Now it can be safe to say that not many people may have heard of the 1983 cult classic, Sleepaway Camp, which is a crying shame because it really does deserve more credit than it gets within the cannon of great of horror films of the 80s. People did think it was popular enough for a few sequels though, and it managed to spawn another two offerings in 88 and 89, although these two never really lived up to the expectations of the original installment. Whilst they worked as stand alone horror movies, they didn’t really fit in with the preceding film. Fans wanted something more, and in 2008 their prayers were finally answered. I have to say that I came into the Sleepaway Camp franchise quite late on in life, but when I discovered them I had to sit and watch them all back to back. For me personally, the original movie ranks slightly higher than Friday 13th in terms of a movie within the slasher at a camp site genre.
Robert Hiltzik, the man behind the original Sleepaway Camp once again took on the writing and directing duties for Return to Sleepaway Camp, which unlike Sleepaway Camp 2 and 3, was a direct sequel to the original film.
The opening of the film gives a quick overview of what happened in the first movie to just refresh the story in the mind of the audience, seeing as how it had been 25 years between the first and fourth movie. The basic premise of the movie is that one of the camp councilors from the original film has gone into business again to open up a new camp site for the summer, but when one of the kids starts to get bullied by the other campers, people start to die in some rather gruesome ways. Now, because Hiltzik had managed to recruit some of the original actors from the first film, there is a nice sense of closure within the franchise and things have come full circle. It also means that the characters, especially Ronnie, who has returned from the first film as a partner in the camp site, have an air of paranoia that Angela has returned. Angela was the teenage killer from the first movie (if you haven’t seen the original Sleepaway Camp I am not going to give too much away because the ending is just brilliant and contains one of the creepiest images I have ever seen in a horror movie. It has stayed with me since the day I saw it) and Ronnie thinks she has come back once again to kill off the campers. Others think this can’t be case, as Angela is locked away in a mental institution.
Much to the delight of fans of the original movie, Angela’s cousin Ricky also makes a comeback, as he is questioned by the local police about the possibility of Angela being the camp killer once again. Ricky is certain that Angela can’t be involved as he often goes to visit her in her mental facility.
The movie tries to keep you guessing about who the killer is, and tries to signpost that bullied camper Alan is the one they should be looking for. The majority of the campers seem to think that he is one behind everything, as a way of retribution for everyone picking on him. It isn’t until the last few minutes that the real killer is actually unmasked. It really couldn’t have been a proper Sleepaway Camp movie without the inclusion of Angela, and without any real explanation of how she escaped, it turns out that she has been in disguise as the police all along. For me it was great see to main character from the original included once again.
I understand that Sleepaway Camp and by default Return to Sleepaway Camp are not everyone’s cup of tea, but for those that enjoy cheesy 80s horror films, they certainly need to be part of your collection!