Return to Sleepaway Camp | Varied Celluloid

Return to Sleepaway Camp

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 22 - 2008
The Plot: Alan is a major league jerk. There’s no getting past it, he likes to bully all of his bunkmates at Camp who are defenseless nerds, and he generally dumps on everyone around him. However, once the tables turn and all of the older kids really start letting Alan know how big of a pest he is – he doesn’t like the results so much. As the bigger kids start really letting Alan have it – bad things start to happen. Slowly campers and counselors as well start to come up dead – and a select few begin to suspect a killer from the past who committed very similar atrocities about twenty years ago: Angela, from the original Sleepaway Camp. However, is Angela the culprit despite being locked up in the mental institution for all these years (this film rejects the sequels starring Pamela Springsteen) or is it simply the troubled young boy who has been pushed all too far?




The Review: The Sleepaway Camp series as a whole is generally listed amongst most horror fans as guilty pleasures. The first movie is most certainly the best remembered, namely due to a brilliant twist performed in the third act – but after revisiting the film a while back I discovered it wasn’t as poorly put together as I had thought during my first viewing of it so long ago. I suppose I wasn’t as used to poor acting back in those days as I have grown to become now. That first film had some pretty atrocious performances to be sure. Robert Hiltzik is the man responsible for the series and the creator of the first film. After that it was all but taken out of his hands and two sequels were produced, directed by Michael Simpson and starring Pamela Springsteen (Bruce Springsteen’s sister) as an older Angela who has come back to the camp as a counselor looking to punish all the bad children. The series quickly moved from the more serious tone of the first film into outright horror comedy as Angela looked to one-up both Freddy and Jason in body count and in puns. These sequels, although not truthful to Hiltzik’s vision, were certainly a ton of fun for most of us horror fans. However, after that train slowed to a crawl one last sequel had began in the Sleepaway Camp series. Unfortunately Sleepaway Camp 4: The Survivor only made it part of the way through production before falling apart and now only about thirty five minutes or so of footage exist of this mini-feature. After that, everyone all but assumed the series was doomed to remain an artifact of the past. However, thanks to the guys over at SleepawayCampFilms.com (official site for sequels 2, 3 and 4) and SleepawayCampMovies.com (official site for 1 and Return) interest for the series was found to be as high as ever and director Hiltzik was actually brought back to the series due to the demand of fans and the persistence of those webmasters. Now, here we are with Sleepaway Camp 5: Return to Sleepaway Camp due to be released shortly, there has been a lot of talk about the film and a lot of folks curious about whether or not the film could possibly live up to all the promise of the predecessors. Well, it all depends on what you might expect. It’s unfortunate that after so many years that the problems that plagued the original film could still remain a problem to this day – but in much the same way the things that were fun and intriguing about that first film are still as fresh and innovative here.

You remember all the cheesy dialogue of the original Sleepaway Camp? Well, if you’re like me and you thought that was simply a byproduct of 80’s cinematic cheese – well, think again. Unfortunately, that same naive dialogue and the silly childish taunts are back in full force with a cast that seems noticeably older. Essentially, the wit of the dialogue can be summed up in terms like “fat, fatty, fatty” or our leading sociopath Alan’s personal catchphrase “Hey… your ass… STINKS!”. It’s enough to make you throw your hands up in the air and say good grief. At times the film is like an afterschool special about the dangers of bullying, but after about thirty minutes into the film everything starts to sort of fall into place. Return to Sleepaway Camp is not what you would expect a very good film to be. It’s hard to even consider it a “so bad it’s good” sort of affair, since the over the top manner of the film isn’t even all that goofy. Return to Sleepaway Camp tries very hard to be that same sort of film that the first movie was – and how much you’re going to enjoy this film can be best summarized by how much you enjoyed the original. Everything I have said so far about this film, could easily be found in a review for the original Sleepaway Camp. Both films are pretty atrocious in the acting department, both feature some awful dialogue but both flicks also do feature some highly innovative kill scenes and very engaging plots. The kills in Return, although not terribly gory (neither was the original), are pretty freakin’ cool I must say. [SLIGHT SPOILERS]With characters being forced to stand upside down over vats of boiling grease before being dunked headfirst, one character having his stomach pumped full of gasoline before having his mouth taped up and a lit-up joint being shoved through the tape and promptly causing a full body explosion – these are great enough reasons to see the film but[/SLIGHT SPOILERS] then there’s the epic final half hour when the bodies start to really pile up. If there’s a real reason to see Return to Sleepaway Camp, that has to be it. As mentioned, it’s a film full of tremendous death scenes and when they finally start to get rolling you can’t turn away. Then there’s the twist! I can’t go into it, but you can’t go wrong when keeping with a successful formula, especially when horror fans are your target audience. Although there’s absolutely no way possible to top the original.

Return to Sleepaway Camp has a whole mess of problems working against it, I can’t lie. This isn’t going to leave a regular run of the mill horror fan fulfilled. I imagine many will watch it and think it looks too cheap (although leaps and bounds better than most indie fare I run across) or that it’s way too corny to enjoy. Valid complaints, but for those who have followed the series and for horror fans looking for a film that really does harken back to the simpler times – I think Return to Sleepaway Camp might just be the ticket for them. Unlike Rob Zombie or other filmmakers who take a stylish approach to trying to mimic and ape those older films, Hiltzik and company were there and still remember the reasons they made these films. Throw in as imaginative a death scene as you can manage, throw in a decent “whodunnit” plot and at the end of the day try your best to scare one or two people and you’ve done your job. That simplistic outlook gets complicated far too often, but in my opinion its what makes flicks like this so special. Not everyone will enjoy it, I can’t say they will, but target audiences should know who they are. I have to give the film a rating, so I’m going with a three out of five. It almost gained a four due to how much fun I had while watching – but I have to be a realist too and say that no; there’s a lot still to hope for from Hiltzik and the level of performances he gets as well as the base dialogue in the script. Regardless, I hope genre fans find that they can rally behind this one because I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I had a good time and I know that they can too.

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