**** Out of 5
Tagline- When You go Camping Just Take the Essentials
Release Date- November 16th, 1988
Running Time- 78-Minutes
Screenplay- Fritz Gordon
Director- Michael Simpson
Starring- Pamela Springsteen, Renee Estevez, Tony Higgins, Valerie Hartman, Brian Patrick Clarke and Walter Gotell as Uncle John
Released in 1988 Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers is completely different than the original film. Sleepaway Camp was an ok slasher that’s status has been elevated due to its twisted ending and while the film works due to its really odd tone the film itself in my opinion wasn’t very well made and while enjoyable it works due to how sloppy the production was. Sleepaway Camp II in many ways can be seen as a satire on slasher films as it very much plays up to cliches often found in these films. If you go into Sleepaway Camp II expecting anything like the original you might be letdown. While I didn’t find the original overly suspenseful it does have its moments and does make for a nice mystery. Here with the sequel we know who the killer is and rather than go for suspense director Michael A. Simpson opts for a much lighter and fun tone and for over the top deaths that will entice cheers rather than fear.
By the time Sleepaway Camp II was released the slasher film was very much on its last leg and outside of the big franchises these films weren’t making nearly as much money and the following year even the franchises would see their numbers plunge. Sleepaway Camp II may not do anything all that different than the good portion of slasher films at this time, but yet feels like a breath of fresh air from everything out there. A lot of people write this film off despite its cult following, but when all is said and done Sleepaway Camp II turns out exactly as it was meant to be. I’m often surprised at how many people take this film so seriously when it should be obvious it goes for camp restart than playing it straight.
Angela Johnson (Springsteen) has gone years of shock therapy as well as sexual reassignment surgery and has been released from an insane asylum as she’s billed sane. Angela manages to get a job as a counselor at Camp Rolling Hills, which is a short distance from Camp Arawak. Those who don’t follow the rules soon learn their lessons the hard way as Angela dispatches of the bad kids.
The screenplay by Fritz Gordon is a complete blast and in many ways can be seen as a satire of sorts on the slasher film. All the characters are entertaining with all except Molly (Estevez) being so obnoxious you cheer on Angela. It really does kind of surprise me how many people take the script as a serious attempt at a horror movie. The script by Gordon came out exactly how it’s meant to be. There are films where the script is kinda campy but the way it turned out its not clear if its just poor writing that makes it campy or of it was meant to be, but with Sleepaway Camp II it really should be obvious Fritz Gordon was writing a campy slasher flick that never attempts to be serious.
Director Michael A. Simpson directs the film exactly how it was meant to be made. I’ve seen flicks with campy scripts, but yet the director tries to make a serious film, but Simpson directs the film as it was meant to be. There really isn’t much in the way of suspense and tension, but there really wasn’t meant to be any. Simpson sets out to make a fun slasher film and very much succeeds. From the opening until the closing, Simpson delivers a very fun film that will provide more laughs and smiles than anything else. Slasher films are often known for their over the top deaths and Michael Simpson delivers some really crazy and original death scenes. The pacing is solid as Simpson sets up a fun tone and retains that throughout. The middle sections the pace does get a tiny bit sluggish, but the film never gets boring and for the most part always remains a fun ride.
Some will favor Felissa Rose as Angela, which is more than understanding. She was great in the original, but I personally always preferred Pam Springsteen. I really can’t say one is better than the other since both Rose and Springsteen’s Angela are almost two totally different characters. Pam Springsteen (and yes if you’re wondering is the younger sister of Bruce) delivers a fun and energetic performance. I just love her one liners and its a shame Pam Springsteen didn’t have more of a career since she’s a terrific and funny actress. Renee Estevez (yes the sister of Charlie & Emilio) is the only character you want to survive. As Molly, Estevez is solid as the sensitive nice girl and in some ways can be seen as Sleepaway Camp’s version of Laurie Strode. Valerie Hartman as the snobby and bitchy Ally is a joy to watch and no matter how cliched the character is in slasher films it never fails to entertain and Hartman makes for a fun and sexy bad girl.
Overall Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers is one of my favorite slasher films of the late 80s. It’s a fun film that’s high on camp and nudity with some really great death scenes. The satirical nature of the film works great and this is a must for fans of cult cinema. Most of the characters are all named for popular 80s actors with a bunch named after members of the Brat Pack.