Monday, November 10, 2008

Return to Sleepaway Camp (2008)

Sometimes you watch a movie and think, WTF did I just watch and why in the hell was this sh*tfest every made?! I usually don’t cuss in my reviews, but Return to Sleepaway Camp is such an insult to horror movie fans that it deserves every curse thrown its way. Their tagline is “Kids can be so mean!” but wait until I’m through with this review…

It’s a pity Return to Sleepaway Camp so horrible…I am a fan of the first three films (and of course hold the original in very high regard), so I was looking forward to see just what they could do with another sequel. The things that made the first three films so great (the kills, the campiness, the tension, the blood and the likable characters) are all missing from this installment. Return to Sleepaway Camp is a sloppy, disappointing mess that I had to force myself to sit through.

Hey, it is summertime and the obnoxious kids at Camp Manabe seem to love spending all their free time torturing each other. Alan (Michael Gibney) is the unfortunate loser of the camp and seems to get the brunt of the abuse, even though he brings it upon himself by harassing campers and counselors alike. (“Kids can be so mean!”) When campers start to go missing, counselor Ronnie, who used to work at the ill-fated Camp Arawak, is convinced Angela has come back seeking revenge. When a prank unhinges Alan, though, people start to suspect he is behind the murders.

Return to Sleepaway Camp is a completely useless pile of crap that’s embarrassing to even watch. Not only is it embarrassing (not to mention insulting) to horror fans, but it is excruciatingly painful to sit through. I wanted to turn it off as soon as the opening credits rolled (they feature music that feels completely out of place in a horror movie) and then when the first scene featured a group of kids lighting farts I knew pretty much it would be downhill from there. Still, I kept pressing on, waiting for some redeeming values to flicker across the screen so I wouldn’t feel like my brain had been raped repeatedly by this obnoxious, pointless film.

No dice…I’d been f*cked. And hard.

First off, the film is atrociously written. It’s been 25 years since writer/director Robert Hiltzik did the original Sleepaway Camp and those long 25 years between gigs definitely show. The writing feels canned, stale and ridiculous. I understand that “camp” is what they aimed for, but all the attempts at being funny fall very, very flat. Also, the actual plot is very sparse and everything feels under-developed. And what happened to the tension and suspense of Hiltzik’s original Sleepaway Camp?

Not only that, but all of the characters are inherently unlikable. Was Alan, the kid who got picked on the most, written as a special ed kid? If so, mentally challenged people everywhere should sue, because his portrayal is just…retarded. Unlike the original Sleepaway Camp, where we cared about the outcast Angela, I just kept wishing the killer (who is obviously NOT Alan) would pop up and off Alan, just to end his whining. Ronnie, the camp counselor from the original Sleepaway Camp returns, but his character is never really developed and all he does is yell about Angela returning and wear short-shorts. The rest of the characters were never fleshed out and half the time I couldn’t tell the kids apart. Also, many of the characters would appear once or a few times and yet disappear for the rest of the film without reason. Overall, I didn’t have anyone to root for and didn’t care at all what happened to any of the idiotic characters.

And, of course, then there’s the wretched acting that makes the already unlikable characters even more loathsome. The lead actor who plays Alan, Michael Gibney, is probably the worst. I know that director Hiltzik probably told him to play it campy and over-the-top (nevermind that the script already can’t carry this because of the bad writing), but good lord was this guy annoying! Wondering if he was mentally challenged and listening to his screechy, whiny voice had my finger itching for the “stop” button on the remote more times than I can count. As for everyone else, they all looked embarrassed to be in the movie (how could you NOT be embarrassed) and their poor performances echoed that sentiment. Poor Isaac Hayes, who appears as the camp’s chef in one scene (hardy-har-har), has the unfortunate distinction of calling this his last role. Even Vincent Pastore of Sopranos fame, who played the owner of the camp, looked embarrassed to be there.

The strikes against this sorry excuse for a horror film keep coming, as the pacing of the story was very ill-conceived. The first half focuses on Alan running around harassing people then running off and whining to his pet frogs whenever people pulled pranks on him. I’m sorry, but following a special needs kid around for the first half of a horror movie yet not establishing him as a likable character (not to mention lack of kills!!) tends to drag a film down (as if this one wasn’t low enough to begin with). Around the 3/4′s mark, it seems the filmmakers came to the realization that, “Oh, shit! This is a horror movie…not a touching movie about how a mentally challenged kid’s dreams came true at summer camp! We gotta throw in some kills!” So, they do…but they are underwhelming at best. Let’s see…a fat girl eats it when a mattress spiked with nails falls on her, some dumb kid gets his eye poked out after repeatedly looking into a hole, a guy gets his precious “winky” ripped off, a guy gets French-fried in a vat of hot oil, blah, blah, blah. Unless you’re in elementary school, you will not think these kills are cool. And if you even get this far into the film without pushing the “stop” button, it’s probably because you fell asleep.

When people waste money on making shitty films like this one, I often wonder what positive uses could that money have gone to instead? Feeding the hungry? Clothing the poor? Protecting endangered species? Cancer research? Donating to charity? Making an Uwe Boll movie? Any of these uses would have been preferable to this trash-bin-bound movie.

Save yourself from an agonizing experience and ignore all the positive “reviews” posted on IMDB and other boards (probably put there by clueless fanboys or those within the production to try and drum up some positive buzz)…Return to Sleepaway Camp is an embarrassing, dated and painful experience that has absolutely no redeeming values. Fans of the original films or fans of horror films in general be warned!

Don’t wait to have your intelligence insulted by this movie…just say, f*ck you, Return to Sleepaway Camp!

I can already hear the filmmakers whining…“Critics can be so mean!”

Find the atrocity on Amazon!

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