Anchor Bay // 1988 // 79 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // September 4th, 2002
Today's camp activities: arts, crafts and mutilations!
Move over, Jason...there's a new kid on the summer camp block! Everyone's favorite homicidal transsexual is back to punish naughty teenagers and their raging hormones in Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers! Of course, we all remember what happened at the end of the original Sleepaway Camp, right? For those with a memory lapse here's a mini-recap: we found out that deadly little Angela was really a him! Gasp! Flash forward many years later as Angela (now played by Pamela Springsteen, sister of Bruce) has turned back into a "she" via surgery and has been cured by multiple therapy sessions, electroshock treatment, and life altering medications. Angela also now works at Camp Rolling Hills where her secret seems to have been safely stashed away. Yes, everything seems hunky-dory for good old Angela! But old demons never lay dormant, and once Angela starts to come into contact with campers who aren't as pure as newly fallen snow she takes matters into her own hands...and those hands are holding knives, power drills and rusty chainsaws! One by one the fornicating, swearing campers start to disappear into the woods, never to be heard from again. It's Friday the 13th meets the E Street Band in the horrific sequel Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers!
Never in my film critiquing career did I ever think I'd use this phrase, but here goes -- this movie is a cheap imitation of Friday The 13th. This is comparable to saying the Backstreet Boys are a lesser version of New Kids on the Block. In any case, Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers is one of those rare movies that is far better than you'd expect, all the while being a cheapie made-for-video feature that gets tons of mileage out of star Pamela Springsteen as deranged serial killer Angela (AKA "The Angel of Death"). Springsteen's performance is so batty and crucially exuberant that you wonder what her brother Bruce was thinking when he watched the flick (and how unique the film would have been if the makers had gotten him to write a theme song...). The same goes for Renee Estevez (sister of Emilio) who plays the good-hearted heroine of the film. Were Charlie and Martin Sheen laughing their heads off at the premiere? I guess we'll never know. Estevez appears to be so meek and introverted that you're shocked she never folds up like a scared turtle. The tone of Sleepaway Camp II rivals that of the Scream series (but to a much lesser degree); often referencing its sources, the film borders on goofy self-parody. For those considered true gore hounds there's plenty of blood and guts, though the effects aren't nearly as slick as other big budget slasher films from the '80s. An opening scene featuring the dismemberment of a camper's tongue was so fake that I shot Pepsi out of my nose laughing so hard. And yet, when all is said and done Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers is a fulfilling movie if you're looking for mindless horror mixed with mullet haircuts.
Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. I suspect that Anchor Bay tried their best to clean up this print as much as possible. While this is by no means a reference quality disc (dirt and soft colors abound), overall this isn't too shabby considering its low-budget origins. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono in English and is clear -- and that's really all one can hope from this film's mix. Anchor Bay, purveyor of all things cheese, has ponied up a few extra features starting with a commentary track by director Michael A. Simpson, writer Fritz Gordon, and moderator John Klyza (who also runs a site dedicated to the films). Filled with recollections and stories about the production (as well as Klyza's creepy cybergeek voice), this track should please every single demented fan. About 12 minutes of behind-the-scenes and outtakes is included with commentary by the director. Finally, there is a trailer for the film, a pointless teaser trailer for Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland, and a few still galleries.
It's no Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter, but it'll do. Praise the Lord and pass the Caro syrup.
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Scales of Justice
* Golden Gavel 2002 Nominee
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 79 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Commentary by Director Michael A. Simpson, Writer Fritz Gordon, and Moderator John Klyza
* Behind-the-Scenes Footage and Outtakes
* Teaser Trailer for Sleepaway Camp III
* Theatrical Trailer
* Still Galleries