In the past, I've loudly proclaimed- many times, even- how much I love the Sleepaway Camp movies. With the DVD release of Return to Sleepaway Camp upon us recently, I decided to take a magical walk through Angela Land over at AMC Land this week. Join me, won't you?
The newest installment is...it's...dammit, it's not very good. I wanted it to be, and I still want it to be. I find myself making excuses for it- "Well, this one part was funny...this kill was kinda neat..." but really, I'm just in denial. Admitting I have a problem, I suppose, is the first step towards something or other.
Camp Arawak is now Camp Manabe, but the kids are just as cruel and nasty as ever. Alan (Michael Gibney) bears the brunt of everyone's teasing, and he, in turn, picks on the few kids lower on the social ladder than he is. Alan is repeatedly humiliated in front of the entire camp, but the counselors (including Ronnie (Paul DeAngelo), the shorts-wearin' 'roid case from the original film) and camp owner (Vincent Pastore, whose casting brings about the inevitable "Big Pussy" joke) refuse to take any real action. Soon enough, campers and counselors alike begin to get dead...is Alan behind the murders, or could it be...dun dun dunnnnn...Angela, who's purportedly been locked away in a mental hospital for the last 20 years?
Gee, I wonder.
Seriously. This ending is telegraphed...well, before you even put in the DVD. If you don't see the "twist" (yeah, it's supposed to be a surprise, I guess) coming, then you're blinder than blind. So blind, in fact, that you probably don't have eyes. Or a head. Actually, you probably don't even exist and you can't watch movies to begin with. It's really that obvious.
Is it supposed to be? I don't know. Return to Sleepaway Camp never takes itself seriously, but not in a way that's actually any fun, like...oh, say Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers. The acting is broad and generally awful. There's absolutely no tension or suspense or scares whatsoever. The kills and effects kinda get better as the film goes on, but by that time it's too late to really care. Yeah, it's cool that this is a "true" sequel in that cast members and characters return, but that's a novelty that provides .0003 seconds of entertainment.
Somehow, the black humor and cheekiness of the first film just works. Here, 20 years on, it doesn't. Is Return to Sleepaway Camp too knowing? That's the best I can come up with. Whatever the reason, it's a bummer just the same. It hurts me to say it, but this isn't good bad...it's just bad.
Man, even typing that, I still don't want to admit it! I'm already thinking "I'll watch it again and see...I must be wrong!" Such is the power Angela has over me.