Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988) review

Sleepaway Camp 2 posterDirector: Michael A Simpson

Starring: Pamela Springsteen, Renee Estevez, Tony Higgins

Also known as: Nightmare Vacation II (UK VHS)

ANGELA – “I did my time. Two years of therapy, electroshock, was on every pill you ever heard of, plus an operation. I’m completely cured. If I wasn’t they wouldn’t have let me out. How do you know so much about me?”

SEAN – “My dad’s a cop. He helped arrest you. You should have heard him the day you got out.”

ANGELA – “That’s too bad. Wait until he hears what’s happened to you.”

Warning: The following review spoils the identity of the killer in the original Sleepaway Camp. However, it does not spoil its big twist ending, so if you don’t mind knowing who the killer was you can feel free to read on, safe in the knowledge you’re still in for a shock when you watch the original. Which you really should, you know.

Sleepaway Camp caused something of a dilemma. When you end a film in such a shocking, outrageous manner, how exactly can you follow that up? Sleepaway Camp II decided the answer was to give the original’s killer a completely different personality.

Years after butchering a load of kids in Camp Arawak all those years ago, Angela Baker has gone through extensive electro-shock therapy and psychiatric treatment. She decides the best thing to do is get a job as a counsellor at a new summer camp, seeing as everything went so well the last time.

Hmm. This is familiar.
Hmm. This is familiar.

As you’d expect, Angela still hasn’t got all the teen-slaughtering out of her system, and having been subject to countless mind-altering treatments over the years she’s gone a little nuts.

In her eyes, all teens who commit sins – be it sex, drugs or just a general lousy attitude – are to be killed as punishment. Preferably in the most imaginatively gruesome way possible.

Since Sleepaway Camp II apparently takes place a number of years after the original, Angela is no longer played by Felissa Rose, who was 14 while filming the first film and, at 19, would have been a tad young to play a counsellor in the second. If only there was some sort of famous rock star’s sister who wanted to get into acting…

Step forward 26-year-old Pamela ‘Bruce’s Sister’ Springsteen, looking like the impossible same-sex love child of The Boss himself and Dave Grohl. Springsteen takes on the role of Angela wth gusto, and it’s clear she has a brilliant time playing a nutcase as she inevitably decides to slay a bunch of teenagers.

That's Angela in the middle, played by Pamela Springsteen. As for the girl on the right, see any family resemblance? Read on...
That’s Angela in the middle, played by Pamela Springsteen. As for the girl on the right, see any family resemblance? Read on…

It’s said a villain is less effective without a worthy adversary, and Angela has one in the shape of another celebrity sibling, Renee Estevez.

The sister of Emilio Estevez and Carlos ‘Charlie Sheen’ Estevez, Renee may not deliver the same sort of energetic, intense performance her brothers are known for – quite the opposite, in fact – but her timid nature does bring some charm to proceedings and you do want to see her survive Angela’s killing spree.

It’s quite a spree, too. With double the original film’s body count (eighteen compared to nine) Sleepaway Camp 2 should keep slasher fans satisfied with an average of one death every four minutes.

The various slayings are relatively inventive too, though even the more original offings on offer – a tongue being removed, an outhouse drowning, battery acid thrown in someone’s face – don’t quite match up to the first movie’s more unique killings (the bee attack, scalding and that ‘curling tong in the unmentionables’ incident spring to mind).

Ah, the old "cutting the tongue out" trick. Classic
Ah, the old “cutting the tongue out” trick. Classic

One area in which the sequel does outdo its predecessor, though, is the development of Angela’s character. While the quiet, painfully shy girl in the original film was interesting to watch, Angela is by far a more interesting character this time around.

In a classic example of the ‘misguided morality’ trope, most of Angela’s kills come with a lecture in which she explains to her victim where they went wrong in life and why they deserve what’s about to happen. In her mind, by slaughtering these rude and badly behaved teens she’s absolutely doing the right thing.

Indeed, when the pure and kind Molly (Estevez) eventually becomes one of the few surviving teens, Angela is reluctant to kill her, instead merely tying her up.

It’s only when Molly tries to escape and stabs Angela in the hand in the process that Angela decides to fight back. “If it’s any consolation,” she tells Molly when it appears she’s fallen to her death, “you almost made it”.

The deleted scenes from The Exorcist show how shit it could have been
The deleted scenes from The Exorcist show how shit it could have been

At its core Sleepaway Camp 2 is still just a daft ’80s slasher with a short running time (a whisker under 80 minutes), a variety of deaths and plenty of horny teen-pleasing nudity.

But in Angela it also offers an interesting villain, one who believes she’s the hero and who, at times, may actually make you feel sorry for her even as she racks up a kill count that goes well into double figures.

Of the countless Friday The 13th clones released in the 1980s, this has more going for it than most. It has a very different, more jokey vibe to its more disturbing predecessor, but while watching the first film is in no way essential in enjoying this sequel I’d still highly recommend doing that first.

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HOW CAN I SEE IT?
Sleepaway Camp II is available on standalone DVD from Anchor Bay. Here’s the UK version and here’s the US version (word of advice, though: the UK version is out of print so buy a much cheaper used copy instead).

However, I’d recommend you buy it as part of the Sleepaway Camp Trilogy DVD box set, which also includes the fantastic Sleepaway Camp and the equally silly Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (review coming soon). Here’s the UK version and here’s the US version. Again, buy used.

There’s no Blu-ray version at the moment but an HD print does exist since it’s been shown in 720p on American television, so if you’re a high-def nut it might be worth holding back to see if it gets the Blu-ray treatment one day.

SHOW ME THE TRAILER:

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