416) Return to Sleepaway Camp (2008) Dir: Robert Hiltzik Date Released: November 2008 Date Seen: November 25, 2009 Rating: 2/5
Robert Hiltzik's Return to Sleepaway Camp is undoubtedly the most obnoxious franchise reboot of all, which is both a minor blessing and a major curse. Starting right after his original Sleepaway Camp ended, Hiltzik uses Return to dismiss the three sequels that followed his only film until Return because they just didn't get the joke. Return is his way of setting the record straight, a movie so contemptuously mean in its agenda that its admirable in principle even if it feels like a very long and very dull watch. It's his way of reprimanding fans that don't see the original Sleepaway Camp as an anti-slasher but rather as just another unintentionally campy entry into that now nostalgically rehabilitated sub-genre. He accomplishes this in Return by making all the characters, even the young pariah that everybody (and I mean everybody) picks on, shrill and unsympathetic. They spend much of the film screeching the most uninspired epithets at each other ("Your ass stinks!") while the killer defies the viewer to not identify him.
It's all one big joke at the fans' expense, making each death a bland act of puritanical retribution that one would expect from a typical slasher instead of the weird, quasi-pagan murders that Angela commits in the original Sleepaway Camp. Any signs of nostalgia for that film is used cursorily as bait, as in the way that Return's first death echoes Sleepaway Camp's deep-fat frier "kill scene," as the fans might call it. The end, where Angela breaks the fourth wall and suddenly slackens her features from her iconic O face, is likewise a great big slap in the face, another way to say, "This was never serious and if you remember it otherwise, you're lying to yourself." Too bad we don't get to enjoy the joke most of the time. The film's entirely mirthless, save for one scene where two campers take turns peering into a hole in the floor with a sharpened broom stick at the other end of it. Now that's funny.