The Sleepaway Camp series has struggled since the heyday of the original movie’s release in 1983. The first film is a classic slasher horror with one of the most impressive and shocking endings in horror. We loved it and you can read our review here. Unfortunately, it started going wrong almost immediately with the average sequel, Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (read our review here).
Then we got Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland a year later, a shocker of a horror movie (read our review here) but it was a classic when compared to Sleepaway Camp IV: The Survivor. Seriously, we gave that film a 0/10 and you can read our scathing full thoughts here.
With such dire sequels, it was hard to get too excited about Return to Sleepaway Camp. On the one-hand it’s a sequel to the original movie ignoring everything that came afterwards but on the other it was finished in 2003 and didn’t actually get released until 2008. This was because the effects were not up to scratch and they struggled to get distribution deals. Just how bad is Return to Sleepaway Camp that it needed its effects to be redone and nobody wanted to release it for 5 years?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a deeply flawed horror. However, in a surprising turn of events, Return to Sleepaway Camp is not a bad movie. In fact, it’s entertaining. It also manages to re-capture the horror and silliness of the original movie to some degree.
The focus is on a young teenage boy, Alan (Michael Gibney). He is having an absolute nightmare time at a summer camp. This is because he is an obnoxious bully with little social skills. He also has a temper that probably needs to be checked out with a doctor. Alan gets into fights and arguments with everybody including the counsellors who are incredibly inept.
Honestly, the longer this film goes on the more I was sure this camp needed to be closed down completely.
Alan’s out of control behaviour results in a kitchen knife bring thrown at a cook. Which should be a step too far but again is just kind of brushed over. Alan’s excuse that the cook was being mean to him doesn’t fly but he runs off into the night chased by his step-brother Michael (Michael Werner). Shortly afterwards, the cook is murdered by being lifted up and dipped head-first into his deep fryer. It’s a great scene and the effect of the cooked head afterwards is pretty decent too.
Life for Alan at the camp continues to get worse but every person who torments him ends up beING killed in some convoluted way afterwards. One counsellor becomes convinced that Angela has returned but the local police officer dismisses it. The police officer is a strange character, originally brought in to talk to the kids about the dangers of smoking, it’s painfully obvious from the start that it’s make-up and a costume. I wonder who it could really be?
Anyway, Alan continues to suffer all while being an absolute psycho himself and the body count increases leading to a blood-crazy finale with a piss-poor twist. While the film tries to make you think that Alan could be responsible it does it halfheartedly almost as if it couldn’t quite be bothered to do the legwork needed for a proper twist ending.
When the killer is revealed to be Angela (Felissa Rose reprising her role) it’s a shoulder shrugging moment at best and it should never be that. It’s also really disappointing that her screen time is all of 15 seconds long. Then the movie ends.
Flat ending aside, Return to Sleepaway Camp is so silly at times it’s difficult to not enjoy. The movie is worth watching alone for the over the top performances especially, Michael Gibney as Alan. The time needed to perfect the effects also paid off. There are some decent looking moments such as a skinned body, a sharpened broom through the head and the previously-mentioned fryer head.
This isn’t a return to form for the series but it’s a step above Teenage Wasteland and The Survivor. Just give us more Angela next time if there is a next time!
Return to Sleepaway Camp
The Final Score - 5.5/10