Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers

sleepawaycamp2 rev Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers  (1988)    Double Helix Films/Horror    RT: 80 minutes    Rated R (graphic violence, gore, language, nudity, sex, drug and alcohol use- all involving teens)    Director: Michael A. Simpson    Screenplay: Fritz Gordon    Music: James Oliverio    Cinematography: Bill Mills    Release date: August 26, 1988 (US, limited)    Cast: Pamela Springsteen, Renee Estevez, Anthony Higgins, Valerie Hartman, Brian Patrick Clarke, Walter Gotell, Susan Marie Snyder, Terry Hobbs, Kendall Bean, Julie Murphy, Carol Chambers, Amy Fields, Benji Wilhoite, Walter Franks III, Justin Nowell, Heather Binion, Jason Ehrlich, Carol Martin Vines, Tricia Grant, Jill Jane Clements.    Box Office: N/A    Body Count: 18 (19 if you count the questionable fate of the “final girl”)

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 The bitch is back! That’s what the tagline for Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers should have read. In this sequel to the 1983 teen slasher flick (a cult classic!), Angela Baker is as insane as ever only now she knows how to hide it better. She’s also a full-fledged woman now having undergone a sex-change operation during her stay at a psychiatric hospital after her killing spree at Camp Arawak five years earlier. Yep, the “surprise package” seen at the end of the first movie is gone!

Sleepaway Camp II I read on Wikipedia that Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers got a limited theatrical release in August ’88. I can tell you that it did NOT play here in Philly. I’d remember something like that; I’d have been all over it. To this day, I still don’t pass up a good (or bad) horror sequel. I didn’t even hear of it until that fall when I saw the cover sitting on the shelf of new releases at West Coast Video. I grabbed that sucker right up, dashed home and went straight for the VCR. I knew it wouldn’t as awesome as the original movie but I thought it was pretty darn good.

 This time, the killings take place at Camp Rolling Hills where Angela, now played by Pamela Springsteen (Bruce’s little sis), is a counselor. In fact, camp director Uncle John (Gotell, aka General Gogol of the Moore-era James Bond flicks) has just named her Counselor of the Week for her enthusiasm and positive attitude. He probably would not have bestowed this honor upon her if he knew that she murdered a camper the night before, a girl she claimed to have “sent home” because of her bad behavior. If there’s one thing Angela doesn’t like is a bad kid and she’s got a cabin full of them like slutty Ally (Hartman) and pot-smoking twins “The S—t Sisters” (Chambers and Fields). The only good girl is Molly (Estevez, Heathers) who becomes romantically involved with Sean (Higgins). Naturally, Ally tries to seduce him.

 Nobody at Rolling Hills likes Angela all that much. The campers think she’s an uptight spoil-sport for her tendency to put an immediate stop to wholesome summer camp activities like panty raids and photographing topless girls. Head counselor T.C. (Clarke, Eight Is Enough) really can’t stand her and wants to see her gone. Meanwhile, Angela sends many of her girls home which really means that she kills them and hides their bodies in an abandoned cabin right out of a Friday the 13th movie.

 Now we get to the good stuff, the real reason that Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers exists. I refer to, of course, the kill scenes. We get some pretty cool ones this time. Angela cuts some girl’s tongue out. Two girls are burned alive. One girl gets it with a power drill, another person with a chainsaw. Somebody has battery acid thrown in their face. One victim is decapitated. Somebody is strangled with a guitar string. Throats are cut, multiple stabbings and one victim has his hands cut off. The worst is saved for poor Ally. She’s lured to the abandoned cabin where Angela stabs her in the back a couple of times before drowning her in an outhouse toilet filled with feces and leeches. How appetizing.

 The thing about Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers is that director Michael A. Simpson brings an element of black humor to the proceedings. Hence, the references to classic teen slasher pics like Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Also, notice anything about the characters’ names? They’re all named after Brat Pack actors- e.g. Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, All Sheedy, Demi Moore and Anthony Michael Hall- of the era. It’s a brilliant touch actually.

 For me, Felissa Rose will always be the real Angela Baker. Her performance in the original movie is one of its strongest assets. It’s iconic. She brought a vulnerability to an otherwise creepy teenage girl with an alarming secret. That being said, Springsteen does pretty well in the role. Angela hides her murderous tendencies with an ultra-positive attitude that really comes out when she leads the campers in a rendition of the “Happy Camper” song replete with hand motions. Yet she’s also a stickler for her own rules governing how good girls and boys should conduct themselves. Violate one of those rules and it brings out the killer bitch in her.

 The rest of the cast does a pretty good job, I guess. Of course, that term is relative. For a cheap horror sequel like Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers, the level of acting on display is just what the genre calls for. You get the usual character types- e.g. slut, sassy black girl, horny preteen boys, partying types, etc. What strikes me as odd is that the campers look more like college students. They’re clearly too old to pass for camp kids. The whole scenario looks more like spring break with chaperones. Bare breasts are flashed more than once. It doesn’t look like any camp I ever attended.

 Given my appreciation of crappy horror sequels, am I really the most reliable person to review a movie like Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers? I would say an emphatic YES! Perhaps there’s some bias but what you have to understand is that I can’t review it like I would movies of greater quality. It’s good for what it is and it’s a good thing the standards aren’t very high in this particular category. It has violence, blood, hot babes, bare boobs, minimal plot and a killer with a killer sense of humor. The movie’s biggest reveal is the father of a camper is one of the cops that arrested Angela after her first murder spree. Uh oh, was that a plot spoiler? Not really. It’s more of an “Oh, okay” kind of thing. Either way, Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers is good goofball fun. It more or less paved the way for direct-to-video sequels like Angel III: The Final Chapter, Howling IV and Prom Night III. In its own way, it’s a classic…. kind of, sort of. 

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