OCTOBER 8, 2009
Being stuck at work, I missed the original Sleepaway Camp (a rare 35mm screening no less), but made it to Cinefamily in time for Return To Sleepaway Camp, which is a direct sequel to the first film (ignoring Sleepaways 2 and 3). As a bonus, I got to host a brief Q&A with one of the film’s actresses, the delightful Jackie Tohn, a lass who isn’t afraid to spill dirt and mock the production’s shortcomings. In fact, I even pointed out that the film would likely be a letdown after the riotous Q&A, but for the most part the film was just as wonderfully batshit and mean-spirited.
Return To (which was the working title, perhaps to hide the film’s legacy from either unions or original producers) is quite possibly the most hateful movie ever made, so I can see why HMAD reader Thomas thought I would like it. I don’t think there is a single sympathetic character in the entire movie, and at least half of it revolves around the incessant bullying of one character, Alan, an overweight man-child who seemingly hates everyone else as much as they hate him. There is no end to his torment, and in order to keep him as a viable suspect for all of the killings (yeah, right), he is never allowed to have an on-screen comeuppance. It gets to the point where you have to seriously question the mental stability of not only the characters, but the screenwriters as well. Just what the fuck happened to these folks at summer camp that resulted in this wholly un-flattering portrayal of what happens there?
Now, at home, the movie is probably unbearable to watch (indeed, since 99% of those who have seen it probably did so on DVD, I haven’t heard a single good thing about it other than from my good friend Matt, who offered “it’s... something.”). But in a theater with 40 or so people (50 to start - natch), and one of the film’s actresses pointing out a few gaffes, it becomes a surreally entertaining experience, on par with something like Blood Diner or Pieces, where the film’s unrelenting (and seemingly intentional) badness is far more entertaining than any straight followup would have been.
The only failing that DOESN’T work to its advantage are its actual slasher movie elements. The killings are enjoyably over the top (love the spiked bunk bed one), but they are few and far between, and despite a runtime of only 75 minutes, it definitely starts to drag (you could tell from the crowd’s reaction - the first 20 minutes were deafened by laughter and applause, but that grew to a trickle by the film’s conclusion). And it hasn’t helped that the killer’s identity was essentially spoiled by the actor him or herself announcing that they were in the movie, despite the fact that their character is never seen until the “shock” climax.
And once again, we don’t have a goddamn ending. I guess Robert Hiltzik (who was supposed to show for the screening and canceled) just figures people don’t need conclusions in their slasher movies, so he opts once again to simply reveal the killer, cut in a few reaction shots of survivors (of which there are many, again), and go to credits. Maybe I’m old school, but the idea of a killer surviving the film is only cool if they were actually presumed dead in a battle that occurred moments earlier. It’s like, what do all of the surviving characters do? Just sit there? Make a citizen’s arrest? Though apparently had I waited through the credits, I would have seen a scene that explains a bit of the gap between this and the first film, so at least he’s trying to make amends.
Long and short of it - I would probably have tossed this into the ‘Crap’ bin had I watched it at home. But as a crowd experience, I think it works. Let’s put it this way - I stayed awake through the whole thing, despite the fact that it didn’t start until 10:30 and I had a long day at work (and was so tired when I got home that I actually slept through my alarm and missed my flight to Boston). And you can quote me on that! “BC of Horror Movie A Day says ‘I didn’t fall asleep once!”
What say you?