My favorite scene in the original Sleepaway Camp is the opening montage of the abandoned camp. The ghostly voices of phantom children mingle with rotted cabins, weed choked fields, and rusted swings producing an eerie sense of foreboding. By comparison, Return to Sleepaway Camp opens with a group of kids lighting their farts. Watching the next 60 minutes of Return to Sleepaway Camp becomes a grinding chore with a few moments of unintented laughs to break the oppressive mood. RtSC isn’t a complete disaster but the film’s major flaws really hobble what should have been a much better slasher.
Let’s get the flaws out of the way first before moving on to the highlights. The film spends way to much time focused on Alan (Michael Gibney), the most unsympathetic character I’ve ever seen in a slasher. The guy picks on kids then starts crying when others stand up to him or bully him back. This is where the first wave of unintended laughs comes in. I laughed everytime someone did something cruel to Alan. Watching Alan get slapped around, slimed with eggs, and pelted with paintballs helped relieve the boredom.
The characters and actors the viewer would rather see are reduced to cameo status. Paul DeAngelo and Vincent Pastore have a little more screen time, but they spend the extra time yelling at each other or the camp kids. As for the unknowns in the cast, hell, I can’t tell you their character’s names or what roles they play in the movie. Most of the cast simply vanish and are never seen again while other characters suddenly pop up towards the end with no explanation as to who they are or where they’ve been. The interviews on the disk help with some of the confusion because the actors discuss their parts in the film. At least RtSC becomes a little more coherent after watching the special features. I just wish I had watched the special features first.
Now for the highlights. The fact that RtSC exists is a positive for slasher fans. If this film does well, then who knows what other cult slashers might get a sequel. During the opening credits the viewer is bombarded with newspaper headlines. If you’re really quick with the pause button you can read the articles and some of them have important information. One article covers the boat accident from the first film and explains that the father died but the children are in critical condition. Does this mean Peter’s (Angela) sister survived? Another Headline claims “Arawak Victim to Undergo Life Saving Surgery” which makes me think Judy may have survived her run in with that curling iron. Other articles cover Peter’s trial and incarceration in a mental institution.
When the action finally kicks in during the last 15 minutes the viewer is treated to some creative kills with the stick in the eye bit being the most hilarious. Jonathan Tiersten’s performance has to be seen to be believed. Just thinking about his final line in the film makes me laugh. He lets out this scream . . . trust me, just watch the movie. You’ll see what I mean. And then you too will have a perpetual smile every time you think about his performance. Fans who enjoy a good drinking game with their slashers have a couple of options here. During the movie take a drink every time you hear the phrase “Your ass stinks.” If you watch the special features, take a shot everytime you hear Jeff Hayes ask an actor what it was like to work with Robert Hiltzik.
Return to Sleepaway Camp is a very flawed movie that could have been so much better. It feels more like one of those shot-on-video slashers from the mid-80s rather than an entry in the Sleepaway Camp franchise. Hopefully, the next sequel will avoid the same pitfalls that plague RtSC. One day I’ll add this movie to my collection but for now I’m content with just renting it. Be sure to check out www.sleepawaycampfilms.com for more news about RtSC and any future sequels.