There are three kinds of sequels in this world. The sequel that continues the story of the previous installment in a series, the sequel that has fuck-all to do with the original and creates a completely new story in lieu of the absolutely workable earlier installment and sequels in name only. So I ask you where a movie like Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers fits in? Sure it continues the original story with its focal point still on Angela Baker though we now refer to her as Angela Johnson, but if you mean to tell me that Michael A. Simpson created a continuation story from the original Robert Hiltzik classic as anything more than a way to get exploitable elements on screen then you might not have seen Return to Sleepaway Camp, a true continuation of Hiltzik’s vision. When I watch Sleepaway Camp II I think of it as its own beast; it belongs to a separate franchise that, in my perved out mind, has more than two sequels (if we’re counting Sleepaway Camp IV). Still even though Simpson’s vision of Camp Rolling Hills isn’t as potent, shocking or cocks-out as the Camp Arawak installment doesn’t mean it has less merit especially in terms of iconic 80’s camp slasher pictures. Unhappy exists as its own legacy, generating its own film-memory and not necessarily relying on the original picture for much of anything save for a brief emotive declaration from the counselor of death.
The story thus far finds Angela Johnson (formerly Angela Baker) as a counselor at Camp Rolling Hills. Typical summer camp. Kids being snotty, telling deranged campfire tales, arts, crafts, fornication, murder. Johnson becomes the moral safety patrol, killing in the most amusing of fashions anyone who breaks a strict moral code. Along the way, mullets will swoon, young campers will fall in love and a string of campers will be “sent home” much to the dismay of the camp owner and fellow counselors. Perhaps the tag line for the Texas Chainsaw Massacre is equally appropriate for Sleepaway Camp II: Who will survive and what will be left of them. Instead it’s “When You Go Camping Just Take the Essentials” which is a nod to the box art rather than the content of the movie.
Sleepaway Camp II is a kill by numbers affair that starts with murder from the opening sequence and paces itself at a kill every five minutes or so leaving little time for actual development of a story line save for a few ham-fisted backstory elements that come off as comedic attempts to create a Dungeons & Dragons serial killer with a twelve sided die rather than the careful, methodical evolution of a camp killer. This is why Sleepaway Camp II actually works where another equally flawed and vacant slasher sequel will fail. The elements of comedy manufactured by fractured storytelling and a “keep the action moving” approach to filmmaking forces the audience to laugh at dialogue that is rammed in your anus like a fist-shaped, unlubed buttplug. The sheer volume of kills assures that no amount of money could have been spent on any of them which seems to have forced ingenuity into some perfectly B (or C or Z) grade effects. These are the kind of effects that could easily have been created with a trip to Party City with a Home Depot next door. It’s a one two punch that plows its way through your good horror sensibilities and by the time you’re through with an 80 minute music video of kills (including one elongated recap dream sequence) you realize that you spent the entire movie laughing and occasionally being grossed out.
Of course as a young man seeing Sleepaway Camp II for the first time I was enamored with the generous Thanksgiving size portions of breasts. If there was any confusion as to whether I wanted thigh, wing or breast, the confusion stopped with Sleepaway Camp II. Sure, Mare… nice girls don’t have to show it off, but we truly appreciate your efforts to display what it means to be a show off. Valerie Hartman (you fellas know her as Ally) you stole my heart like Mary Ellen Moffat stole Hooper’s heart in Jaws. I have even gone so far as to stalk…uh hmmm… *attempt to contact her* for an interview. Ally is the perfect horror villain who nearly gets away with showing off those delightful party hats, fucking in the shower, fucking in the woods and having a perfectly filthy mouth. She’s trashy cool, pure 80’s gold with hair bigger than your 60 inch flat screen and a slight accent that makes you feel right at home. In a few years she might even be cooking grits and sausages at a roadside attraction. I often describe Sleepaway Camp II and Silent Night Deadly Night as the movies that made me a man. Watch on repeat. Keep the tissue box handy. Keep your morals strong and you never go wrong, right?
While there’s ever so complex analysis to be afforded to Sleepaway Camp II, it’s role in the franchise that created a monster for two (sort of three) movies, we’ll stop there and end this on a more personal note. One of my favorite collectible items in my stash includes a “Tit Patrol” button from Horror Boobs that I randomly picked up at Monster-Mania. I dream of wearing it around like a badge of honor, Polaroid camera in hand alongside my good buddy who shares my fascination for mammaries. I’m not entirely certain my kids or wife would approve. The VHS cover is the perfect recap of the film. Here’s a sexy girl (not in the movie) holding iconic horror items in a backpack. It sets up a different kind of horror picture. While there are moments of comedy, it isn’t entirely a horror comedy. It’s not a Student Bodies that’s for sure. It almost takes itself as a serious sequel at times, others, it creates a steady line of slapstick gimmicks and snatch and tit jokes. There’s more than that though because I still think of that damn pit toilet kill as one of the sickest in all of horror (and not just of 80’s horror). Its budget allowed for creativity in the manufacture of murder from the Shote Sisters being grilled up alive to a guitar string kill straight out of the Luca Brasi death in The Godfather.
I adore Sleepaway Camp II for the boobs, the kills and the soundtrack. We’ve got some classic 80’s guitar riffs shredding your TV speakers that seem to go unnoticed but I urge you to reconnect with the opening track from Anvil, “Straight Through the Eyes”. Yes, it’s a sequel in name and in a few choice plot points but the feel of the movie is completely different with elements of camp (cheese) that the rather serious original didn’t evoke. The original is a horror film through and through with dated elements that may make you laugh but with roots in more traditional genre works… with a surprise inside of course. The number II is a “get the asses in the seats” teen slaughter fest focusing on gratuity over substance and dialogue meant to be quoted often and inappropriately. You know… pure unbridled 80’s horror decadence.
Until next time creepy kiddies, keep your tits growin’.