Return to Sleepaway Camp


Return to Sleepaway Camp  (2008)    Magnolia/Horror    RT: 86 minutes    Rated R (horror violence and gore, pervasive language, some sexual content, teen drug use)    Director: Robert Hiltzik    Screenplay: Robert Hiltzik    Music: Rodney Whittenberg    Cinematography: Ken Kelsch and Brian Pryzpek    Release date: November 4, 2008 (US, DTV)    Cast: Vincent Pastore, Michael Gibney, Paul DeAngelo, Jonathan Tiersten, Isaac Hayes, Lenny Venito, Erin Broderick, Adam Wylie, Kate Simses, Brye Cooper, Jackie Tohn, Michael Werner, Christopher Shand, Jaime Radow, Shahidah McIntosh, Paul Iacono, Chas Brewer, Ashley Carin, Samantha Hahn, Jake O’Connor, Lauren Toub, Samantha Hiltzik, Emily Hiltzik, Lindsey Hiltzik, Miles Thompson, Felissa Rose.    Box Office: N/A      Body Count: 9



 SPOILER ALERT! Let’s get it out of the way. It’s a big one! Felissa Rose DOES return as Angela Baker in Return to Sleepaway Camp, a sequel that ignores the events of II and III, instead picking up about 20 years after young Angela’s blood-soaked rampage at Camp Arawak. I will only confirm that Rose reprises the role that made her an icon among horror fanatics. I won’t say when, where or how she shows up, just that she does make an appearance at some point in some guise.

return- to-sleepaway-camp One of the cardinal rules of horror movies is that the most obvious suspect is NOT likely the killer. That pretty much exonerates Alan (Gibney), a fat kid tormented by everybody (campers, counselors and staff) at Camp Manabe. He’s an ideal target for bullies of all ages. He’s a slob. He never changes his clothes or showers. He’s a real loudmouth. He picks on smaller kids. He acts like a big baby when he doesn’t get his way. He’s the most unpopular kid at camp. Alan is obviously mentally challenged which begs the question why the camp directors don’t send him home. Can’t they see he’s a loose cannon just waiting to explode? One more cruel prank might be all it takes to set him off. Maybe it already has. People start dying in gruesome ways at the hands of an unseen killer (a familiar scenario, no?) and Alan is the prime suspect which brings us right back to the rule I cited at the beginning of the paragraph.

 Not everybody thinks Alan is the culprit. Our old friend Ronnie (DeAngelo), head counselor at Arawak, holds the same position at Manabe. He thinks Angela is back. His boss, camp owner Frank (Pastore, The Sopranos) thinks he’s being paranoid. There’s no way Angela could be the killer; she’s been locked up since she killed all those people in the first movie. Hasn’t she? That’s what her cousin Ricky (Tiersten) says when the police question him about the latest series of killings. Meanwhile, Alan grows increasingly agitated and unstable. He likes this girl Karen (Broderick, Law & Order: SVU) who finds him repulsive and wants nothing to do with him. She’s the one that lures him into an especially humiliating prank at the behest of her friends.

 Alan is the butt of many jokes, one of which involves a couple of stoners tricking him into smoking cow s—t. It ultimately earns him the nickname “Blowjob”. The first hour of Return to Sleepaway Camp consists almost entirely of Alan being abused, embarrassed, berated and bullied. Not that he’s any kind of angel. He frequently taunts people by saying, “Your ass stinks!” He pushes around smaller or weaker kids. And he won’t leave Karen alone; he badgers and annoys her until she agrees to meet up with him at his secret spot in the woods. Anything to make him go away, right?

 The body count in Return to Sleepaway Camp is comparatively low but the killings are pretty cool. So what does writer-director Robert Hiltzik have in store for us this time? He starts off with something familiar to fans of the original movie. An abusive cook (Venito, Money Monster) is killed after a confrontation with Alan. This creep has his head dunked in a deep fryer. In terms of pure freakiness, it’s not as effective as being scalded by a huge pot of boiling water. It’s still cringe when I watch that scene. That creepy-ass pedophile really suffers. We’re not even sure if he dies although I’m sure he must have. Okay, what else? One of the stoners has gasoline poured down his throat and a lit joint put in his mouth. KABOOM! Somebody is eaten alive by rats. They chew through his face and out of his intestines. YUCK! One guy has his penis ripped off with fishing line tied to a jeep. A girl’s face is mutilated by barbed wire. One person is impaled through the eye, another by multiple spikes placed above her bunk. Somebody’s head in crushed by a car. A boy is beaten nearly to death with a croquet mallet. Somebody gets skinned alive.

 It’s great seeing DeAngelo, Tiersten and Rose (wherever/whoever she is) again after all these years. It’s like seeing old friends after a very long separation. I’m also glad to see Hiltzik at the helm again. It’s like a Sleepaway Camp reunion. There are some cool additions to the cast like Gibney, Broderick, Venito, Adam Wylie (Children of the Corn V) as one of the stoners and American Idol contender Jackie Tohn as a nasty counselor. Pastore, who gets called a “big p---y” at one point (nice Sopranos reference), is pretty good as the camp owner more concerned with bad publicity than the kids’ safety. I wonder if he’s related to Mel from the first movie.

 Return to Sleepaway Camp itself is good not great. It doesn’t have the same purity in form as the 1983 cult classic. It feels a bit forced if you want to know the truth. It’s also more polished than the original movie. It doesn’t have the same low budget grindhouse feel. Here’s an interesting question. What is it with cops with fake facial hair in these movies? Take a close look at the local sheriff assigned to investigate what’s going on at Manabe. When’s the last time you saw a cop who talks with the aid of a mechanical voice box? Isn’t cancer cause for early retirement with benefits and pension intact? I’m just saying.

 Return to Sleepaway Camp is silly and dumb but in a fun way. It’s a decent continuation of the story with a final scene that’s nowhere near as shocking as the infamous climactic lakeside scene in the first movie. If you think about it (even just a little), you’ll see it coming. Be sure to sit through the end credits for a cool extra scene that explains something you’ll surely be asking at the end. Oh yeah, the door is left open for another sequel. I hope it happens. 

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