Sunday, April 19, 2009

Return to Sleepaway Camp

And here we are at the end, once again faced with a dilemma.

When we last left Angela, she was standing on a beach in the buff looking all crazy… unless, of course, you watched “Sleepaway Camp 2” and “Sleepaway Camp 3.” In which case we left Angela in the back of an ambulance. Oh, and also, she really was a she, having gone through elective surgery to make it so.

But forget all that, because yes indeed kids – as far as “Return to Sleepaway Camp” is concerned, parts 2 and 3 never happened.

In one way, this is a good thing. It means that instead of being a movie wherein a lot of random teenagers with loose morals die, instead we get an element of mystery.

That element of mystery is, of course, WHO is killing people, and why?

Which brings us back to our dilemma.

Discussing the ending of the original movie is, ultimately, more or less okay now. After all, it’s been more than twenty years and two major video formats since it came out. So if you haven’t seen it, the onus is pretty much on you.

On the other hand, “Return to Sleepaway Camp” is a fairly recent film. So revealing who the killer is, their motivation for killing, and whether or not we’ve met the killer before feels somewhat unfair to me.

So I’m going to sidestep the problem. Once again, if you wanna see this movie, walk away now, because I’m going to reveal who does the killing. What I’m not going to do, however, is explain the big reveal.

Okay, ready? Here we go. No turning back: Angela did it.

Trust me. You think you know everything now, but you know nothing. Nothing!

(And I’ll totally revise this if they make another sequel, and tell all.)

All right. Here’s how “Return to Sleepaway Camp” goes.

The movie fires up with a credit sequence that features various newspaper headlines, which bring you up to speed. Don’t worry about reading them too closely, though, because everything gets handled in exposition later.

Then the movie fires up literally as (yes, really) we start off at camp with a bunch of boys who are torching their own methane.

Moments later, Alan walks into the cabin. Alan is a rather large boy who is also kind of bully. Oh, and he’s also a total martyr, who whines and cries whenever someone hassles him.

This is our hero, folks. Hope you like him, ‘cause he’s all you get.

He wants to play too, only the other guys start hassling him, at which point he takes a lighter and a can of hairspray and gets ready to go to town.

At the moment, however, a British counselor, Randy, shows up and disarms Alan. Why mention that he’s British? Because the dude is British. It’s weird, frankly. I went to a lot of camps as a kid, and I have to say that the closest I ever got to an exotic accent were a couple of Canadian counselors. And I live in Wisconsin.

Plus, I think if you’re from the U.K. you need a special work permit in the States, which says that you’re an expert in something, and you can only work in that one thing. So this fellow had to write that he was an expert camp counselor on his paperwork.

Probably not the best use of government resources, filling out this guy’s work VISA.

Alan runs off, and Randy says, ominously, “He’ll get his boys, he’ll get his.”

So maybe that was meant to be a red herring? Or is it foreshadowing a later scene, where… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Okay, it’s morning, and at the main eatin’ place, and Frank, who owns the place, stands up, gets everyone’s attention, and then tells them a cop is going to talk to them about the dangers of smoking.

The cop is actually Sheriff Jerry, who talks using one of those things you jam up against your throat when cancer has rotted your talking bits away. There’s some laughter and derision, though it’s all pointed at the cop’s voice, instead of his astonishingly fake beard.

Back at the breakfast table, we learn that Alan has a brother and a crush on a girl. Oh, and he doesn’t like the food, which leads to a knock-down, drag-out fight with Randy.

Alan is escorted to the kitchen, where he asks the Chef if he can have something else to eat. The Chef says he’s headed out, and directs Alan to talk to Mickey, the other cook. Heated words are exchanged. Alan takes some ice cream, and in a fit of rage Mickey eggs him.

Yep. He throws an egg and hits Alan. Really.

Then Alan throws a pan. Followed by a pretty large kitchen knife, which sticks into the wall.

The fight is brought to an abrupt halt, and in a running theme (pardon the upcoming pun) Alan runs away (I said I was sorry! Leave me alone!).

Michael, Alan’s brother, is sent to find Alan. Michael, it should be noted, goes out of his way to state that Alan is just his step-brother. Which is guess it what makes it possible for him to take a mallet and… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Michael confronts Alan, and angry words fly back and forth. Alan notes that, “They don’t care that I was sick once…” which I suppose could be a red herring, or possibly a plot point, but if that information is important later, I didn’t notice.

Alan and Michael fight. Michael’s knife comes out, and ends up in Alan’s hand. Michael looks wary for a moment, then grabs the knife from Alan.

By the by, somewhere in the whole argument/conversation, Alan reveals that he really loves the frogs by the lake, and considers them his friends.

Back in the kitchen, the cook is making himself a burger and some fries for dinner. He stands, cleaning the fryer, and guess what? First victim.

Long, suspenseful sequence, too, with a black-clad assailant lifting the cook up higher and higher, suspending him over the fryer, not quite getting him into the hot oil. It’s pretty brutal. A complete 180 from the last two films.

And then: Ronnie is back! Yes, the meathead from the original who had the privilege of seeing Angela’s man-bits is working for the camp, and we’ll discover later that he’s also part owner. This information doesn’t lead to anything.

Subsequently, at first I was going to say that the scene had no purpose – it’s essentially Ronnie, Frank, and The Chef talking about the fact that Mickey needs to be let go – but then I remembered that after Mickey got boiled in oil, he was also bagged up and thrown into a dumpster.

So really, this scene is explaining why no on goes looking for Mickey later. It does not, however, explain where The Chef goes after this. The Chef, by the way, is played by Isaac Hayes, and I will pause for a moment here so that you may come up with your own joke.

Either way, movie, you used your scenes in a logical manner. I’m sorry I doubted you.

The next night finds everyone in the gymnasium which, it must be mentioned, also has a large stage on one side of it that’s usually hidden behind a curtain. I’m telling you this now because it plays into some later sequences, and I don’t want to have to explain it then.

Just remember: Gym. Stage. Behind curtain. Lock that down in your brain.


Behind the curtain, two stoners are making a “joint” using cow manure. They are not smoking it. No, indeed. They are intending to use it for a hilarious practical joke which will most certainly not end up with one of them being dead.

In the gym, Alan shows up, he tries to hit on the girl he likes, and we learn that he smells bad and hasn’t changed his shirt since the night before.

As near as I can tell, he never changes his shirt during most or all of the course of this film. So let’s just add that to things to remember. Gym. Stage. Behind curtain. Dirty shirt.

Eventually, Alan gets into a fight with one of the other boys, which ends with Alan being thrown out. So Alan goes backstage, encounters the stoners, and is given a very special joint to take a few pulls from.

Alan smokes, then does some retching. More kids head backstage where they give Alan a hard time and a very special nickname, which I’m just not going to get into. Really. It’s not worth your time. Moving on.

A counselor named Petey shows up to rescue Alan, with Ronnie tagging along for moral support. Or something. It’s not important. Just remember, Petey and then Ronnie. Add that to the list above.

We’ve building a clue list here, people. Keep your head in the game.

Later, we encounter the two stoners and a couple of girls on the beach, where they’re sitting down while lighting up. The two girls decide to take off, as does one of the stoners, who feels like abandoning his buddy to a hideous fate.

The remaining stoner passes out, more or less, and here comes our friend all dressed in black. The man in black ties the stoner to the chair, forces him to drink a bunch of gasoline, and then makes him take a toke.

The stoner explodes, something I am sure is impossible, but what do I know? It’s not like I’ve had a lot of experience with stoners and pyrotechnics.

At this point, Ronnie, Frank, and cancer-cop show up. Ronnie explains that he has a bad feeling about the exploding stoner, because if there’s another reaction to have to something like that, I don’t know what it is.

No, I’m sorry. What I mean to say is that it reminds him of when dude-girl killed a bunch of people years ago.

The three stooges then chew through a quick explanation of what happened in the first movie, for all the people who rented “Return to Sleepaway Camp” who are juuust starting to suspect that it is not a sequel to the Disney Sunday Movie they saw back in the early 90s.

We do get one interesting bit of information, however – Angela’s cousin Ricky is still alive, and living nearby.

But we’re going to ignore that for the moment, and cut to the next day, where the girls are all playing croquet.

Alan runs up and starts kicking everyone’s balls around (joke to be filled in later goes here). He refuses to stop until Karen says she’ll meet him at his “secret” spot, which she later finds without, say, getting directions from Alan. Who obviously doesn’t understand what the word “secret” means.

Karen finally agrees to meet up with him, but she wants to bring a friend.

You might be thinking, “I’ll bet that’s important later.” Nope.

Alan then runs off to catch up with the boys, who are all playing paintball. This ends with everyone on both teams shooting him. What the movie is trying to convey is that he has a popularity problem.

Also worth mentioning: Still hasn’t changed his shirt.

Cancer-cop goes to visit Ricky. Exposition happens, mostly revolving around whether or not Angela is girl or a guy, and we learn that Ricky is a surprisingly good actor, seeing as how he only had one role between “Sleepaway Camp” and “Return to Sleepaway Camp.”

Long story short, Angela has been locked up since the end of the first movie. This must be one of those alternate timelines they talk about in “Back to the Future Part II.”

By the lake, Karen and pal go to visit Alan, who still hasn’t changed his now paint-covered shirt. Things are going poorly when, suddenly, dead skinned frogs start to appear.

Karen figures there’s something wrong with Alan (er… wrong-er) and she runs. A couple of dudes come out of the woods brandishing a knife and talking about frog-skinning. Alan says, “I hate you so bad…” and takes off after Karen.

He catches up to her on the dock, and after some yelling, Randy shows up and has a bunch of boys give Alan a wedgie that ends with his underwear being ripped in half and Alan flying into the lake.

Petey comes to his rescue again. And they run into Ronnie again.

Later, all the kids try to get Karen to pull a prank on Alan, because the fact that the stoner guy is WAY dead will never deter them from continuing their hijinks. Karen thinks this is a bad idea. It does not prevent her from doing it anyway.

On the other side of camp, Frank, camp owner, has discovered that his talking bird now says bad things that only Alan says. So he goes to confront Alan.

Over at the canteen, Alan hassles some geeks so he can get through the candy line faster, and a girl spitballs him. Alan throws a cup of soda on her. Frank shows up in the nick of time, and prevents Alan taking a beating from a girl.

Alan runs away. Again.

He runs out the door and sees Karen, who says that a bunch of girls are playing spin the bottle and that he’s been invited to join what until this moment was apparently a gathering of hedonistic Sapphic love.

Alan says yes, and ends up backstage. Remember that place? Just a curtain separating it from the gym?

Results: Alan on the stage in his underpants.

Petey saves him again. Ronnie shows up moments later, again.

This finally pays off with Ronnie yelling that, “It’s not Petey, it’s PETER!” Because he figures Petey is the artist formerly known as Angela back when she was a boy.

Cancer-cop shows up again, because they probably just have buttons all over the camp that someone presses when they need an officer of the law, like, right now.

A bunch of kids in the woods taunt Alan, who opts to try the “running and screaming,” method of escape. Ronnie goes after him. (Why does Ronnie never catch him? The dude is buff. Freaky buff. And Alan, as previously mentioned, is a little on the heavy side. Plus he leaves behind that miasma, which you could probably follow…)

Back at Frank’s, things aren’t looking too good for old Frankie. By which I mean his bird is pulled out of its cage, Frank is tied to a chair, the cage is bolted around his head, and some rats are shoved into the cage.

Meanwhile, all the girls go out for ice cream, to help Karen feel better about pushing Alan over the edge of the cliffs of insanity. As the girls head out, the scene culminates in a menacing shot of the black-clad killer. Things are going to end badly for someone.

Randy the counselor takes his special lady, Linda, out into the woods for some pine-needles-in-a-bad-place action, only first he makes her go get some blankets and beer while he relieves himself.

One minute later, he ends up tied to a tree with fishing wire looped about his manly bits. Oh, and the other end is tied to his jeep, which Linda, once frightened, drives away. There’s some suspense but, assuming Randy wants to live after what happens to him, he’ll probably need some reconstructive surgery. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

Oh, and Linda runs the jeep into some barbed wire. Bad things happen to her.

Back at his cabin, one of the boys opts to keep looking through a hole in the floor, despite the fact that a large pointed stick popped up through it mere moments ago. Let us say he kind of gets what he deserves. Not for being mean, but for being dumb enough to keep sticking his eye over the hole like that.

Ronnie finds Frank. Or rather, he finds the bits the rat hasn’t eaten.

Over in the girl’s cabin, the girl who shot spitballs at Alan comes in, lies down in bed, and then discovers that the bunk above her has been replaced with a board of nails, spiky side down.

At which point our black-clad assailant leaps from the rafters and shoves the board down on her.

You know what, though? This sounds like an impossible amount of work. I mean, first, you need to have a TON of nails, which you then have to nail through a board that has to be perfectly suspended over another bed, but which won’t fall with minor rocking.

Then you’ve gotta hide in the rafters, and hope no one spots you.

Then you’ve gotta hope that whoever is on the top bunk doesn’t show up first, or they’re going to go to bed, the bed will collapse, and there’s still a dude just standing in the rafters, biding his time, waiting for the right victim to come along.

All in all, way too much complication. Probably would have been better off, say, wiring a bomb to her mattress. A little more pre-work, sure, but a much better chance that it would have succeeded.

Only it did succeed, so I guess the point is moot.

Karen and her buddy find the dead girl, and Karen figures that Alan is the killer and that she’s pretty much got a death notice pinned to her head.

All of our main players gather together – Ronnie. Karen. Cancer-cop. The kids are all ordered back to their cabins. For safety. Or something.

Oh, and Ricky shows up, because the cop called him. Only the cop didn’t.

Karen runs off into the woods, where she eventually bumps into Randy and Linda, who are both still alive.

She ends up unconscious, and when she wakes up she’s in a noose hooked to a basketball hoop, and the black-clad killer is pressing the switch to raise the hoop. Only she’s saved at the last minute by Michael, Alan’s half-brother.

(Remember him? Sure you do.)

Oh, and the black-clad killer runs out, and moments later, cancer-cop walks in.

Michael grabs a croquet mallet and goes to “talk” to Alan rather harshly. Alan claims he doesn’t know what’s going on. Which as it turns out, is true. Based on the black-clad hand that grabs the mallet in the middle of Alan’s beat-down.

Everyone else finally catches up to Alan and there, in the shadows is… Angela. Which I already told you.

And Angela, who really needs an awesome closing line, says, “Michael though skinning frogs was cool. Ask him how cool it is now.”

As you might have guessed, Michael has been skinned.

At this point, the movie ends, except for a tag after the credits that explains how Angela… well… that’s another story, isn’t it?

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