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It's summer camp as usual at Camp Manabe, where the kids torment each other for fun while the underpaid camp staff provides as little supervision as possible. When campers and staff mysteriously begin disappearing and turning into gruesome corpses, paranoid Ronnie can't shake the memory of a series of grisly murders that took place at Camp Arawak two decades earlier.
It's been twenty-five years since the release of Sleepaway Camp and almost twenty years since the release of the last sequel, and finally, we find ourselves with the oft-delayed fourth entry in the series (fifth if you consider the scrapped "Part IV" part of the series). I've been following this one for what seems like ages now, but I have to be honest: I really wasn't expecting much out of the final product. The filmmakers ran out of money on numerous occasions, it was constantly getting pushed back (fun fact: it was originally slated for a 2003-2004 release), entire chunks of the movie were reshot, actors dropped out and were replaced, and really, everything that could possibly go wrong did go wrong. All of this led to extreme pessimism on my part, but then the early reviews started coming out and it seemed as though they were torn down the middle, with some saying "I loved the original and this is alright, I guess", while others said "I loved the original and this is a piece of shit." Still, no matter how low my hopes were, I had to check it out. Final verdict? I firmly believe that those who "loved the original" and hated this one loved the status of the original, not the actual film.
Review by Chad
Added: November 19, 2008
Taking place some twenty years after the events of the first film (and ignoring the two sequels entirely), tonight's film takes us to Camp Manabe, the camp that was set up after the vicious murders at Camp Arawak. There, we find that Frank (Vincent Pastore) has taken on the position of head counselor, while Ronnie (Paul DeAngelo) - still traumatized after the original set of murders - serves as co-owner and counselor. Other than that, not much has changed in the world of summer camp: the counselors are still sex-crazed deviants, the older teens are still cruel to the less-popular kids, and poor Alan (Michael Gibney) seems to get the worst of the abuse. It's not that he doesn't deserve it as he's an overweight slob with a big mouth and a bad attitude, but it does seem as though the other kids take their torment just a little too far.
Then, the totally unthinkable happens: somebody turns up dead. And then another body shows up... and another... and another. Someone is on a murderous rampage here, but who? Has Angela (Felissa Rose) broken out of the asylum where she was housed to add a couple of notches onto her body count belt? Did her brother Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten) finally snap? Is Alan lashing out at the kids who teased him? Maybe the compassionate counselor (Kate Simses) who is always sticking up for Alan has had enough? How about the nerdy little girl who is always getting picked on? There's more than a handful of red herrings tossed into the mix, but the actual twist - though not entirely unexpected - is pretty damned fun. Watch for cameo appearances by Isaac Hayes as a chef (go figure) and the 2004 lineup of rock band CKY.
When deciding if this is worth a viewing, there's really only one question that needs to be asked: did you enjoy the original film? I mean, did you really enjoy it, start to finish? If you thought that it was a bad movie with the exception of the final twist or if you just didn't like it in general, then go ahead and stop reading this review now: Return to Sleepaway Camp is definitely not the film for you. This entry attempts to recreate the atmosphere and overall feel of the first film, complete with campy characters, clichéd plot elements, hammy acting, and of course, loads of fun yet completely unrealistic kills. Is this a criticism of the film? Not in the least; I enjoyed the hell out of the first film, and I believe that Robert Hiltzik successfully emulated everything that made it work as well as it did while still bringing something halfway new to the table.
Keeping with the comparisons, this film really feels like a direct sequel to the original; if you watched the two films back to back and didn't know any better, it'd be easy to mistakenly assume that they were shot just months apart. This sequel truly feels like it came straight out of the eighties, and while that may be a turnoff for those of you who dislike the eighties way of doing things, fans of those years gone by (such as myself) will certainly enjoy the presentation of this one.
I also enjoyed just about every last one of the cast members found here. Note that I didn't say that they turned in stellar performances (they didn't), but they all managed to bring an enjoyable character into the fold nonetheless. My only complaint, and this is a minor one, was the lack of a clear protagonist for the film to center around. It's hard to feel bad for Alan after seeing the things that he pulls on his fellow campers, but then, it's hard to get behind anyone else as they're just as cruel to our chubby leading man. Still, the focus of this film was to put a bunch of campers together and let a murderer go to work on them, so a lack of a true hero is far from a deal-breaker.
It's a great movie that I thoroughly enjoyed, but again, I have to point out that this was made strictly for the fans of the original. If you get turned off by bad acting, "campy" storylines, over-the-top gore, and eighties slashers in general, this film will not be your cup of tea. If you haven't seen the first film, you should be ashamed of yourself and realize that this is not the place to start. If, however, you can quote the first movie almost line by line and if you think that it ranks somewhere in the top ten slashers of the eighties, then yes, you really need this one on your shelf. It's not a perfect film and it doesn't outshine the original, but it's certainly a worthy entry in the series and left me hoping for more. 8/10.
- added December 1, 2008 at 1:06pm
8/10? Really? Seriously? After the whole
farts-on-fire sequence at the beginning, I kind of
tuned out through the rest of it. There was lots
of blood. Vincent Pastore was awful, as usual.
- added December 1, 2008 at 11:26pm
The first movie had crude humor like that...
remember the cook? Regardless, it's a very minor
scene in the movie. Also, yes, Pastore was pretty
awful in terms of acting ability, but he was
entertaining... and again, this is not at all
unlike the original movie.
- added December 11, 2008 at 5:25am
It was alright.
- added January 8, 2009 at 2:46am
I really hated Alan in this movie, he was so
goddamn annoying screaming every 5 minutes. But
overall, it was an good movie, but I was let down.
It's extremely obvious who the killer is as I
called it out about 20-30 minutes into the film.
But again, a nice little slasher. 7/10
- added January 8, 2009 at 2:55am
Also, what was the point of Isaac Hayes? I just
expected a little more from him, he only had about
2 minutes of screen time, and it was pretty
pointless. Some cameo...
- added April 27, 2009 at 11:56am
That girl that Alan had a crush on was so damn
annoying. When they were trying to get the noose
off her, she probably said "Get it off!"
as loud as she could a good 50 times. She also
screams way too much, unnecessarily. I didn't get
the point of Isaac Hayes either. Overall pretty
good though. 7/10.
- added April 7, 2013 at 1:07am
The nail bed kill was pretty cool. Everything else
was laughably horrendous.