Can you believe there was a time when it seemed Return to Sleepaway Camp would never come out? Always mere months away? So close yet so far? Believe it. I was there. It sucked. But all that slipped away on November 4th 2008 when the film was released on DVD. And fans have never looked back.
Over the years, several have asked me what I thought about the film and I’ve refused to say every time. As pretentious as this is gonna sound, I can’t put it any softer: when you step onto the other side of the curtain, you cease to able to look at a film objectively like you would otherwise. From the inside looking out is just a lot different from the outside looking in. But basically, I find it a more enjoyable film in thought and retrospect than I do whilst watching it. I have seen it a few times, and the scenes of Alan getting picked on become somewhat irritating and repetitive, seeming to serve only to pad out the running time between the excellent death scenes. But the tagline was always “Kids Can Be So Mean”, indicating the camp setting and children were more important to the creator than Angela.
I would have preferred more time spent with Ricky. Jonathan Tiersten brings true pathos to the role but it’s so fleeting. Likewise, burying Felissa Rose under make-up is a decision I’ve always contended only made sense in script form. The two have come a long way in both life and career since 1983, and it just feels like a missed opportunity to let them shine. And it looks like if we get another sequel, we will finally have that. That says it all, really: Return doesn’t feel as much a continuation as a set-up for Sleepaway Camp Reunion. The ideas the film touches on are painfully tantalizing and Robert Hiltzik seems to enjoy making us suffer for our passion. But you know, I really respect the demented old man. :-)
For better or worse, Return to Sleepaway Camp is as close to an 80’s slasher as you can get without a time machine. The original Sleepaway Camp took quite some time to garner the full scope of appreciation and analysis, and this entry will be no different. We’re past the 3 year point so what are you waiting for? Watch it again soon and appreciate the blood, sweat and tears that were put into making and releasing this sequel that by industry standard never should have happened. Sleepaway Camp is the franchise that refuses to die. Amen.