Return to Sleepaway Camp
November 4, 2008 (U.S. DVD)
Vincent Pastore as Frank
Michael Gibney as Alan
Paul DeAngelo as Ronnie
Jonathan Tiersten as Ricky Baker
Isaac Hayes as Charlie the Chef
Sleepaway Camp has become, over the years, a classic horror movie of sorts. Although the film never broke any records in the box office and does not have midnight showings in most major cities, Sleepaway Camp maintains a steady legion of passionate fans and has unmistakably achieved cult status.
Sleepaway Camp spawned a couple of sequels that were progressively bad yet still had a campy fun to them that is endearing. The gore in theSleepaway Camp trilogy is first rate and over time films one through three morphed into the commercially successful Sleepaway Camp Survival Kit. A couple of things were missing from the second and third offerings of the franchise; The first omission was the star of the show Felissa Rose who was replaced by sister of “The Boss” Pamela Springsteen and the second was the “big secret” from the first film. Just in case you do not know the climax (swells and curves?) of the first film I will not reveal it – but it’s worth watching the goofy acting and dopy camp counselor in dolphin shorts to see this twist first hand.
Return to Sleepaway Camphas taken a different tactic than the previous sequels, not the least of which is the return of director Robert Hiltzik to the helm. Hiltzik decided that, instead of following the lead character Angela through life afterSleepaway Camp he would instead focus on the future happenings at the camp itself in the wake of Angela’s revelation.
Camp Manabe is back in business and, miraculously, still employs the same dolphin-short wearing counselor Ronnie (Paul DeAngelo). Nothing really has changed around the camp; the counselors still have no control over the campers, the camp owner is a complete whack job, the cook is a crude and unsanitary letch and there is one camper singled out to be tormented mercilessly by the lovely children – in this case the rude and nasty Alan played by Michael Gibney.
Alan’s random meanness toward all the campers increases and the teasing and pranks directed toward him consequently escalate. And, there’s a catch… every person that is mean to Alan ends up being killed in a creative and horrifying way. I don’t say “horrifying” lightly; I’m talking about being fried in hot oil, burned alive while doused in gasoline, trapped with rats who eat through the skull to escape a cage… that sort of thing. Could it be that Alan is inflicting these dastardly deaths? Not likely.
Unlike the original Sleepaway Camp where the identity of the killer is assumed all along and the big ending surprise takes a completely different twist, Return to Sleepaway Camp keeps the identity as well as the murderous motives of the killer a secret until the end. Plus the ending has a big ole’ whopper of a surprise to boot.
Sleepaway Camp is fun, but really only for fans of the original and perhaps of the preceding components of the trilogy. It’s interesting how cheesy and ridiculous camp can be acceptable in a horror movie from decades ago yet seem, well, ridiculous and cheesy when done today. The production quality was fine but the characters are so over the top that it is a bit overbearing. And what about the primary villain kid-teaser that you love to hate? The original had Judy but Return to Sleepaway Camp has nobody. There are some good cameos from members of the original cast to keep things interesting though, and as a card-carrying fan of the original I was on the edge of my seat through every second.
Return to Sleepaway Camp is very fun for nostalgia sake and everyone who loves the tale of Angela and her exacting of revenge on the nerdy campers should check it out. If you are not a fan of the original, or (gasp) haven’t seen it yet then it is highly recommended that you partake prior to watching this “continuation”. Otherwise, I fear, you just won’t get it.