CKY, Return to Sleepaway Camp, and the Goat

When I was a kid, my mom allowed me to watch horror movies where people effed and were killed — in some instances, at the same time — because she enjoyed them, but nothing with an obscene sense of humor, like South Park. As a parent myself now, I realize what a weird stance that is. Maybe she felt horror condemned sex and violence, whereas comedy glorified it, made it seem cool. I don’t know. Even wrestling was banned for a short while at the height of the “Attitude Era”. I blame the crotch chopping, as well as the chopping of crotches. My mom never saw the stuff she forbade. She heard about it from other women at church. She was very easily influenced and went through these fleeting religious awakenings where she cracked down on horror, purging our house of things that she deemed ungodly, including the odd VHS and my Magic: the Gathering cards (they promote sorcery!), before easing back to her previous ways. To my relief, she gave up on saving our souls altogether when I was around twelve and just let me do whatever, within reason. Until then, she couldn’t control what I did at my friends’ houses. So, I watched South Park anyway.

I lived next door to a kid who was two grades ahead of me and had three older brothers of varying repute. I thought they were cool. Legend has it, the oldest brother once dragged a Christmas tree under a stranger’s car and lit it on fire just to watch the explosion. I later learned that he was an addict who went to prison on various charges. He passed away suddenly in his late 30s after getting his shit together, leaving behind a young daughter. I’ll never forget when he jokingly invited my brother to shoot people at the mall.

My friend eventually stopped coming by to party with kids his own age. After high school, he joined the Army and served in Afghanistan. He moved away as soon as he could. Last I heard third-hand from my mom, he was dealing with substance abuse issues. I hope he’s getting the help that he needs.

The brother we all thought was the weirdest turned out to be the most well-adjusted. He came out as gay, got married, and, as far as I know, is doing just fine.

Those guys introduced me to lots of angsty hardcore music and equally hardcore pornography. They got me into Atreyu, From Autumn to Ashes, Thrice, and other “screamo” bands. What a phase that was. The X-rated material included issues of Playboy, a Girls Gone Wild VHS, and that horrifying tape they found in their mom’s dresser called Hard & Kinky #30-something (or was it 40-something?) featuring guys with fake garden hose dicks that my friend swore were real, an unfortunate fellow with a natural dick that hooked ninety degrees to the left, and a woman trying her damnedest to make use of the girthiest dildo I’ve ever laid eyes on. The studio that produced this monstrosity was “Leisure Time”. I encourage you to figure out exactly which one I saw and reply with the number. It’s been bugging me.

One of the funnier, non-pornographic things they showed me was the four-part CKY video series, starring the titular band and their friends doing skateboard tricks, stupid stunts, pranks, and skits. These videos were directed by Bam Margera, using one of those fisheye skateboarding cameras, and served as the blueprint for MTV’s Jackass. The bit that stands out the most in my head is the “Skeletor vs. Beastman” song. It taught me that Beastman has AIDs and that he plans on spreading it into every good boy and girl today. You may also be interested to know that he is incapable of taking his furry fur off because it’s made of fur. Yes, the humor is juvenile, but I remember the videos fondly.

I miss those days. I think we all wish we could recapture the magic and wonder we felt as preteens, back when the world was our oyster. That’s why coming-of-age stories hit us so hard. They remind us how easy we had it, how fun life was, before the cold, hard reality of existence set in.

Looking back, CKY the band was one of the better acts of the early-to-mid 2000s. I’m no expert on them, I just like a lot of their songs, most of which turned out to be from their major label debut, Infiltrate Destroy Rebuild (you never knew if the songs you downloaded from Limewire were titled correctly, let alone what album they came from). CKY was a three-piece from West Chester, Pennsylvania consisting of frontman/primary songwriter Deron Miller, guitarist Chad Ginsburg, and drummer Jess Margera, Bam’s older brother. They had catchy riffs and a unique sound owing to the fact that Miller removes the bottom two strings from all his guitars and replaces the G with a wound G. Their music is best categorized as “alternative rock” but was fully embraced by the punk/stoner/skateboarder crowd because of their association with Bam and his merry band of ass jackers. Miller departed or was fired in late 2011, depending on who you believe. He briefly rejoined, then departed for good in 2015. Ginsburg and Margera still use the CKY name. Miller currently records as 96 Bitter Beings.

Something I took notice of as a youngster was CKY’s connection to horror. For one, the name used to be an initialism for “Camp Kill Yourself”, in tribute to camp slasher movies. The full name was quietly dropped as they gained mainstream attention, similar to how WWE no longer stands for “World Wrestling Entertainment”. Miller is a huge horror fan and his lyrics reflect that. I can’t be the only one who hears “Attached at the Hip” and thinks Basket Case, in which Siamese twin brothers are surgically separated against their will. Ok, I very well could be. I view everything through Basket Case-tinted lenses. More substantively, CKY’s signature song, “96 Quite Bitter Beings”, off their first album, Volume 1, is about a group of friends who stop in the fictional town of Hellview and are set upon by its murderous residents. Here it is with the lyrics:

With my perceptions in a mix down twenty miles through the sticks
To the cloudy town of Hellview, population: 96
Excessive vacancy, well maybe, in the shadow of an eye
All the strangers passing through and where the rules just don’t apply

At the fork turn left, a store, but on the right stay free from sight
Cause 96 quite bitter beings like to stack the bodies high
The only way to ever leave is overflooded by the storm
And entanglement in Hellview brings you fear in fifty forms
They’ve deleted all the tourists at the bottom of the lake
And not one supports the cause to leave the blood stay in the veins

Here, three miles back is where we are
All we ever wanted was an answer
Civilized are close but way too far
All we ever wanted was an answer

Footprints giving clue to where we are
All we ever wanted was an answer
Civilized are close but way too far
All we ever wanted

That riff is monstrous. The last line of the second verse, “And not one supports the cause to leave the blood stay in the veins”, doesn’t strike me as proper English, but for that reason is memorable. The story continues in “Escape From Hellview”. The friends build a fire as night falls. After it dies, they’re chased off into the darkness. The narrator avoids being hung, but his friends aren’t so lucky. While running away, he assures himself “If it’s the last thing I will do, I’ll be the one that will escape from Hellview.”

The fire dies on its own, leaving us to ourselves but not exactly alone
I think that something is out there waiting, anticipation has grown
The air as black as can be, can’t even see that my hand is in front of me
I’m overhearing a whisper, “They won’t escape until the blood is set free”

So turn back, the silence is deafening
Turn back, don’t let them see you again
They make the rounds at the midnight hour
And on the clock it’s just a minute away

So we’re hours awake and our only mistake is we bleed
And the hunger for the living helps them hunt it with the greatest of ease

Now I’m finding my friends, hanging from trees, made a bed of a barbed wire fence
I’m on the loose with my neck in the noose, but hey, I enjoy the intense

Turn back, the silence is deafening
Turn back, don’t let them see you again
They make the rounds at the midnight hour
And on the clock it’s just a minute away

So we’re hours awake and our only mistake is we bleed
When the hunger for the living helps them hunt it with the greatest of ease

No experience could ever match the sight of when is a person is through
If it’s the last thing I will do, I’ll be the one that will escape from Hellview
And I will!

“I enjoy the intense” (“intense” being the accepted spelling) is another weird lyric. It’s grammatically incorrect too. Plus, the notion that our narrator could find any kind of enjoyment in a situation where his friends have been killed and he’s running for his life is rather hard to believe.

I recently found out there is a third entry forming a trilogy. That entry is “Hellions on Parade” off Carver City, a concept album set in a sinister fishing town not unlike Hellview. Look it up if you’re curious. I don’t care for anything after An Answer Can Be Found. Hellview is first mentioned in “Thanks For the Ride” (which was likely titled in reference to Creepshow 2) by Miller and Margera’s previous band, Oil.

But wait, the connection gets even stronger. Miller is married to the child star of Sleepaway Camp, Felissa Rose. He used her iconic snarling face as the cover of the 1999 single Disengage the Simulator. Miller literally paused the movie and took a picture of his TV. He was put in touch with Rose when he heard Return to Sleepaway Camp was starting production and the rest is history. They have three children together.

Credit: Magnet DVD

Return to Sleepaway Camp is what the kids these days call a “requel”. It was filmed in 2003 in New York by original writer/director/producer Robert Hiltzik and features original cast members. It disregards all the previous sequels and picks up twenty years after Part 1. I’ve read that officially it was a remake, because Hiltzik only retained remake rights. I’ve also read that it wasn’t, because the sequel rights had reverted back to him many years earlier. So, I’m not sure what to believe. If anyone knows how to navigate those legal waters, it’s Hiltzik, a practicing lawyer.

Return began taking shape after Jeff Hayes, the webmaster of sleepawaycampmovies.com, tracked down Jonathan Tiersten, then Rose, then Hiltzik, then others, and organized a reunion for the 2001 Fangoria Weekend of Horrors. Motivated by all the newfound attention/support, Hiltzik dusted off an old script titled Sleepaway Camp 2 that he wrote and shopped back in ’86, and reworked it to include a few familiar faces. It materialized in time to ride the momentum of Anchor Bay’s Sleepaway Camp “Survival Kit” box set and tie in with the twentieth anniversary of his original, the irony being it took five years to come out. The good news is, they made the twenty-fifth anniversary.

Me, waiting.
Credit: Magnet DVD

I was disappointed to learn that it wouldn’t be starring Pamela Springsteen of Parts 2 and 3, who I felt was the stronger, superior Angela. I’ve since come to appreciate Rose’s version of the character. Warning! Everybody deserves to see the original unspoiled once. If you haven’t, click away now! Spoilers ahead!

Newspaper clippings shown during the opening credits inform us that Camp Arawak has been reopened as Camp Manabe by someone named Frank Kostic (Vincent Pastore, The Sopranos) and surviving head counselor Ronnie (Paul DeAngelo, reprising his role). Kostic was the last name of the previous owner, suggesting he and Frank are related. Manabe can be rearranged to read “Be a Man”, the title of “Macho Man” Randy Savage’s rap album, as well as an obvious reference to the shocking end of Part 1, where shy little Angela Baker is not only revealed to be the killer, but a biological male. For this entry, her last name is Thomas.

Isaac Hayes, the famous songwriter who voiced Chef on South Park, plays the chef in his final film role. A tiny sheriff hangs around to give talks on the dangers of smoking. He wears sunglasses 24/7 and speaks with a voicebox, like Ned Gerblanski.

Credit: Magnet DVD, southpark.fandom.com

The movie kicks off with shirtless boys lighting their farts in a cabin. Main character Alan (Michael Gibney) walks in. He’s twice their size and could eat them. He makes fun of someone named Pee-Pee for wetting his bed, threatens to punch him, and takes his lighter. When he fails to light an emission as big as his bunkmates’, he grabs an aerosol can and shoots flames at them.

In the dining hall the next morning, Alan makes a big stink about how bad he thinks the food is. Dickhead counselor Randy wrestles him to the ground for not eating his chicken. Ronnie breaks up the fight and allows Alan to get something else from the kitchen. Ronnie is every bit as fit as he was in the first film, like they froze him or went back in time to retrieve him. Assistant cook Mickey gives Alan a choice of egg salad or tuna salad. Alan instead grabs an ice cream sandwich. This angers Mickey, who throws eggs at Alan. Alan sells them like gunshots and gets highly emotional. He retaliates by throwing a knife, which embeds in the wall a few inches from Mickey’s face. Frank, having caught Alan’s outburst, orders him back to his bunk.

Credit: Magnet DVD

Besides Ronnie, everyone at this camp has a foul mouth and hair-trigger temper. Alan brings out the worst in them. That’s because he’s a whiny, insufferable douchebag. He blames his obnoxious behavior on rheumatic fever, however, his preppy step-brother Michael believes he just uses that as an excuse. He could be autistic. He’s bullied nonstop regardless, and in turn, bullies others. He makes fun of his fellow campers, flings food at them, pulls their hair, ruins their games, steals their candy, and lies. He’s also disgusting. He wears the same dirty outfit all movie, adding stains every scene. Ironically, his catchphrase is “Your ass stinks!”, which he turns and shouts many times in a taunting manner while running away from his enemies. The constant merciless torment he takes outweighs what he gives, but in my opinion is well deserved. I don’t feel any sympathy for him.

Throughout the movie, he’s tricked into smoking a joint full of cow manure, shot at point-blank range with paintballs, given a wedgie so powerful it rips his waistband, sending him into the lake, and forced on stage in front of the whole camp in his underwear. Smoking the joint causes him to collapse by another boy’s crotch, earning him the nickname “Blowjob”. In his infinite anger/embarrassment, Alan yells things like “I hope you die!” and “I wish I could kill [you]!”, setting him up as the killer.

Even his own brother gets in on the fun. Alan often retreats to a small clearing with a log bench next to the water where he keeps an old briefcase stocked full of crumpled soda bottles, cups, and snacks that he leaves open, exposed to the elements. He considers the frogs there his only friends. One evening, Michael skins all the frogs and frames Alan for it so his crush thinks he’s psycho.

“Who did this to you?!”
Credit: Magnet DVD

Soon, the people taking pleasure in Alan’s misfortune start piling up dead. Return reverts to the mystery format of Part 1, keeping the killer’s identity hidden. They obviously want you to think that it’s Alan, however, his body type is completely wrong. The killer is thin. He or she wears a baggy, dark grey hoody and gloves. Who could it be?

Ronnie convinces himself that it’s Petey, a female counselor, because she’s always running to Alan’s aid. Another possibility is Angela’s cousin Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten, back in action). He works nearby, visits Angela every few weeks at the looney bin, and is suspected by some fans of helping her carry out the original murders. Michael is violent enough to skin frogs. Maybe it’s him. And why is the cop still hanging around?

One of my favorite parts is when Ronnie accuses Petey of secretly being Angela with a fiery intensity. I get the feeling he’s never actually been this angry in real life. He just seems like a sweetheart. His theory rests on the fact that “Petey” is almost “Peter”, Angela’s birth name. Does he really think she’d be dumb enough to apply for a job as a counselor using her own name? Oh, wait, that’s literally the plot of Part 2.

“You know, it’s funny, Petey…”
Credit: Magnet DVD

“Every single time Alan gets in trouble, there you are. Johnny-on-the-spot!”
Credit: Magnet DVD

The kills are inventive and well done, though perhaps a bit too elaborate. Some stretch credulity. For example, a pothead named Weed is tied to a chair, forced to ingest gasoline, and given a joint as a fuse. When it burns down, he explodes. His eyeballs go rocketing out of his head.

Later, Randy is also tied up so a noose made of fishing line can be lowered onto penis. The other end is secured to his Mini Jeep. His girlfriend is chased toward the vehicle, prompting her to speed off. Randy’s penis takes a cue from King Missle and detaches from his body. The girlfriend then runs into a strand of barbed wire stretched across the road. The barbed wire coils perfectly around her head as she crashes. How did the killer know this would happen? There are so many variables at play. Wouldn’t the barbed wire just hit the rail in the back and fall to the ground?

Right?!
Credit: Magnet DVD

Lastly, a boy is shown reading a porno mag. A stake erupts from the pages, barely missing his face. He looks down and sees a circular hole in the floor through which the stake must have been thrust. He and a friend peer through it six times (!) before he’s impaled. Why would anyone do that?

Skipping ahead here, Sheriff Jerry sheds his disguise, revealing himself to be an escaped Angela Thomas. She explains that she did all the murdering on behalf of Alan. Be honest, Ang, you would have done it regardless. Notice how a man being exposed as a woman is an inversion of the original where a girl is exposed as a boy. While clever in that sense, this twist is a highly predictable, lazy attempt to please fans, and as a result, lacks the raw shock value of the original’s. Plus, it leaves me with questions, like where did Angela learn to design and apply prosthetics to her face? A post-credits scene showing her drop a car on the real Sheriff’s head gives us a glimpse of how the movie would have looked with her in her natural form. Angela as the killer is fine, but there were much better ways to incorporate her.

KiDs CaN bE sO mEaN.
Credit: Magnet DVD

Partly due to the ending, Return was seen as a disappointment by many upon its belated release. It’s currently the the lowest rated entry on IMDb, not counting the fourth, which only amounts to a few minutes of test footage padded with clips of 1, 2, & 3. My wife, an even bigger fan of the series than I am, watched it once with me when we met and hasn’t spoken a word of it since. I enjoy it, however, it’s probably my least favorite — again, not counting the fourth.

I have to believe the massive delay contributed to its lukewarm reception. Like I already said, the movie took five years to come out, with numerous causes being cited. One was a total retooling of the CGI used to enhance Weed’s demise. When you wait that long for something to come out, your expectations subconsciously rise.

In my opinion, the main problem is that it was tailored toward diehard convention-going fans and recycles too many aspects of the original. The first kill where the egg-throwing cook is deep-fried headfirst in oil is nearly identical to the first attack in Part 1 where the pedo-rapist chef is scalded with boiling water. Also, there’s a black chef who disappears halfway through and a cop with fake facial hair. Were these similarities added so Hiltzik could point to them as proof of it being a remake, or because he thought we were clamoring for them? I’m guessing the latter. When I watch Return, I can’t help but visualize Hiltzik making that stupid, expectant Peter Griffin face, saying You liked this stuff, right? Well, here it is again!, then being crushed when I shrug my shoulders.

Credit: Family Guy, Fox

The original had a heavy focus on repressed/taboo sexuality, so I feel like this one should have further explored that to be a “true” sequel. Frustratingly, besides the symbolism of the stake through the porno mag (fittingly titled “Polecats”) and Randy losing his cock, there isn’t much going on here.

Let’s end on a positive note. The things I love most about Return to Sleepaway Camp are Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tiersten, and Paul DeAngelo. Rose does a great job in her limited role. Conversely, the men’s acting hasn’t improved. In fact, it’s gotten much worse. But it’s good to see them again after all these years and I hope it’s not the last time. I challenge you to keep a straight face when Ricky sees his cousin unmask and momentarily becomes a hair metal singer: “Angelaaaaa!”

Credit: Magnet DVD

Another part I love is the opening theme song. It’s one of my favorite movie themes ever. The credits list it as “Return to Sleep Away Camp” by “Goat and Friends”, courtesy of “Goatboy Productions, Inc.” It was obviously written for the movie, which always makes a theme cooler. To clarify, the names and events in the song are unrelated to those in the movie, just loosely inspired by them. I wasted little time ripping the song from my DVD and burning it to several different CDs so I could listen to it in my car. I would have bought it, were it ever available. Myself and many other fans were eager to hear more from Goat and Friends.

Problem is, there was zero information about them online. Even what they’re saying is a mystery. Their lyrics are harder to crack than Zodiac’s 340 cipher. There’s just enough layering and distortion to make it nearly impossible. This is the best I could do. I isolated the vocals using Audacity, but it only helped so much. I’m reasonably confident about what’s in black. The orange I’m unsure of. Let me know if you have any ideas.

Sleepaway
Sleepaway Camp
Sleepaway

Yo, yo, school is out
Hooray, finally over
Sleepaway Camp, gonna try to get over
Joan in Math is looking over my shoulder
Please show me sweet time
Making new friends and having relations
Great way to spend our summer vacation

Who all they want live by day one
Mob to check the people (sleepaway)
Then we heard a great big sound
A monster killed little Edie

Sleepaway camp
Fun in the sun (we’re just having fun)
Sleepaway camp
Fun for everyone (every single week)
Sleepaway camp
Only just begun to party (keef satisfies)
Sleepaway camp
Party all summer long, c’mon (sleepaway is great)

Sleepaway
Sleepaway camp

First time, ok
First time for some
I’m away from home
I’m on the run
Gimme love, first time for everything
First time for everyone
Yo, gimme death, gimme death
Look what ya done
And you want a buzz
So have your fun

Roll, roll, roll your head
Gently down the street (sleepaway camp)
Mary, hurry, Mary, hurry
Your life looks bad to me (but don’t do the tramp)

Sleepaway camp
Having some fun (we’re just having fun)
Sleepaway camp
Fun for everyone (every single week)
Sleepaway camp
Only just begun to party (keef satisfies)
Sleepaway camp
Party all summer long, c’mon (sleepaway is great)

[repeat without parentheses]

Sleepaway camp
Don’t do the tramp, hey

You can still download most of the music from the first three movies from the soundtrack section of sleepawaycampfilms.com. Webmaster John Klyza co-founded Hayes’ site before starting his own. I messaged him back in 2011 requesting that he add “Return to Sleep Away Camp” and he did so within a few days or weeks. His post included a lo-res ad for an album/shoe release party with an image of hands folded in prayer and the word “Goat” in big letters. While I had Mr. Klyza, I asked him if he had any updates on the band. All he told me was at first he couldn’t find much info on them. I took that as a cryptic hint and just kind of concluded the band was a one-off, in-joke side project by one or more of the members of CKY, seeing as they cameo in the movie.

Credit: sleepawaycampfilms.com

Then, I dug a little deeper and found out that Goat and Friends might actually exist. There was a skate-punk band known variously as “The G.O.A.T.” and “The Goat & the Occasional Others” in California from 2007 to 2014ish. They only released one album, The Goat Speaks, the year after the movie finally came out. The cover is the same image from the ad posted by Klyza. Once you know what you’re looking at in the ad, you can make out the words “& the Occasional Others” below “Goat” to the right. Every member of the band was a skateboarder. It consisted of Shane Heyl on vocals, Kevin “Spanky” Long on guitar, Andrew Reynolds on guitar, Beagle One-ism on drums, and Atiba Jefferson on keyboards/bass. Reynolds was a playable character in the first seven Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games, the third of which features “96 Quite Bitter Beings”. Coincidence? As you’ll soon find out, yes.

While “GOAT” today is a popular acronym for “greatest of all time”, it carries a different meaning for Heyl. “When I used to live in Arizona… I would wake up the next day from a good time and my socks would be super-glued to the bottoms of my feet.” he told Thrasher Magazine in 2009. “I guess it was from skating and drinking so much — all the toxins would seep out of the soles of my feet, and when it dried out, I would have to rip the skin to get them off. I was able to twirl the socks around the bottoms of my feet without them falling off. It was pretty nasty. From that, the homies came up with the name Goat Foot.”

It was looking promising. The name was a near match, the timeline synched up, and one of the foremost experts on all things Sleepaway Camp believed it to be the right band. That should have sealed it. However, I still wasn’t convinced. The movie theme has at least two singers, maybe three, and a tighter, heavier, lo-fi garage rock sound than the album. Why the change in direction? Did it feature additional musicians? Is there a meaningful distinction between “friends” and “occasional others”? If so, who are the friends?

My recent re-watch renewed my interest in solving this little fourteen-year mystery, so I Googled the company “Goatboy Productions, Inc.” I’m pretty sure I did that before, but to my amazement, it now leads to the Vevo channel of a New York-based artist named Goat, real name Andrew Scott Rosen. He provided the song “Great Life” for I Know What You Did Last Summer. I double-checked the end credits of that movie. They list him as “Goatboy”. I listened to a few of his songs and in my opinion his voice was a much closer match, but his music was further away than ever. The geography made more sense too.

His Discogs profile links to an old website that’s no longer online. I pulled it up using the Wayback Machine. It was last updated May 23rd, 2007, before the movie came out and contains no mention of it or the song.

I contacted Goat’s official channel “Goat Music” and waited. It seemed like a long shot. Not 24 hours later, I received a response confirming that Goat was indeed the artist who wrote, produced, and recorded the song. I was kind of surprised. It’s a huge departure from his usual style. Being able to switch it up like that is the mark of a truly talented musician. The person I spoke to was very gracious and helpful. I asked if he happened to have access to a list of personnel for the song so I might finally know who the “friends” are. He assured me he’d talk to Goat and follow up with as much information as possible. Unfortunately, I’m still waiting. If and when I do get those details, I’ll update this post. Until then, I’m seriously grooving on “Miracle”.

As it turns out, “Goat” holds a special meaning for Rosen as well. It’s “a reflection of his positive attitude and outlook on life: Good Of All Things”.

Stay positive ✌️ Peace