Review: Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988)

Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers

Directed by Michael A. Simpson
Starring Pamela Springsteen, Renée Estevez, Tony Higgins, Brian Patrick Clarke

By the mid-’80s, people probably stood in the horror section of video rental shops and wondered aloud, “Do I really want to spend 90 minutes watching kids get murdered by an emotionless doof in a mask and overalls?”

It’s a good question. Slasher movies answered it with: “No, we get it! Look, Freddy Krueger is funny now! Jason, too!”

And for a while, dead teenagers got a little less dour. Movie murderers became winking comedians and their victims were dispatched in showers of silly string. It wasn’t only okay to laugh, it was encouraged. Moviegoers began rooting for the bad guy and cheering ecstatically when blood sprayed across the silver screen. People stood in rental shops and asked, “Will this chest-carving maniac make me laugh as much as that other one did?” before adding, “I love funny murders!”

It was certainly a strange time. But after a few years of fun, horror movies went back to being horror movies, just as rock music went back to being rock music. Freddy’s Dead was followed by Wes Craven‘s straight-faced New Nightmare and ’80s hair metal gave up its rock ‘n’ roll throne to dirty-haired neighborhood threats like Kurt Cobain. People wanted to be scared again.

In the middle of all of that lies Sleepaway Camp II.

The film has all the hallmarks of a tired, lazy cash-in. Different creative team? Check. Shot five years after the original? You got it. Direct-to-video? Of course. Terrible?

No. Amazing.

If a badass ’80s-metal guitar riff could make a movie, it would be this one. Scratch that. If God exists and directs slasher movies from heaven, this would be one of His.

We open in the middle of a forest. Some 28-year-olds are trying to look 17 and telling scary stories around a campfire. One of the stories is the plot of Friday the 13th. It’s boring. No one’s into it. Then someone brings up the plot of Sleepaway Camp and tells the group that it happened only a few miles away. Cue Angela, the mad slasher of the first movie, walking through the woods. Check it: She’s a counselor now. Double check it: She hits a girl in the head with a log and cuts her tongue out with a knife. Triple check it: The opening credits are scored to a hair-metal song so awesome, it’s illegal in 30 states.

Pop some goddamn corn already.

Sleepaway Camp II‘s Camp Rolling Hills is Sleepaway Camp‘s Camp Arowak with a double side of homophobia. “She’s a dyke,” every female camper says at least once. Camp Rolling Hills might also be a lesbian orgy camp, judging by the turgid atmosphere of the girls’ cabin. It’s hard to tell. But one thing’s for sure: Everyone is having sex except Angela. In the woods, in the outhouse, in the off-limits abandoned cabin: Sex. All the time. No questions asked. No article of clothing left un-removed. No worrying over condoms or the possibilities of STDs. The camp’s brochure is Green Eggs and Ham with “green eggs and ham” replaced with “copious lovemaking.” You can bet your ass it still rhymes.

Angela refers to sex as “fornicating” and says things like “they’re probaby FORNICATING” and “I hope you’re not FORNICATING.” She also plays “Kumbaya” on her acoustic guitar and sometimes strangles people with the high E string. She owns a chainsaw because she needs it to cut people open. She’s creative with battery acid. Once, the counselors put blindfolds on the campers and have them stick their hands in cold spaghetti and peeled grapes, telling them it’s “eyeballs” or “gooey guts.” When they put their hand in Angela’s box, she tells them it’s dead teenager’s brains. “What’s really in there?” a counselor asks. “Dead teenager’s brains,” she replies. Guess what? It’s dead teenager’s brains.

Sleepaway Camp II is to Sleepaway Camp as Evil Dead II is to Evil Dead. It’s funny. It’s really funny. Angela murders a kid, slices off his face, wears it as a mask, and murders someone else within 30 seconds. She convinces the elderly camp owner that kids are missing because she’s sent them home for fornicating. By the end of the movie, the girls’ cabin is completely full of stripped-down bunks and the owner finally tells Angela that she’s fired. She decides that this means she has to kill everyone. Spoiler alert: She goddamn kills everyone.

Sleepaway Camp II is an anomaly. It’s a comedy disguised as a slasher movie. The humor isn’t window dressing. It’s effortlessly better than any of the “funny” slasher movies released during the same time. It was birthed in that special moment when the late ’80s couldn’t be mistaken for anything but the late ’80s, and it uses this to its advantage. There are no attempts at scares or suspense. It doesn’t lie to its audience; it just wants you to have a good time. It transcends its genre trappings and has become timeless. It’s not a Dead Teenager Movie. It’s something else entirely.

After the final names in the end credits roll by (accompanied by an amazing tear-stained ’80s  guitar ballad), the phrase “Thank You for Reading the Credits” appears.

No, Sleepaway Camp II. Thank you.

Links:

Amazon – Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers DVD
Amazon – Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers VHS
Amazon Instant – Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers
Netflix – Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers
YouTube – Home Video Trailer
YouTube – Complete Movie
YouTube – Opening Credits Song
YouTube – End Credits Song
YouTube – “The Happy Camper Song”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: