Written by: John Edward Betancourt
It's a growing and almost welcome trend in film to essentially hit the "Reset" button. Studios and filmmakers alike are at last recognizing their mistakes and rather than let a good franchise disappear, they simply start from scratch, or find a way to forget the mistake.
A fine example of this has been in comic book movies, with Marvel providing a second chance to a couple of its franchises. It is an approach we can also find in horror with today's B movie spotlight: Return to Sleepaway Camp.
It has been years since Camp Arawak fell under the murderous spell of Angela/Peter Baker, but his/her crimes did not go unpunished and Baker was locked away forever. One of the counselors there that fateful night, Ronnie, has decided to return to the summer camp business and with a little financial help he opens Camp Manabe. It's business as usual at camp, until Alan, the resident outcast, begins to break down in anger from all the bullying. Now once more kids are dying at camp, and while the prime suspect seems to be Alan, Ronnie begins to wonder if Angela is somehow lurking in the shadows.
It was a long and difficult road to bring the fourth Sleepaway Camp film to life. Prior to this picture there was a sequel entitled The Survivor but it ran out cash mid filming and originally saw the light of day as a bonus disc in the rare Sleepaway Camp Survival Kit DVD set. Recently super fan John Klyza stepped in and made sure The Survivor was completed as since you can now find it available on DVD.
This film however, has the honor of being an official sequel, especially with the original film's writer and director; Robert Hiltzik returning to the franchise he made famous. He did exactly what Bryan Singer did with Superman Returns, simply forget about the sequels that weren't worth a damn and continue the story as a follow up to the films that actually mattered. However, if you are expecting something as groundbreaking as Sleepaway Camp prepare for a mixed bag.
On the plus side, the kills are once more spectacular. Creativity, and plenty of blood, flow from how these poor teenagers fall at the hands of the killer, and keeping the killer's true identity a secret is also handled well. Again, I won't ruin it here, but it was a pleasant surprise to see who it was before the credits roll. The film also gets credit for bringing back Paul DeAngelo to play Ronnie after all these years, and even Jonathan Tiersten, who played Ricky in the first film manages to make an appearance.
But what hurts the film most, is Alan, essentially Angela's replacement. While we are supposed to sympathize with this character, one simply cannot. While Angela was so quiet and reserved there was a level of empathy we could express when the kids started tearing into her, Alan is portrayed on screen as an absolute jackass. At times he warrants the punishment he receives, being as much of a bully as the kids around him.
All in all however, Return to Sleepaway Camp is a fun little ride. With kills that leave you cheering, but you won't find the same fulfillment as the original. This is a good attempt to capture the magic of the first, but nothing can ever top it, much less hold a candle to it. Thankfully I can safely say this time around that out of all the sequels this is the best follow up by far.