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I would have never guessed Sleepaway Camp to spawn three sequels, but then the general appeal of the original is lost on me as well. I get the shock value of its end reveal, and the FX on that shot, for all its low tech simplicity, work quite well as long as the shot lingers briefly enough. What the original lacks, though, the sequels have made up for with purpose. That vital element is, of course, original and awe-inspiring kills. The first one stays too much to camp-themed weapons, such as a bow on an archery range, while employ little imagination as to the application of said weapons.

Sleepaway Camp 2 and 3 replaced the star, Felissa Rose, with Bruce Springsteen’s little sister, Pamela. It also added such curiosities as murder by garbage truck and a healthy dose of black humor over the previously serious, Friday the 13th knock off vibe. I think each is little seen but has a strangely rabid cult following.

Return to Sleepaway Camp throws away all previous tone and establishes itself fully tongue-in-cheek with the first appearance of its villain, Angela, seemingly returned from the first movie and ignoring its other sequels. I have no desire to argue canon from these films, so in the words of Phillip Marlowe, it’s okay by me.

Most of the movie follows the exploits of Alan, the camp’s fat kid and its smelly kid, in his increasingly filthier one white t-shirt. He’s set up as the red herring early on but subtlety isn’t the movie’s strong suit. The villain is given away in that character’s first appearance. The movie pads out way too many scenes with this character as he has zero appeal. Neither misunderstood outsider nor simmering kettle of the brilliant psychotic rage needed to plan elaborate but ironic murders, Alan wastes the time of everyone both onscreen and off.

The real purpose of the movie is visually inventive gross-out kills and inside gags. Alan calls Vincent Pastore’s character a “big pussy” for no other reason than reference, and the late Isaac Hayes appears as the camp’s head cook, complete with blue pants, red t-shirt and white apron. As a visual gag I’ve seen worse. Once the killing begins the movie gets funnier, though. Ironic deaths abound for a cook, a stoner and a jerk with an animal cruelty streak and a sharp knife that are better seen than discussed.

Between these gags and the appearance of Sheriff Cancer Kazoo, Return to Sleepaway Camp almost makes up for the time wasted on Alan. Make no mistake, this movie is a total time waster, but it has some laughs to offer. 2 stars

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2 Comments

  1. I remember snoozing through the first film only to be caught completely off guard by the Crying Game moment. I’d imagine that without any surprise left, future installments are pointless.

    • I completely maintain that no one would recall this original had it not been for those ten crazy seconds at the end.


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