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a really predictable sequel, which is not a bad thing...
on May 1, 2011
Known for having a shocking surprise ending, Sleepaway Camp (1983) is a classic 80's slasher, written and directed by Robert Hiltzik, that has gathered a huge cult following over the years. Two "unauthorized" sequels followed in the 80's, which did not involve Hiltzik, or stars from the original film, Felissa Rose and Jonathan Tiersten. With the support of fans still interested in seeing another sequel, Hiltzik resumes the story more than two decades later, in Return To Sleepaway Camp (2008) a direct to video release. This review contains significant spoilers, so proceed at your own risk.
Hiltzik completely ignores the events in the previous two sequels, and resumes his story some twenty years after the infamous events at Camp Arawak, where transgendered Angela Baker (Felissa Rose) went nuts and committed a number of shocking murders. At Camp Manabe, new owner and bird lover Frank Kostik (Vincent Pastore) has Ronnie Angelo (Paul DeAngelo), a former counselor at Arawak, on his staff. Life at summer camp is much the same, with lots of fun activities, adolescent pranks, and hormones running wild.
Hiltzik attempts to replicate the vibe from the original movie. This time the featured recipient of abuse is the camp troublemaker, Alan (Michael Gibney). Frequently provoking fights, harassing girls, and throwing tantrums, he is picked on, and made the brunt of cruel jokes by almost everyone, as he tries to make friends with fellow camper Karen (Erin Broderick).
As before, the first kill is set in the kitchen, as a cook takes a fatal dive into a deep fryer. The second kill is even more spectacular, where a stoner type kid is turned into a human torch. The crimes bring Sherriff Jerry to the camp to investigate. He speaks with a voice box because he lost his voice due to cancer, and it's pretty obvious that there are some other issues with the Sherriff. Suspicion for the killings falls on Angela, but her cousin Ricky Thomas (Jonathan Tiersten), reports that she remains institutionalized.
After another tantrum, Alan runs off into the night, starting a night of bloody terror. Kostik gets some unexpected headgear, while in the woods, Randy (Byre Cooper) a counselor, has a part of his anatomy yanked off, and his girlfriend Linda (Jackie Tohn) gets caught in a trip wire. During the killing spree Ricky arrives at the camp, and joins Ronnie and Sherriff Jerry, in the search for Alan.
As in the original, the best parts of the film are the nasty kills, which are pretty creative, and display lots of variety. Hiltzik still has a cool sense of style for shooting horror, and the level of gore and graphic violence, is cranked up to high this time. Loyal fan support over the years is why this film was made, and Hilting delivers more of what the fans loved, keeping things at a very juvenile level, with lots of childish dialog. In his acting debut, Michael Gibney is effectively obnoxious as Alan. The late Isaac Hayes, has a brief role in the last film of his career. The cast may not get to display much of their acting skills, but it hardly seems to matter, as long as the blood flows. The big surprise reveal, probably isn't much of a shock by the time it occurs, as it is evident pretty early that Felissa Rose has returned.
Proving that fans can make a real difference, superfan Jeff Hayes was the force that helped get the major players together, and provide the impetus for the sequel to be made. Hayes served as consulting producer for the film, and contributes some of the bonus materials. Intended mainly for the fans, some who have been waiting over twenty years for a sequel, Return To Sleepaway Camp is a pretty solid effort. The original film was crudely juvenile and charmingly unsophisticated, and the sequel retains some of that same flavor. The film really steps up to modern levels in the violence and gore departments, delivering solidly. After so much time had passed, Hiltzig probably didn't have many options for bringing back Angela, so it's fairly easy to go with the rather silly plotline. It's time to go back to camp!