Return to Sleepaway Camp, 2008.
Directed by Robert Hiltzick.
Starring Paul DeAngelo, Felissa Rose, Michael Gibney, and Jonathan Tiersten.
Another summer and another sleepaway camp – but it seems someone has returned to spoil everyone’s fun.
It’s been over twenty years since Sleepaway Camp (1983), so let’s have a quick recap shall we? We first meet Angela, portrayed by Felissa Rose, as a quiet young girl struggling to fit in at a summer camp. One shocking and unforgettable twist later, and it’s revealed Angela isn’t quite who she seems, and is also responsible for the grisly murders that have seen certain snot-nosed brats covered in splatter. It’s a rather good film, and like the majority of horror films that manage to turn a profit, a sequel was soon in development. A few years later, along comes Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988) and Angela is back, this time portrayed by Pamela Springsteen. Now she’s a camp counsellor, but when a few kids act up she soon returns to her murderous ways. It’s a fairly standard film, which was followed by the less impressive Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (1989) with Pamela Springsteen returning as Angela. Thankfully, it appeared that the film series had gasped its final breath… but you can never keep a good killer down.
Return to Sleepaway Camp sees a few cast members from the first film return alongside original director Robert Hiltzick. No effort is made to tie this film into the events of the sequels, and could be considered as a direct sequel to Sleepaway Camp with the second and third films dismissed. This is all fair enough, but with over twenty years for Hiltzick to come up with a new story, one would expect something much better than this low-budget straight-to-DVD disaster.
The film begins in the midst of a summer at Camp Manabe. Comparing Sleepaway Camp with Return to Sleepaway Camp, the only thing of note is how much crueller everyone seems to be – the kids are all detestable jerks, and the camp counsellors don’t fare much better. I think we’re supposed to sympathise with Alan (Michael Gibney), a tubby kid who is mercilessly bullied. It might be possible to get behind his character if he wasn’t such a smart mouthed little prick, and it becomes painfully obvious that this is the sort of guy who does himself no favours. The rest of the kids are pretty forgettable, their roles simply requiring them to act like dickheads which the actors pull off with remarkable ease whilst none of the girls even have the decency to remove their clothes. C’mon, I have certain expectations from movies of this nature, and Return to Sleepaway Camp meets none of them.
It’s sort of neat seeing a couple of faces from Sleepaway Camp return, particularly Jonathan Tiersten who reprises his role as Ricky. Sadly he is sorely underused and awkwardly included into the rather terrible plot. If you’re familiar with how these movies work, you’ll guess who the killer is as soon as they step in front of the camera. That doesn’t deter Hiltzick from at least attempting to throw a few red herrings our way, but it’s still pretty weak storytelling with a reveal that is more likely to elicit groans as opposed to gasps. That said, a couple of the kills are pretty imaginative and the gore effects aren’t too bad.
To say I’m disappointed in Return to Sleepaway Camp is a redundant understatement. Although foolish to expect great things from a film series that has been dead for almost twenty years, I really was not prepared for just how bad this could be. The sequels may have just about been entertaining despite floundering in places, but this one sinks right down to the bottom of the lake. Even the returning cast members can’t save this disappointing film – although they do seem to be the only ones actually trying to honour the original – and after ninety minutes at sleepaway camp you’ll be wishing you’d never gone back.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ / Movie ★