Sleepaway Camp is one of my all time favorite films. It takes a perfect horror setting and does more than one would have thought possible in 1981 with it. Summer camp means being away from home, and if one does not immediately fit in, being teased cruelly and made to feel an outcast. Angela in the first film does not fit in; one does not know if her unwillingness to fit in has to do with the grossness of summer in a damp, dirty place, the grossness and “shame” of puberty or just pathological shyness. But Angela gets her revenge for the cruel teasers who do fit in by having this other to make fun of. I was shocked when I found out what was really wrong with Angela and I doubt 81 audiences were ready for the last scenes transgressive power. :
Director Robert Hiltzik did everything right and returned to the camp decades later to make Return to Sleepaway Camp, the second best in the series. In this one, a very objectionable fat kid is teased and bullied in a way that probably trumps anything the Weinstein’s are carrying on about now. Return is powerful, but it falls completely apart in the last third so its not classic.
Inbetween these films (1 and 5) were two rather campy sequels starring The Born in USA guy’s sister Pamela. Sleepaway Camp 2 and 3 are to be avoided because they require Angela to kill to maintain some kind of ordered camping whereas it would have been more interesting if she had finally learned to fit in and tried to kill those that prevented that. 2 and 3 had a jokey tone that kind of goes about the darkness of the original and part 5.
Now we have part 4, released this week after 20 years on the shelf. The good folks at sleepawaycampfilms.com had a hand in finishing 4, all they had to work with was about 30 minutes of new footage (shot before the 1992 backers went broke). But what they came up with is very good.
This is very much a compilation film, though not to a high degree that Puppet Master Legacy was. The story involves a woman named Allison who goes to the site of the camp because though her has no identity or memories, doctors have concluded that this site has affected her past somehow. How this will all turn out is obvious, “Oh my God it’s you!”
What is less obvious is that 2 and 3 are watchable in clips, the death scenes and Michael J Pollard getting it on with a pretty teen work better without a context. And it must be noted that the filmmaker here did an excellent job of putting the clips together in the right way.
The clips resemble the associations connected to memory and that is not an easy thing to do.
This project is a labor of love. I do not know if it will clean up in the dvd market but it is well worth buying for any slasher fan.