Monday, June 29, 2015

#1,778. Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988)

Directed By: Michael A. Simpson

Starring: Pamela Springsteen, Renée Estevez, Tony Higgins

Tag line: "When you go camping just take the essentials"

Trivia: This movie was Shot back-to-back and at the very same location as its sequel, Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland. Both finished within six weeks

It’s late at night, and a few teens from the nearby summer camp are sitting around a fire in the middle of the woods. As you’d expect, a few scary stories are flying around, but it’s Phoebe (Heather Binion) who tells the scariest of them all, mostly because it’s true. As her friends sit silently, hanging on her every word, Phoebe reveals how, a few years back, a bunch of kids were murdered at Camp Arawak, which, according to her, is only 20 miles from where they’re currently sitting. The killer had been apprehended and thrown into a psychiatric ward, but has since been released. As Phoebe continues her story, camp counselor Angela (Pamela Springsteen) walks up behind her, telling Phoebe she shouldn’t be out of her cabin, and ordering her to return to camp. But poor Phoebe never does make it back. Thus begins Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers, an entertaining, though not perfect, sequel to the 1983 cult classic, Sleepaway Camp.

Angela, it turns out, was at Camp Arawak when all hell broke loose, but she doesn’t let it bother her. In fact, she’s grown to love life at camp, which, for her, represents all that’s wholesome and pure. She’s so good at her job that the camp’s director, known as “Uncle John” (Walter Gotell), has just named her Counselor of the Week. Though not everyone is happy to have Angela around; aside from Molly (Renée Estevez), who’s a bit awkward herself, the rest of the campers, including Ally (Valerie Hartman), Sean (Tony Higgins), Mare (Susan Marie Snyder), and Rob (Terry Hobbs), think Angela’s a stick in the mud, a killjoy who ruins their fun (by not letting them have sex with each other). Even fellow counselor T.C. (Brian Patrick Clarke) has issues with Angela’s “zero-tolerance” approach to the job, which has led her to send camper after camper home for breaking the rules. But are these banished teens actually making their way home, or are they suffering a worse fate?

More comedic than Sleepaway Camp, Unhappy Campers is a lot of fun to watch (the original was much darker in tone), and features some very effective kill scenes; sisters Brooke (Carol Chambers) and Jodi (Amy Fields) meet a grisly end over a fire pit, and there’s a sequence set in an outhouse that’s tough to sit through. The only problem I had with the film, actually, was the character of Angela, who went from a shy, withdrawn girl in the first film to an outgoing goody-two-shoes in the sequel. For me, the change in her personality was far too drastic to be believable (even more ridiculous was the so-called “operation” Angela supposedly had), and while I felt Pamela Springsteen (real-life sister of rocker Bruce Springsteen) did a good job in the part, the character, as written, left something to be desired.

This slight issue aside, Unhappy Campers is a worthy sequel to the original, continuing the story while, at the same time, putting its own unique spin on things.