I know what you did 25 summers ago
“Kids can be so mean.”
Director/Writer: Robert Hiltzik / Cast: Felissa Rose, Vincent Pastore, Paul DeAngelo, Michael Gibney, Jonathan Tiersten, Erin Broderick, Michael Werner, Brye Cooper, Jackie Tohn, Katie Simses, Adam Wylie, Christopher Shand, Shahida McIntosh, Jaime Radow, Isaac Hayes, Lent Venito.
Body Count: 9
Dire-logue: “Well look who’s here – Camp Problem Child.”
Das warningen: spoilers follow…
There are some films where the production legacies draw more attention and hysteria than the films themselves. The 1980 Jaws rip-off The Last Shark is one: pulled from cinemas only weeks into its release after Universal sued for plagiarism. Unfortunately for audiences, these events are more interesting than the movie is. The same can almost be said for Return to Sleepaway Camp…
Production of this belated sequel to the 1983 cult sleeper took five long years with the film eventually surfacing on DVD at the end of 2008 after numerous re-toolings and the end product is, well, an interesting mish-mash of good and bad.
Let’s back pedal a bit and recap. Hiltzik wrote and directed the first film, which gained notoreity for its shocking coda that the shy teenage girl not only turned out to be the psycho killer but was also anatomically a boy. In the late 80s video sequels, fully-female Angela returned as a puritanical counsellor at a new summer camp to slaughter bad kids. A third sequel began production in 1992 but was shut down when the company went broke.
With fans of the films divided between those who love the original and those who love the campy 80s sequels (put me in the latter category), the internet age ushered in enough love to prompt Hiltzik to create his own direct sequel, ignoring (but not totally unfurling) parts II and III.
Return to Sleepaway Camp takes us to Camp Manabe and brings back original counsellor Ronnie (DeAngelo) as part owner. Kids play pranks and mess about, smoke dope and uniformally pick on Alan (Gibney), a chubby, hulking kid with a very bizarre personality. Alan may be the victim of choice for the popular kids but is equally cruel to those around him, whines and plays for sympathy from the counsellors and never seems to change his clothes.
Alan is egged, ganged up on during a paintball match and sees his beloved frogs skinned by a couple of nasty little scrotes. He only has eyes for the resident popular blonde but when she participates in one last gag, even her safety is no longer guaranteed…Those who torment Alan eventually begin to meet nasty ends: the sleazy kitchen assistant ends up deep-fried (see September’s Icky Ways to Go), a stoner is forced to toke the joint from hell and the camp owner is eaten alive by rats. Ronnie is first to cry Angela but she’s institutionalized… However, the pacing of the killings doesn’t necessarily match Alan’s meltdown: he eventually snaps around halfway through the film, at which point a couple of people are already dead. And what about Angela? How does she fit in to all this?
The scene-to-scene cohesion is one of the problems with RTSC, which can’t seem to decide how to play out with coherence. Alan is the centrepiece of the film but it’s not clear whether he’s going to be the killer or the hero? Either way, the character ranks as one of the most hideous incarnations to ever (dis)grace the screen. Any sympathy ramped up from the numerous humiliations Alan suffers is dissipated soon after by his nightmare attitude, he often leaves situations he’s created by saying “your ass stinks!” to whomever he’s clashed with.
On the plus side of the fence, we get to see Ricky again and, yes, Angela does make an appearance and yes she is the killer, having been disguised all along – rather feebly – as a character who keeps cropping up. The camp setting is well worked and the comings and goings of the campers is convincing enough.
The crowded background cast gets in the way to some degree; the group of nasty kids mostly meet their deserved ends but some are spared and other victims are still hanging in when they’re found. Angela selects her prey rather haphazardly, going in with a scattergun approach and offing as many as she can during the last half hour or so, including one poor guy’s dick being attached by wire to the towbar of a jeep his spooked girlfriend flees in. Ow is the word.
I did garner some enjoyment from the film. It looks pretty good and the performances are more than adequate for the genre (DeAngelo’s quite possibly excluded) but it’s a real mess that even five years of re-cutting, Felissa Rose’s sixty seconds on camera and an Isaac Hayes cameo can’t untangle and it’s in dire need of a strong lead character, something the original didn’t have either.
I love summer camp slasher flicks and clasp my hands in prayer for more but if the mooted Sleepaway Camp Reunion goes ahead, it’ll need to step up the game considerably to out-do Michael A. Simpson’s made for video sequels, which, by rights should suck but are somehow the heart of the series.