Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Kumbay-Killer, Retro Style

Return To Sleepaway Camp is made for one audience and one audience only: nostalgic and forgiving fans of the 1983 original. Like that odd little horror and its cheerfully bad sequels, this 2008 entry has no real scares or intentionally witty humor. This is a cheap and affectionate homage to an infamous--if not especially good--low budget semi-classic of yore.

Quick Plot: Welcome to Camp Manadake, a summer getaway for incredibly obnoxious teenagers and run by mostly child-hating counselors. Our (cough cough) protagonist is husky frog-friending Alan, an understandably outcasted camper who is basically the boy that wouldn’t take a shower from Wet Hot American Summer, all awkwardly grown up. Poor Alan huffs his way through seemingly unsupervised days of croquet as slowly---verrrrrrrry slowly---some of his tormentors are killed through Saw-lite methods of murder. Camp director Vincent Pastore (his acting improving only an appetizer’s portion of antipasto since Black Roses) and junior partner Paul DeAngelo (whose thespian powers have been frozen in the 80s) fret about lost camp tuition and the possible return of Angela Baker, the transgendered murderess who wields a mean curling iron and even meaner guitar.

This is a movie that brewed in production purgatory for some time, and while it’s nice to have a genuine throwback horror, Return To Sleepaway Camp is also a reminder as to why some films die quick deaths (unlike the cast members, who suffer prolonged and elaborate torture that take too long to get to and even longer to end). From the nasty characters to the juvenile jokes, there’s simply too much to dislike in RtSC to really enjoy it. The spirit is admirable; the experience is not.

High Points
The nods to earlier films are gleefully deliberate (The Return of Ronnie’s Short Shorts!) and perhaps serendipitously accidental, like the police chief’s prosthetic nose and its resemblence to Part 1’s magic marker mustache

Because you don’t like one single character, rooting for all their deaths is quite easy

Low Points
Because you don’t like one single character, sitting through their dialogue is painful

Yes, it’s cute to have Isaac Hayes play a chef named Chef, but is that the end of the joke?

With few exceptions, every death takes about six times as long as it should. There’s no reason for this film to be 100+ minutes. But it is. And it feels like eternity.

Lessons Learned
Organized paintball has the potential to be amazinglly awesome. Can I watch that movie instead?

Rats chew fast

It’s really hard to get kicked out of camp nowadays

If you haven’t seen or never cared for the Sleepaway Camp franchise, avoid this film like a campfire sing-a-long. It’s simply not good. Loyal fans of Angela’s zany adventures will definitely want to check out the newest generation and many may find it to be fun. It’s goofy and stupid--just like Parts I-III. Enter at your own risk.

Despite my valiant efforts (okay, two rounds of Googling) I failed to find an adequate picture of DeAngelo's gams or 1983's artificial mustache. However, since Amityville II's review birthed quite the 'stache admiration society, I figured I'd include a nod to my personal favorite finely crafted whiskers of the 80s:

Keith almost makes me want to embrace a caterpillar. Almost.


  1. I had a Keith Hernandez card back when I used to collect baseball cards! And yes, his stache is right on.

    I'll still check out RtSC some time, but I'm not expecting much at all. I saw the trailer for it forever ago and thought it looked fun, but 100+ mins.?! A movie like this should never be more than like 89 mins. that's just like a rule or some shit.

    Also, Wet Hot American Summer is awesome I must add!

  2. This movie really, really needed the "happy camper" song. I watched it twice. Alan is probably the most annoying character in cinema history.

  3. A good 25+ minutes could have been shaved off this film simply by clipping each death scene by one extra cut. Everything just took too long, and this is NOT the film to dilly dally.

    Where were those happy camper songs??? I guess the director wanted to take it back to the original, but I would have loved me some Pamela Springstein sunshine.

    Alan. Ugh. Any time you started to pity him, he started talking. And then feelings of hatred seeped back inside.

    Now if you'll excuse me. I'm gonna go fondle some sweaters. I mean, fonduuuuuuuue with cheddar.