FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Nov 12, 2008

oh, Angela.

In the past, I've loudly proclaimed- many times, even- how much I love the Sleepaway Camp movies. With the DVD release of Return to Sleepaway Camp upon us recently, I decided to take a magical walk through Angela Land over at AMC Land this week. Join me, won't you?

The newest installment's...dammit, it's not very good. I wanted it to be, and I still want it to be. I find myself making excuses for it- "Well, this one part was funny...this kill was kinda neat..." but really, I'm just in denial. Admitting I have a problem, I suppose, is the first step towards something or other.

Camp Arawak is now Camp Manabe, but the kids are just as cruel and nasty as ever. Alan (Michael Gibney) bears the brunt of everyone's teasing, and he, in turn, picks on the few kids lower on the social ladder than he is. Alan is repeatedly humiliated in front of the entire camp, but the counselors (including Ronnie (Paul DeAngelo), the shorts-wearin' 'roid case from the original film) and camp owner (Vincent Pastore, whose casting brings about the inevitable "Big Pussy" joke) refuse to take any real action. Soon enough, campers and counselors alike begin to get Alan behind the murders, or could it be...dun dun dunnnnn...Angela, who's purportedly been locked away in a mental hospital for the last 20 years?

Gee, I wonder.

Seriously. This ending is telegraphed...well, before you even put in the DVD. If you don't see the "twist" (yeah, it's supposed to be a surprise, I guess) coming, then you're blinder than blind. So blind, in fact, that you probably don't have eyes. Or a head. Actually, you probably don't even exist and you can't watch movies to begin with. It's really that obvious.

Is it supposed to be? I don't know. Return to Sleepaway Camp never takes itself seriously, but not in a way that's actually any fun, like...oh, say Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers. The acting is broad and generally awful. There's absolutely no tension or suspense or scares whatsoever. The kills and effects kinda get better as the film goes on, but by that time it's too late to really care. Yeah, it's cool that this is a "true" sequel in that cast members and characters return, but that's a novelty that provides .0003 seconds of entertainment.

Somehow, the black humor and cheekiness of the first film just works. Here, 20 years on, it doesn't. Is Return to Sleepaway Camp too knowing? That's the best I can come up with. Whatever the reason, it's a bummer just the same. It hurts me to say it, but this isn't good's just bad.

Man, even typing that, I still don't want to admit it! I'm already thinking "I'll watch it again and see...I must be wrong!" Such is the power Angela has over me.


Anonymous said...

"That said, there's plenty of humor -- both intentional and unintentional -- in the movie, and the entire affair is replete with acting that leaves you unsure whether or not everyone is in on the joke."

Well said. I think that is the best description for how to digest the first "Sleepaway Camp."

thebonebreaker said...

I've never seen the other sequels, so I cannot compare it to those.

This one, obviously was not going to have the shock ending that the 1st one had, though I still thought that the movie was decent.

Great Review!

Anonymous said...

I've seen your sentiments echoed several other places. But if something doesn't deliver for you, ESPECIALLY when you are a member of it's target audience, you don't owe it anything! It's its own damn fault and it deserves a spanking!

They had so long to get it right, but they weren't hungry like they were when they made the original. The original has entertainment value on any level for any viewer and I think that comes from the desperation of needing to succeed. They had so long to get it right, that they just couldn't live up to their own (low) expectations.

Boy, it really sounds like I'm talking aboot Chinese Democracy!

Arbogast said...

Is the kid at the top of this thread saying "Land ho!"? Because that sure looks like what he's saying.

Stacie Ponder said...

Arbo, he most certainly IS. There's this weird interlude on a schooner, where the campers get lost at doesn't really jibe with the rest of the movie, though.

Or should I doesn't really JIB?

No, I probably shouldn't. That wouldn't make any sense.

Koompa said...

After Scream and its sequels it seems like every slasher movie has to have a 'wink wink nudge nudge' self referential humor. Sometimes it's hard to tell if a movie really is trying in on the joke or if it's genuine ineptitude.

Speaking of the first panel, when I was a kid I never played telescope with paper towel rolls for THAT VERY REASON.

Anonymous said...

This post says everything I wanted to in a much more concise way. When I sat down to write my own review, I originally intended for it to be a short synopsis followed by some disappointed head shaking about kids these days and how nobody respects the power of a good thousand yard blank stare. Instead, it turned into something of an epic, several paragraphs of which were dedicated to my desperate attempts to make sense out of the ending.

And yet, I still have the damn thing on my computer waiting to be viewed again with a friend.

Jason Adams said...

Aww I kinda enjoyed it. It was crap, and I agree with you on spotting the "twist" from the time I was in the womb, but I still had fun with it. I think I was rather intoxicated though. But between killings all it was was everyone being hilariously cruel and hateful for absolutely no reason. Everyone sucked so badly! It amused me. And the killings were fun. Of course it don't live up to the original, but I guess the low expectations I had for this one did me right. Also, the booze. The booze helped.

Anonymous said...

I love the Sleepaway movies. I've ran numerous Sleepaway marathons with different people, and just about everyone 'gets it'.

Needless to say, we were all pretty excited about the new addition to the canon.

The excitement wore off quickly... in fact, as soon as Alan opened his mouth. His character was the worst red herring I can remember. Everyone knows Angela was going to be around, but I would've personally preferred her to just be there, out in the open. The movies were more entertaining when you knew exactly what was happening... this pitiful sheriff disguise was awful.

Overall, this movie made me a sad panda. Three thumbs down.

rob! said...

wasn't Angela played by Pam Springsteen, who has a (slightly) more famous brother?

i wonder what those Thanksgiving dinners are like.

Arbogast said...

There's this weird interlude on a schooner, where the campers get lost at sea

What the fo'c'sle?~!

Anonymous said...

Plese tell me that the twist isn't that Alan is missing what Angela had.

Anonymous said...

Dude you totally nailed it. I was making excuses for the film as well, but didn't realize it until reading your post. THANK YOU.