Has this ever happened to you? You’re sitting there watching a movie (level of enjoyment not withstanding) and you start to question the year it was made, even though you thought you knew before you headed in? The mannerisms of the characters, the editing of the film itself, hell even the way the dialogue is structured just seems to not synch with the year the imdb has so kindly informed you that it was made and released? Well kids, Return to Sleepaway Camp is one such movie. Released in 2008, Return feels like it was shot and edited a decade previous, watched by the production team who at that point realized the terrible wrong they had committed and locked it up in whatever movie gulag that terrible movies get sent to rot.
I guess terrible is maybe too strong a word to describe Return to Sleepaway Camp. I mean, we watched it and had a great time collectively mocking and booing its attempts at extending the already too lengthy Sleepaway Camp “saga”. It not like it really dragged the originals’ name through the mud as it was already looking not so hot after the original sequels. So why not make another one. Right? Beating the dead proverbial dead horse has always seemed to work for the “big three” slasher franchises so why not their little cousin Angelas’ story?
When it comes to story, Return basically has next to none. Remember Franklin, the guy in the wheel chair from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and how unsympathetic of a character he was? How he grates on your nerves the whole time and you just can’t wait for ol’ Leatherface to finally fire up his chainsaw and take him out? Well it turns out he has a kindred soul in Allan, the next most annoying semi-protagonist I think I’ve encountered in a horror movie (though Allans catch phrase of “Your ass stinks!” does make him slightly redeemable if only for comedic value). Except here we don’t get the sweet relief of seeing him eviscerated, stabbed drowned or electrocuted. Nope, he’s our guide through these 90 minutes of poorly written, even more poorly acted summer camp slashery. Allan is with us until the end.
See, he’s the stereotypical fat kid at Camp I –didn’t-bother-to-pay-attention-to-the-name, a camp inexplicably filled with 25-30 something trying to pass themselves off as 15 year olds. You see what I said earlier about feeling like a movie from the 90’s? Wildly inaccurate casting for the age of the characters is a 90’s horror movies crime, it has no place in the aughts dammit!. Despite this kid actually being just a really dislikable pseudo-bully, we’re supposed to feel bad (I guess?) that he sort of gets what he deserves and is teased right back by the campers and even the staff. Oh right, the staff! Lets take a moment and talk about them. This is pretty much the only movie I’ve ever seen set in a summer camp where the counselors smack the kids around seemingly as much as they like and get away with it scot free. It’s not even like it’s one or two people. It’s everyone from the bottom to the top. Shit, at one point one of the counselors (well, maybe he was a camper. It’s hard to tell WHEN EVERYONE IS THE SAME AGE) pins Allan to the ground and tries to force him to eat a dirt nasty looking piece of chicken off the floor before teasing him until he runs off.
The adult characters who don’t take out their frustrations by physically beating and verbally berating the “children” are few. Actually, I can only think of three in the whole movie and they’re all basically cameos so they were probably just too expensive to have on set long enough to film a decent child beating scene. One of the original counselors from the first movie makes a cameo (filling the spot of dude who’s wearing short for too inappropriately shorts to be wearing around children) , Isaac Hayes in (severely depressing news incoming) his last role before his death and a cameo that , though painfully obvious even to a blind camel, I won’t talk about here as to not “wreck” any plot points.
I refuse to say if you should watch this movie or not because I feel that it’s not a movie you should seek out. Ever. It’s the movie that you own but don’t remember purchasing until a drunken Rigby pulls it from your shelf after you’ve all drank far too much cheap beer to be able to make sensible judgments. The whole room then sits there aghast for 90 minutes, watching a horror movie car crash happen in slow-motion in front of your eyes; utterly awful but disturbingly entertaining all at the same time. So yeah, if you ever find yourself in these particular circumstances by all means watch it. Otherwise, just go about your life content knowing that if the universe ever wants you to see this movie, it will place it in your path.