Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988)

Michael A. Simpson

Pamela Springsteen - Angela Johnson/Angela Baker
Renee Estevez - Molly Nagle
Tony Higgins - Sean Whitmore
Valerie Hartman - Ally Burgess
Brian Patrick Clarke - T.C.
Walter Gotell - Uncle John
Susan Marie Synder - Mare

Genre - Horror/Slasher

Running Time - 79 Minutes

Score - 3 Howls Outta 4

The original SLEEPAWAY CAMP [review here] is one of those slasher flicks that loved by so many because not only are there great characters and a decent mystery that keeps you watching, but the ending is probably the most shocking and disturbing ending to any horror film even to this day. So when a sequel was announced, I'm sure the producers struggled with how they would able to top how the original one ended.

Or maybe not, since they took the easy way out and just decided to do a FRIDAY THE 13TH rip-off instead without any of the depth and intrigue the original SLEEPAWAY CAMP had.

Still, that's not to say that SLEEPAWAY CAMP II: UNHAPPY CAMPERS is a horrible film. In fact, it's a whole lot better than one would expect from a slasher sequel, bringing some campy [pun intended] hyuks and a nice amount of T & A. You gotta love it! So let's head back to camp with Angela and hope she doesn't send any of us back "home".

Five years after the events of the first SLEEPAWAY CAMP, we watch a group of campers and counselors from Camp Rolling Hills sit around a campfire talking about Angela Baker's rampage from years back. In disguise and apparently rehabilitated [as well as having certain, um, "issues" fixed], Angela (Pamela Springsteen) is now a counselor at Camp Rolling Hills and breaks up the storytelling about her past. She takes a female camper named Phoebe (Heather Binion) away from the fire to talk, but Phoebe is tired of Angela's authority issues. Wanting to compromise, Angela lays Phoebe out with a log. Sigh...communication is fantastic.

Angela's fellow counselor T.C. (Brian Patrick Clarke) and camp owner Uncle John (Walter Gotell) wonder what happened to Phoebe, but Angela tells her she sent Phoebe home for bad behavior. Unfortunately, Angela finds herself busy when the campers decide to have "immoral fun", like participating in drugs, drinking, and especially sex. Angela decides to clean up the campsite in her own hands, eventually revealing who she is and what she has planned for all of them.

Let me just get this out of the way: SLEEPAWAY CAMP II: UNHAPPY CAMPERS isn't a great film. Nothing about it is special. You probably won't remember it a month from now after you watch it. It's the total opposite of the original SLEEPAWAY CAMP. Yet, it still works and is a lot of fun to watch. And for 79 minutes, that's all you really want from a horror flick.

Even though Wes Craven's 1996 smash SCREAM reinvigorated the horror scene with its self-acknowledgement and references to past horror flicks, SLEEPAWAY CAMP II did this 8 years before. Not only is every 80s horror cliche done here, but we also have three characters who dress up as Jason Voorhees [from the FRIDAY THE 13TH series], Freddy Krueger [from the A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series], and Leatherface [from THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE series]. Not only does it reference horror flicks, but some of the characters are named Demi, Charlie, Emilio, Judd, and Anthony - a.k.a. members of The Brat Pack. It's pretty clever and shows how self-aware the film is. Without this stuff, this would be a pretty bland film. But the pop culture references raise the entertainment value a great deal.

The story itself is nothing major. It's your standard slasher flick with good kills [some very memorable ones] and stereotypical characters that you've pretty much seen in every other slasher film made before it. But at least it's done in a tongue-in-cheek way that's more humorous than serious. The character of Angela murders her victims with such glee and talks down to them as if she were their mother and explaining why she has to punish them. You can't help but find her very silly, yet charming and endearing at the same time. The two goody-goody leads, Molly and Sean, are likeable without being annoying or one-dimensional. They have a cute little romance sub-plot going on. And then there's Ally, the token slut of the film. She shows her boobs and has a sex scene and pretty much made my day. She was a bitch, sure. But remember: bitches in horror films are HOT! And Ms. Ally was no exception.

I will say that the film is bogged down by one scene where a montage of stuff that already happened in the film is shown. Why this was done is beyond me. It's just a total time filler that wasn't even necessary, especially when the film is short. Ruined the pacing and flow of the film for me at that point.

The gore is pretty neat here. We have tons of blood. We get some girl's tongue get cut off. Some other girl gets grilled to death. Others get stabbed or their throats sliced. We get a decapitation. We get someone shoved into a latrine with shit and leeches and a whole bunch of other gross stuff. There's also some battery acid involved. This film doesn't let up. Pretty inventive stuff for a straight-to-video feature.

The direction by Michael A. Simpson isn't overly complicated. It's your standard "point and shoot" type of direction, although there are signs of style in between. The pacing is strong, except for that flashback scene. The editing is decent. There's maybe a drop of tension and suspense, but not much. Not really much to talk about in this department, but it's good enough for this film.

The acting isn't Oscar-worthy. But for SLEEPAWAY CAMP II, it's good. Pamela Springsteen, the sister of rock legend Bruce Springsteen, replaces original star Felissa Rose as Angela. Instead of the shy and weird girl, Springsteen brings a creepy perkiness to the character, taking pride and enjoying each time she sends a camper "home". She has great delivery and her bubbliness is charming and amusing to watch. I like her alot. Renee Estevez, the daughter of Martin Sheen and sister of Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez, is believable as the down-to-earth Molly. She's never really the highlight of the moment but she's never annoying either. She grows on you in a good way. Tony Higgins does good as the token hunk, Sean. He had nice chemistry with Renee Estevez and liked to smile alot. He did look kind of old to be a camper though. In fact, all these people looked old. But whatever. No one else is really of note besides Valerie Hartman as the slutty Ally. I was totally convinced by the performance. She's not only the type of girl that let you stick the tip in, but she'll even make sure the whole enchalada is inserted as well. My kind of skank! Call me sometime, babe!

While not as good as the original SLEEPAWAY CAMP, SLEEPAWAY CAMP II: UNHAPPY CAMPERS is still an entertaining film that works in its own right. This is the kind of horror flick you invite friends over to see and just laugh at what goes down at Camp Rolling Hills. If you're looking for a deep and upper-scale horror cinema experience, this is NOT your movie. But if you want to see campers get mutilated and boobs flash in front of your eyes, then this is the movie for you. Just don't be doing some of those immoral activities while watching this. I may have to personally send you "home". Now you don't want that, do you?

1 comment:

  1. I never did see any of the sequels, though I do have the new one (Return to...) in my Netflix Queue - I think it comes out next month. Perhaps after watching that one, I will see the other sequels.

    As always, Great Review Fred!


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