Sunday, October 18, 2009

Review: Return to Sleepaway Camp

Return to Sleepaway Camp (2008)
Genre: Horror
Format: DVD
Director: Robert Hiltzik

I am a huge fan of the Sleepaway Camp series and this revival by the original's writer/director Robert Hiltzik has always been an exciting proposition ever since I first heard that it was in the works, even though it is merely a direct-to-DVD sequel.

Basically, Return to Sleepaway Camp is a slasher movie that takes place in a summer camp. Just like the Friday the 13th movies that inspired the series, expect to see the nasty deaths of ignorant camp counselors and careless campers by a serial killer - in this case, a gender-challenged psychopath named Angela. But is it really Angela who is causing all the mayhem this time around? The movie is very funny and entertaining with many awkward but engaging set pieces as well as lavishly extended death scenes. The movie is not terrible gory but the make up effects are convincing enough - especially the last kill. Return doesn't rely on cheap scares. Instead, you can see how a character is going to meet his or her end from a continent away. You just don't know when the punch line is going to hit you.

It must be hard for Hiltzik to make this movie works because the first one was an offbeat but dark chiller while the two sequels that came after it that were made by other writers/directors were tongue-in-cheek horror comedies. Instead of favoring one over the other, Hiltzik managed to combine both styles into the movie successfully. Thus, the movie still has some of the sinister tone from the original and the hilarity of the sequels. Return has a low budget feel to it and its poor lighting as well as the washed out colors made it look like something that was made in the early 80s. Kudos to Hiltzik for bringing back a very important cast member from the first film and using that person's comeback brilliantly.

Do you miss the old slasher movies? If you answered "Yes!" to that question, then this movie is perfect for you. The premise is ridiculous, the offbeat factor is high, the murders are crazy, and the ending is spectacular. Return should have hit the theaters but maybe Hiltzik will have better luck with his next Sleepaway that is scheduled to be released next year.

RATING: 4 out of 5

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