Every bit of its wasted potential and knockoff plot from the first Sleepaway Camp is put into a blender, mixed and revamped for the sequel Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers. And I am here to say the result is good, maybe even great, and finally does the franchise justice. Five years after the first, Unhappy Campers takes place at Camp Rolling Hills. Angela, our troubled… person… from the first movie is back as a camp counselor. She’s had a lot of therapy, taken a lot of medication and even had an operation. Back with a new last name, Angela appears to be a “normal” girl who’s more outgoing and friendly. Much like at Camp Arawak, campers start acting naughty and must be dealt with in gruesome ways.
This film rights every wrong it made in the first and I couldn’t be happier. For starters, there isn’t any mystery regarding who the camp killer is because we learned it at the end of the first. Before the opening credits even roll, Angela is happily killing one of her campers for acting out. And from that moment on, we witness her kill one after another with glee and creativity. The death sequences are campy horror at its best; the use of an outdoor toilet was especially memorable. In the five year absence, Angela became the villain I wanted her to be in the first film. She’s now the moral compass of the camp, casting judgment and sentencing campers to death for wrongdoings ranging from talking to boys to flashing their boobs to doing drugs. And every time she punishes someone, she does it with a smile, which is extremely creepy. The role of Angela was recast for this film because the original actress was away at college, but it doesn’t suffer and I loved Pamela Springsteen in the role.
The deaths are grosser and the villain is top-notch. The acting is improved and the writing is finally just as campy horror should be. Nothing feels forced or too cheesy and I was actually interested watching the movie. And those knockoff plots from the first film? Gone. A pretty significant reference to Freddy, Jason and Leatherface is made, but this time it actually feels like a tribute and not plagiarism. This movie came out in 1988, which is a tough year to stand out in. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4, Halloween 4 and Friday the 13th Part 7 all released that year, making it a campy horror bloodbath. While Sleepaway Camp will never rank up there with the best of those franchises, Unhappy Campers finally put it in the same zip code.
Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and I don’t have any problem with a franchise riding the coattails of other campy horror greats. With Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers, the movie finally realized its potential. It’s great, campy fun and definitely worth a watch for fans of this type of horror. Angela’s presence on horror island after her first film wasn’t worth much, but the other creatures should watch out for her now. One minute she’s strumming her guitar and the next she’s strangling you with its strings.
If you liked Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers, you might also like Friday the 13th, Sleepaway Camp and Friday the 13th (2009).