Controversial opinion – take away its ending and Sleepaway Camp is a forgettable B-grade slasher. But that ending is among the most shocking, creepy, and controversial in horror. No one should be surprised that sequels eventually followed. What is surprising is that it took roughly five years to make that first sequel, Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers. In the years that passed between the original and Unhappy Campers, however, the ‘Golden Age’ of the slasher was over. Mainstream audiences had moved on; horror was in decline. Intentional or not, Unhappy Campers positioned itself alongside more goofy late-80’s slashers like Intruder and Slumber Party Massacre 2.
Five years following the murder spree at Camp Arawak, Angela Baker is now Angela Johnson. And she’s back at camp – except she’s the camp counsellor this time. She served her time in a psychiatric facility and after treatment and surgery, ‘earned’ her release. Now she’s working for ‘Uncle John’ at Camp Rolling Hills. In fact, Angela is even the ‘Counsellor of the Week’. But bad campers beware. Angela isn’t ‘cured’ and she won’t tolerate smoking, drinking, bad language, or sex at her camp. If she catches you misbehaving, Angela ‘sends you home’. For good.
Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers Fully Embraces Camp Horror
If Sleepaway Camp had some comedic elements, they likely weren’t intentional. It was an eccentric horror movie, but Sleepaway Camp wasn’t sophisticated enough to be satirical. Comparatively, Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers is a straight-up black comedy. Nothing about this movie was intended to be taken seriously. This sequel has more in common with late-80’s slashers like Cheerleader Camp and Slaughter High than the Prom Night’s that proceeded it. Did the directing and writing tandem of Michael A Sampson and Fritz Gordon intend the movie to be a satirical send-up of slasher tropes? Maybe. Though it’s no Scream, Unhappy Campers has fun punishing ‘bad behaviour’ in pure camp fashion.
…Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers is a straight-up black comedy.
At a trim 88 minutes, Sampson wastes no time before Angela is killing off campers. With barely any story of which to speak, Unhappy Campers is series of typical 80’s camp movie hijinks, death scenes, and gag visual references to classic slasher movies. Think Meatballs meets a cheaper Friday the 13th sequel. Most of the death sciences are clumsy. Don’t expect Tom Savini-level special effects. Sometimes you can even catch ‘dead campers’ moving. Like the first Sleepaway Camp, Unhappy Campers has a bit of a cruel streak. Angela forcing a promiscuous camper into an outhouse – filled with feces and leeches – almost feels tonally out of place. And there’s some of that creepy distorted slow-motion popular in late-80’s slashers. But the ridiculously gratuitous nudity ensures the sequel never detours much from is campy vibe.
The Boss’ Sister and a Sheen Attend Sleepaway Camp II
Different actress, different character altogether. In Sleepaway Camp II, Pamela Springsteen replaces Felissa Rose. Yes, she’s related to that Springsteen. Aside from the name and backstory, Unhappy Campers’ Angela bares little resemblance to the original movie’s killer. Gone is the awkward, shy character hiding a secret. This Angela is an over-the-top, gleefully happy counsellor who now apparently loves camp … to death. She’s also pretty adherent to proper social etiquette for young ladies. Of course, none of these character changes make any sense. It’s a completely random change in direction. Nevertheless, Pamela Springsteen’s ‘Angela’ works perfectly for the sequel’s dark comedic tone. And Springsteen herself is an absolute blast to watch in the role.
Other counsellors look old enough to be holding down a mortgage.
As for the rest of Sleepaway Camp II’s cast, they raise the same question I have about most 80’s summer camp movies – what was up with the age distribution? Yes, there’s actual children attending Camp Rolling Hills. Like most 80’s sex romp comedies, they’re involved in and exposed to things that wouldn’t remotely pass as politically correct today. Two young boys snapping secret pics of naked counsellors wouldn’t play for the same laughs in 2020. But the age distribution between some of the counsellors and campers is negligible. Other counsellors look old enough to be holding down a mortgage. Renee Estevez – yes, she’s related to those Hollywood Sheen’s – plays the sequel’s ‘Final Girl’ in what’s a laughable caricature of the slasher trope.
Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers Is a Campy Hidden Slasher Treaure
On one hand, Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers is a cheap looking, exploitative slasher filled with broad dark humour. And even at just under 90 minutes, this sequel threatens to overstay its welcome. Notwithstanding these issues, Unhappy Campers is also an intentionally goofy satire of slasher movies. It doesn’t take itself seriously and neither should you. And Pamela Springsteen is perfect for the role – she’s more fun than the campers she’s ‘sending home’. Consider this sequel the kind of dumb, fun movie to watch alongside other delightfully trashy 80’s horror for a midnight marathon.