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HORROR DVD/BLU-RAY REVIEWS

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RETURN TO SLEEPAWAY CAMP
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Reviewed by: Pat Torfe

Directed by: Robert Hiltzik

Starring:
Vincent Pastore
Jonathan Tiersten
Paul DeAngelo
Felissa Rose

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about

Ronnie (Paul DeAngelo), a former Camp Arawak counselor from the original SLEEPAWAY CAMP, is now co-owner of the new Camp Manabe with Frank (Vincent Pastore). Ronnie becomes suspicious when kids and camp staff begin falling victims to gruesome "accidents" again, and can't seem to shake what happened 20 years ago. As he deals with his paranoia and list of suspects, kids and camp staff unknowingly line up for their shot at being the next casualty.

Is it good movie?

After the stillborn sequel THE SURVIVOR ended up as a supplement (well, what was filmed) in the SLEEPAWAY CAMP Survival Kit boxset from Best Buy, it looked mighty grim for the series that introduced horror fans to what certain internet forum dwellers would call 'a trap', aka Angela. Then in 2003, there was news that the creator of the first film, Robert Hiltzik, had just finished hammering out a new film in the series. Continual delays due to supposedly crappy CGI kept this sucker in post-production for years until January 2008, when Hiltzik announced the film's release for November 4th. After seeing the film, I think I know why it took so long, and not because of crappy CGI.

The main character of this type of film should be one you sympathize with and root for, not loathe and hope someone drops a barrel full of rusty nails and broken glass onto. Guess which one we get? Yes, fat and obnoxious Alan (played by Michael Gibney) is the character we have to give a damn about, constantly being tormented by his fellow campers and councilors. It doesn't help to be sympathetic to the guy when all he does is insult people, or neglect to change his clothes. Hell, even his older brother, Michael (Michael Werner) is having a tough time trying to be nice to Alan. Again, using things like that to establish Alan as a sympathetic character is a good idea, but seriously, how can you feel for a guy you want to die in the most horrible way possible?

The other characters don't fare much better, either. Bad acting is the name of the game here. Everyone, like Alan, is obnoxious and hardly worth rooting for. Also, it's one thing to bring back characters from past films for cameos and minor bits, but it's another thing to slap on the case 'Featuring Original Character and Cast Members!', have said original cast appear on screen, stumble through the scenes and expect fans to pay for the privilege of seeing this display. Hell, the late Issac Hayes as the camp's chef (blatant reference alert!), whose mug appears on the back of the case, is in the film and gone in at least 10 minutes! Great use of money, there. It's not even explained where his character went! Add that one to the list of holes in the plot, right up there with the fact that everyone at first is oblivious to campers disappearing inexplicably.

But hey, you watched SLEEPAWAY CAMP for the spectacular deaths, not the acting, right? If you were hoping that the demises of characters in RTSC would redeem the film, you'd be wrong. None of the cool deaths from the original trilogy are in danger here, as we get cutaways and badly matched up effects shots (the deep fryer death, for one). The only real notable kill during the film involves bunkbeds, but this and the other deaths are constructed as if the victims are borderline retarded (which they probably are), since they take forever to get to the payoff, and thinking people would've seen them coming a mile away. The only other death worth mentioning would be the one that happens after the credits. What the hell? Seriously, everyone's popped the DVD out and run for the bar by that point. Oh, and the CGI effects? It looks as though Hiltzik kept the crappy ones after all. I never thought opening credits could be more annoying...

A 'return' this is not. Hiltzik should've taken SLEEPAWAY CAMP IV's demise as a warning and let this series go quietly. RETURN is nothing what the original trilogy was in terms of kills or fun. It limps by on sloppy editing, unlikeable characters, unsatisfying kills and hopes that people get pulled in by the return of past characters. With another SLEEPWAWAY CAMP movie on the way in 2010 (also directed by Robert Hiltzik), here's hoping that RETURN was the lone charred french fry in the fryer.

Video / Audio

Video: The anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen transfer is sharp and colourful for the most part. There's some light grain here and there, along with some occasional dirt and debris thrown in. It looks good, but I'm a little surprised at the debris being in the print. Oh wait, no I'm not, given that the film took its sweet time getting here.

Audio: You have a choice of a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround or a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track. The 5.1 track offers clear dialogue and sound effects, but with some mixing issues regarding the music in the first half of the film. Both tracks have great use of movement in the audio, with the 5.1 offering some good surround sound effects during the paintball scene.

The Extras

Right off the bat, we get three startup trailers, one for RED, which stars Tom Sizemore, one for HANK AND MIKE, which stars two guys in pink bunnie suits (seriously) and one for MISTER FOE (known as HALLAM FOE for you schmoes across the pond).

The 28-minute Behind The Scenes featurette is your typical 'fly on the wall' documentary, with narration by Producer Jeff Hayes and actress Felissa Rose. Consisting of on-set footage and on-camera comments from the cast and crew, we also see application of prosthetics, animal wrangling, and other goofings off on the set. It's interesting, and probably moreso than the film itself.

Following that are 15 Interviews with the cast, but really are just 2-minute clips of the actors explaining their characters. Meh.

Next up is a Photo Gallery, which lasts over 2 minutes and consists of various pictures of the cast and crew on the set and behind the scenes. It's also another one of those 'let's have the gallery play automatically without allowing the viewer to move back and forth manually between pictures', which pisses me off to no extent.

Finally, we get a Music Video for "Return To Sleepaway Camp" performed by Goat and Friends. Basically, it's the song heard during the opening credits of the film, but it's not even a music video. Rather, it's a semi-static shot of the main menu DVD graphic with an annoying song by that lousy garage band that lives next door to you playing in the background.

Last Call

It's kind of depressing seeing the return of one of 80s cult horror darlings amounting to sneezing in the face of your girlfriend's dad when you first meet. Then you remember how annoying Michael Gibney's character is, and how this return amounted to little more than a 'how not to make a comeback' lesson in the span of 86 minutes, and decide to revisit the original trilogy for solace. Go set up camp somewhere else.

ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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