An Icons of Fright Exclusive! The first review of the long-awaited "Return to Sleepaway Camp"!
Return to Sleepaway Camp
It's been 5 years since principal photography completed on “Return To Sleepaway Camp” and this reviewer has to wonder why it's taken so long to get the movie out. Especially when you consider that this is a sequel that finally lives up to the rude and nasty spirit of the original “Sleepaway Camp”. Forget the mid-80's sequels, “Return To Sleepaway Camp” is THE movie us fans have been waiting for.
The sequels that hit video store shelves in '88 and '89, featuring Pamela Springsteen as Angela, were adequately goofy/gory spoofs of the cheapo slasher subgenre. They featured enough splatter and contrived continuity from the original to tide over fans for almost two decades. Still, “Sleepaway Camp” writer-director Robert Hiltzik had nothing to do with them. While they hold up as campy (no pun intended) fun they lack the seedy, sleazy, and mean-spirited tone of Hiltzik's original classic. It has always lacked a proper follow-up.
“Return to Sleepaway Camp” picks up 20+ years later. At Camp Manabe, co-owed by Frank (Vincent Pastore of “The Sopranos”) and Ronnie (Paul DeAngelo, reprising his role as the former Camp Arawak counselor) kids are being relentlessly cruel to one of the campers. This time it's the overweight and socially awkward Alan. The counselors, and his peers, relentlessly berate him about his weight, and his slovenly appearance. He appears to never bathe or change clothes. The maladroit manner with which he interacts with the opposite sex wins him no girlfriends either. Still, unlike the shy and unassuming Angela, Alan is kind of a jerk too, bullying the younger campers as much as he gets it himself.
Soon a series of increasingly grisly “accidents” start to happen around the camp. Ronnie immediately becomes paranoid, convinced that somehow Angela has found him. They seek out her brother Ricky (Jonathan Tiereston, also reprising his role) who assures them that Angela is locked away in mental facility. Ricky, Ronnie, Frank, the camp chef Charlie (played by the late Isaac Hayes), and a local sheriff with the worst facial hair since famous 'stash on the cop' in the original, try to figure out what's going on, and put a stop to the killings. Still, the cruel jokes continue, the body count rises, and everyone not already dead at Camp Manabe becomes a suspect. Maybe Angela is back in town?
“Return To Sleepaway Camp” has it's share of gruesome and violent death scenes, including one great homage to the original featuring an industrial strength deep-fryer instead of a pot of boiling water. However, most of the gore is left to the imagination, and we're usually treated to just the nasty after-effects of the murders. One of the reasons “Return To Sleepaway Camp” was rumored to have been held up was the need to complete some CGI special effects. We're not sure where these supposed CGI effects are. Most of the death scenes are done practically, with makeup effects. There's a cheap looking CGI title sequence, and one death involving fire that may have required CG, but that's it.
Like the original, but unusual for the genre, the kids in the movie are the played by actors of the appropriate age. There are no 30 year old women playing teenager girls in this movie. It's weird to watch Disney Channel-esque actors in a slasher film. With all the violence and foul language it's like watching a bunch of 14 year olds reenact a John Waters movie. It's just not something you ever got comfortable with in the original and the effect holds up here. The young cast, and their sometimes stilted and clumsy performances, give the film that loud, hysterical, crass feel of the first and lend to it a strangely trashy edge. You know what? I'll take trashy over safe and politically correct in my slasher sequels anytime.
There are a few problems with “Return” that hopefully the filmmakers have some time to fix. The pre-release cut Icons of Fright saw features a lackluster score and often amateurish editing. Be honest with yourself though: The original “Sleepaway Camp” is a fun 80's slasher movie (which this one really captures the spirit of) but it's not an amazing example of fine or remarkable filmmaking. Still, the original score made it much more cinematic and theatrical than this one comes across. Without that vintage-style score this sequel feels cheap. The pedestrian editing, featuring long fade-ins and outs between scenes, hurts the pace of the movie. Both these elements leave the film feeling somewhat unfinished, and after 5 years that's unacceptable. Also, considering the pedigree of this film the ending is somewhat anti-climactic.
Still, it's hard not to recommend the film, especially to any fan that's been waiting for a true follow-up. It's got everything you're going to want from a “Sleepaway Camp” sequel: A bunch of obnoxious, nasty, rude camp-goers getting burned, skinned, crushed, and eaten alive in a movie that's only a few half-shirts and denim shorts from looking like it's 1983 all over again.
Check out the trailer at our previous news post HERE!
Visit the official SLEEPAWAY CAMP website at: http://www.sleepawaycampmovies.com/
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