, which was in the works for much of last decade if I recall. At some point I was working on similar material, Dave contacted me and asked me if I wanted to co-write the book with them, but I had too many commitments so I had to say thanks but no thanks. I went away and ended up developing my project into a prospective book about Wizard Video as I felt Dave and Co. really had the Empire Picture sides covered, and I loved those garish Wizard Videos. Who didn’t? So I was conducting interviews and research when Dave DeCoteau said to me “hey, do you know this Dave guy who interviewed me as well… he is doing something similar so you should just all join forces” and Dave Jay came back to me and said “Hey, would you like to write Chapter 3, about Wizard Video, because we don’t think we’ll get around to it but it would help the book be comprehensive and complete”. It all just clicked this time, so it wasn’t a stretch to condense and rewrite my material to suit their needs. I turned in the chapter in 2009, and that’s pretty much what was printed. A lot has come to light about Wizard since then, but I think the chapter stands well as a time capsule to a period where we didn’t know everything and there was a mystique about the company, something almost lost now.
The EMPIRE book getting some high-level airtime on Late Night with Seth Meyers. Yes, Seth did acknowledge the fact the he totally resembles Dr. Hill.What are your thoughts on the resurgence in video appreciation and celebration? Are you a collector yourself of VHS or other media? If so, what really gets you groovin’? It’s a great time to be a nostalgist, isn’t it? As I have goals of a minimalist home and lifestyle, I’ve really had to shave down my collection over the years and it’s now distilled down to a core of about fifty prized tapes comprised of Wizards, Australian releases, and foreign versions of SLEEPAWAY CAMP and PHANTASM. I’ve been picking up the new VHS releases where possible for someone here down under to easily obtain. THE BASEMENT, THE SLEEPER, TURNPIKE KILLER, and Young Master Johnny Dickie’s SLAUGHTER TALES would have to be the centerpiece. And of course I keep on developments in the video company resurgence. The Uneasy Archive and The Video Pharmacy are creating releases as art concepts and in a short time pushing the medium light years ahead of where it reached in its original twenty year golden age. Psycho Video is turning out some really interesting stuff, too. Speaking of, I remember you commenting on something I wrote a while back and questioning my heavy use of “groovy”. Have you since started using the word yourself? HAVE YOU BEEN CONVERTED? Yeah, listen, I’m a big Lunchmeat fan and your enthusiasm has always resonated with me. I’m not so sure other obviously uncool people have not been accepting, but I’ve appropriated much of your spacey vocabulary to balance off the very formal words I use in my mature professional life. There’s nothing like the dead silence after dropping “YOU’RE DAMN SKIPPY!” into a conference call to remind you you’re alive.
You’ll find no shame here, my good man! John’s closing observation is simultaneously astute and alarming. I’ve had people look completely baffled when I unload my analog anecdotes and posit my passion as a proponent of the format; and, yes, some people do become offended and scoff much to my utter surprise… that is, until I tell them that some VHS go for some serious dough. Then, they’re all like, “Oh, I still have a bunch in my basement! ” and the nostalgia (or masked avarice?) almost invariably takes over. See, everyone of a certain age lived with home video, and as John said, because modern society force feeds new formats to the public at large in order to sustain their ideal eternal media market, people often sway with that misguiding movement. But Videovores know the truth: tapes are still a viable format filled fun, nostalgia, amazing aesthetics and movies no one else knows about. And that’s pretty groovy, mang. Be sure to groove on over to John’s personal site and Retrosploitation digs online, and don’t forget to pre-order your SLEEPAWAY CAMP 4 Limited Edition VHS! It’s gonna be pure analog excellence, Tapeheads!