RETURN TO SLEEPAWAY CAMP
Director: Robert Hiltzik
Year of release: 2008
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 86 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: DVD only
Also known as: Nightmare Vacation 5, Sleepaway Massacre The Return to Sleepaway Camp and Sleepaway Camp 5 The Return.
Tagline: "Kids can be so mean".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: The story is set at Camp Manabe where a group of unruly kids are spending the summer under the eye of camp owner Frank and his junior partner Ronny, a former counselor of Camp Arawak some twenty plus years earlier in the original film. The kids are a nasty bunch for the most part with teasing and bullying common place. At the center of this is Alan, an overweight obnoxious teen who spends his time both bullying and being bullied himself in equal measure. This bullying towards Alan escalates as the story progresses not only from a number of the kids but also from the assistant cook and one of the counselors Randy with Alan's half brother Michael also hostile towards him. Things quickly take a sinister turn as people that have wronged Alan either begin disappearing or turning up dead. Ronny, remembering similar circumstances at Camp Arawak years ago gets increasingly jumpy believing that Angela Baker may be back but no one puts much credence in his concerns. As the hostility and pranks towards Alan come to a head he snaps and storms off into the night at which point the deaths really begin to pile up. From there things quickly build towards the films climax where the killer is revealed from among several suspects including Alan himself, Ronny who is acting more and more weird, a female counselor who is sympathetic towards Alan and Angela's cousin Ricky who coincidentally shows up in the final scenes after being questioned by the sheriff earlier about Angela's whereabouts.
Good points: It is really cool to have the director of the original Robert Hiltzik back in the directors chair this time around and as such I felt it really had the look and feel of a Sleepaway Camp film even though it was filmed a couple of decades on from the others in the series. I felt it had a fun, entertaining and nostalgic feel to it that was reminiscent of the eighties but with a modern spin. Helping to tie it in with the rest of the series of course is the return of old cast members most notably Ronny who had a pretty big part this time around. There were also some parallels to the first film such as a nice homage to the original with the death scene of the assistant cook. Alan having a family member at camp as Angela did with Ricky was a throwback element as well but unlike in the first film Michael was far from a protective positive influence and indeed contributed towards making Alan's life a misery. Where as before we had Angela being bullied because she was shy and reserved, here Alan is bullied for the opposite reasons as he is such a loudmouth jerk.
Much like with the original it had a surprise twist at the end that I personally didn't guess. Reading comments online I think I may be in the minority as a lot of people seemed to see it coming a mile off and felt that it wasn't very good. So perhaps I was being a bit dense and short sighted but never the less I still thought it had an enjoyable effective ending. I thought they did a good job as well of building up a few candidates as to who the killer could be. One thing to say is be sure to watch the film all the way to the end of the credits at which point there is a short extra sequence which helps explain things a little better.
There were a handful of good death scenes such as the stoned guy being burned alive, the death involving the bunk beds and a skinning which is something I haven't seen too often in slasher films (if at all). It is by no means a super gory film but there are a few moments dotted around such as the cooks burnt face and the stick in the eye that satisfy.
Bad Points: The pacing and order of the film seems slightly muddled as by the time Alan has his big meltdown a couple of people have already been killed. Alan is built up as one of the main suspects though so the fact that murders were occurring before he snaps though not completely ruling him out makes it less likely he could be behind it.
Most of the kids were very obnoxious and unlikeable none more so than Alan himself. He was quite a complex character as it was hard to know how to feel about him much of the time. Seeing that he was unpleasant towards many of the younger kids it was hard to feel sympathy for him when he was victimised himself although with him being a shade of grey character instead of all good or all bad I guess you could argue it made him more realistic in one aspect at least. Perhaps with the exception of Ronny and one or two of the other adults the film is light indeed on likeable characters which does hinder it a little bit.
Going back to Alan he also exhibited bizarre behavior that wasn't very realistic and gave things a cartoonish aspect at times. For example he never seemed to change his clothes even though he was trying to impress girls and at one point he offers the girls he likes really dirty cups to drink from which is just the opposite of what any sane person in his position would do. His catchphrase of "your ass stinks" which he kept saying to all and sundry was very lame and childish as well and something you would expect a little kid to come out with not a teenager so again not very believable. In addition I thought one or two of the deaths were a bit over the top heading into cartoon territory such as the penis thing with the wire involving the Randy character.
Verdict: Although it definitely has its flaws as and is far from perfect I very much enjoyed it and was always eager to know what was going to happen next. From what I can gather this film is generally very unpopular even among Sleepaway Camp fans but I personally feel like it is a very solid entry into the series and in a way is more enjoyable than parts two and three. It probably won't be for everybody with the character of Alan in particular being hard to swallow at times but there is still an entertaining film to be found here if you stick with it.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1) Micky: Face burnt in a drum of oil, body dumped in trash compactor.
2) Weed: Burnt to death.
3) Frank: Bitten to death by rats.
4) Randy: Penis pulled off with fishing wire due to Linda driving off in a Jeep which was attached to his groin.
5) Linda: Crashed the Jeep after running into some sort of barbed wire trap. Possibly along with Randy didn't actually die as I don't think either death was confirmed or a body shown.
6) T.C: A thick wooden broom handle type stick is thrust through his eye.
7) Bella: Crushed between two bunk beds rigged with spikes.
8) Michael: Skinned alive, presumably died soon after.
9) The real sheriff. Killed by the car falling on his head when he tried to help Angela change the wheel as seen in the segment after the credits.