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Anchor Bay presents
"That's what you get for not obeying your counselor, and here's what you get for telling such evil stories and having a filthy mouth. What a bad camper!"
DVD ReviewWARNING: This review contains spoilers for the original Sleepaway Camp (1983).
Relax though, because there are no spoilers for Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers in this review.
The glut of dead-teenagers-at-summer-camp movies in the early 1980s really took hold with Sean Cunningham's Friday The 13th (1980), and pretty much created an easily copied genre that resulted in a ton of mindless, severed-limb-filled imitators. One of the most infamous was Robert Hiltzik's Sleepaway Camp (1983), which could have been another forgettable copycat were it not for the out-of-leftfield ending that still stands as one of the great shocker revelations in B-movie horror history. The identity of the killer is enough of a stunner, but the film's final shot is one of those wonderfully bizarre and eerie moments that turned Hiltzik's traditional hack-'em-up into an instant cult classic, and turned star Felissa Rose into a venerable horror convention icon.
It took five years (a lifetime for a genre film) for the inevitable sequel, Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers, to occur, and the directorial duties were assumed by Michael A. Simpson, who would go on to direct Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland, as well. The story, written by Fritz Gordon, is set years after the events of the first film, and teenaged killer Angela Baker has served her time, had an operation and has morphed into twenty-something Angela Johnson (Pam "I'm Bruce's sister" Springsteen). Gordon wisely avoids trying to top the shock value of the original, and instead delivers a steady dose of (bad pun alert) "campy" humor.
There admittedly isn't much story here, but that doesn't hinder the enjoyment of Unhappy Campers. After a brief opening sequence in which the legend of the Camp Arawak killer (from Sleepaway Camp, of course) is discussed by a group of campers around a roaring campfire (as sort a refresher for the audience), the story then quickly becomes a series of bloody murders committed by Angela, now a counselor(!) at Camp Rolling Hills.
Gordon's script wisely sidesteps any element of mystery and suspense here, in favor of heavy doses of dark humor and gratuitous nudity, and there is no secret revelation of the killer's identity. We clearly see Angela commit all of the brutal murders. The reason this film is so much fun to watch is the perfectly humor-filled performance by Springsteen as the tightly wound Angela. Springsteen is perky, cute and has a wide, innocent smile, and could not look any less like a serial killer; her bubbly rendition of The Happy Camper song performed in the film has even become something of a cult favorite among fans of the series. When she is unleashing her wicked vengeance she does so with not only a proper moral lesson to the victim, but with a marvelously detached casualness. One of my favorite scenes is where Angela is trying to decide what weapon to use to kill one of the campers, and she wanders around her room picking up various items (a hairbrush, a radio, a guitar) and mimes an attack while the unsuspecting victim waits in the other room.
Even if you've never seen Sleepaway Camp, this one can still stand as a worthwhile black comedy thinly disguised as a slasher film. Anchor Bay has reinstated some footage that was cut from a few original releases of the film (like the tongue removal scene), and that alone should please fans. The whole reason this film really works so well is because Springsteen is dead-on as Angela, and just might make me forget about Felissa Rose.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: Anchor Bay has issued Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers in a respectable 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, and probably represents the definitive release of the film. You may notice that the color field is not overly bright, but it does retain a slightly soft, consistent hue throughout. The whole print is devoid of any major scratches or nicks, and occasionally reveals levels of fine grain.
I was actually pretty shocked at how well this transfer looked, even with its minor flaws.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital mono track offered on this disc sounds terrific, and only shows its limitations during the Anvil song used in the opening credits (which sounds a little flat). Dialogue, however, is clean, crisp and clear at all times, free of distortion, hiss or crackle.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 25 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring a href="showreview.php3?ID=3831">Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Michael A. Simpson, Fritz Gordon, John Klyza
What should have been the main goody is a slightly uneven, full-length, scene-specific commentary from director Michael A. Simpson and writer Fritz Gordon, moderated by www.sleepawaycampfilms.com 'er John Klyza. Simpson and Gordon are prodded quite a bit by factoid-rich Klyza, who seems to have more knowledge of the film than the filmmakers at times. When poked hard enough, Gordon supplies some fun info, such as that all the characters are named after Brat Packers (Molly, Demi, Mare, Sean, Ally, Rob, Judd), but sometimes it takes a lot of prying from Klyza. This isn't a completely bad commentary, but thankfully Klyza is present to fill in the gaps and draw out the information.
Behind-the-Scenes Footage and Outtakes (13m:21s)
This is a far too brief collection of various, often unrelated, behind-the-scenes footage, occasionally narrated by Simpson. We get to see a rehearsal for the darkly comic scene where Angela is deciding what to use to kill Demi, and Simpson does a fine job here of describing the scenario. The makeup effects crew get the chance to show off their work, and they briefly discuss how they created some of the gory visuals. This piece even includes footage of a leech-covered Valerie (Ally) Hartman and Pam (Angela) Springsteen in the lunch line during a break in filming. Too bad this is only thirteen minutes long...
A beefy set (almost 100 pictures!) of good quality stills, divided into three categories:
Behind-the-Scenes and Artwork: Wow! 66 color images, consisting mostly of smiling cast and crew members posing in a variety of shots on the set. Various examples of international poster art concludes this section.
Abandoned Cabin Scene: This one features 16 images of the climactic sequence of the film.
Makeup Effects: Sixteen more closeups of the assorted corpses and victims of crazy Angela.
The presence of this hidden extra (not that hard to find) is referenced during the commentary track, during the closing credits sequence. It is the song More Love by Athens-based Ravenstone, which was originally intended to be used over the film's closing credits. A text-based bio of the band is on-screen as More Love plays in its entirety.
This disc is split into 25 chapters, and does not feature any subtitles. A theatrical trailer for Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers, and a brief teaser (title only) for Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland is also included.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsTopping the shock value ending of Sleepaway Camp was not an option here, and Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers offers more gallows humor, all delivered by a perky killer played by Pam Springsteen. It's funny, bloody, and an easy pick for horror fans.
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