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Comebacks usually aren’t a good thing. Just ask boxer, Sugar Ray Leonard, who stepped into the boxing ring after being retired for several years and got knocked out by Hector Macho Camacho before the first round ended. Well, for “legendary” director Robert Hiltz (How’d he get that title, anyway?) his return to the camera after being away for nearly 20 years is just as disastrous. Now, I’m not saying that the first three “Sleepaway Camp” films will ever earn a spot on the AFI (American Film Institute) 100 Best Movies of All Time, but the earlier movies, unlike this latest installment, were at least filled with funny dialogue, dark humor, cool death scenes, and plenty of hot chicks who never had a problem showing their goods.
“Return to Sleepaway Camp” (RTSC) is a direct sequel to the first “Sleepaway Camp” that ignores the two “Sleepaway Camp” installments in between (“SC 2: Unhappy Campers” and “SC 3: Teenage Wasteland”) much the same way that “Jason Goes to Hell” pretended that “Jason Takes Manhattan” didn’t exist. You know it always pisses me off when writers, directors, and movie studios pull this kind of crap with movie franchises. Just keep the series somewhat consistent and make a sequel that picks up where the last one left off. But believe it or not, this is the least of the movie’s problems. Anyway, let me get back to my review. So the “plot” for RTSC involves a “mysterious killer” who is offing campers and counselors in a variety of boring and uninspiring ways at yet another summer camp. Hiltzik tries to keep anyone left watching the movie guessing by having Angela, I mean the “mysterious killer”, wear a ridiculous disguise and use a voice decoder that sounds like a Speak ‘n’ Spell with dying batteries to conceal their real identity. But trust me, this isn’t “Clue’ Goes to Sleepaway Camp.” Felissa Rose, who played Angela in the original “Sleepaway Camp”, stars in this installment, so anyone with the intelligence level of an amoeba (sorry if I offended any amoebas out there) should know who’s doing the killing this time around. And while I’m on the subject of killing, “Sleepaway” films usually have memorable kills, right? Well not in this sequel. Thanks to some very bad directing and editing, everybody takes so freakin’ long to die. Any kind of suspense or “wow” factor from a death scene is ruined because the camera cuts back and forth to whatever object is getting ready to kill its next victim several times before a death actually occurs. It’s as if Hiltzik wanted to make sure he didn’t loose the audience. Wishful thinking on his part because hopefully anyone who made the mistake of renting this cinematic turd either turned it off before they wasted too much time, or got hammered after the film’s first death scene and passed out.
A few of the original cast members who survived the first “Sleepaway Camp” return for this sequel, but even they can’t salvage this horrible movie because it’s twenty years later, and they still can’t act. Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tiersten, and Paul DeAngelo really should have taken at least a couple of warm-up acting gigs like commercials before signing on to do this movie. Their performances are so bad it makes the acting in “Troll 2” seem Shakespearean in comparison. If any of them want to show up for the next sequel they should avoid further embarrassment and just make cameos as newspaper clippings or framed photographs, like Sean Connery did in “Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls.” The movie still had one last chance to redeem itself with a cool finale, but unfortunately what we get is a predictably lame “reveal” ending that is another huge disappointment in a movie full of disappointments, especially when compared to the gender-bender-ender of the original “Sleepaway Camp.”
For a film that was delayed more times than a Britney Spears comeback, this film sure did feel rushed and thrown-together. I read a whole laundry list of “reasons” why the film’s release date kept getting pushed back. First it was Hiltzik wanted to get the effects just right. Then re-shoots were needed. Next it was that there were problems with the CGI again, etc. Well I’ve seen the movie, and the visual effects really don’t look that bad. Movies of the Week shown on the Sy-Fy Channel have worst CGI in them. After watching the movie for about 2 mins. I found out the real reason for all of the delays, and it’s that the movie sucks, plain and simple. There’s just no other way to put it. Instead of worrying about the quality of the visual effects and whatever else, Hiltzik’s priority should’ve been to make a movie that was actually watchable.
I was really hoping that poor DVD sales for RTSC would close this camp for good. But I’ve recently read that Hiltzik unfortunately has another 3-D “Sleepaway” sequel in production, which is a real shame because it probably means that Michael Simpson who did “SC: 2” and “SC: 3” won’t get the opportunity to do his supernatural sequel called “Sleepaway Camp: Berserk” any time soon, or possibly ever. His idea sounds like it would be a fun movie to me. Click here for the movie’s brief plot synopsis.
If you want to visit a camp this summer, don’t return to Sleepaway Camp and go to Crystal Lake instead.
Check out the trailer for “Return to Sleepaway Camp”