“Oh, I’m a happy camper…”
Man, I have been chomping at the bit for an excuse to write about this movie and its immediate follow-up. Why am I leaving out the first Sleepaway Camp, you may ask? Because that movie is a completely different animal than its two sequels. The original was for all intents and purposes a straightforward horror movie, despite the bizzaro ending (which seems to be all that people remember about that movie anyway). The sequels, however, were campy, over-the-top, hilarious, self-aware and meta even before movies like Scream came along. They were comedies with enough gore packed in to leave the horror fans satisfied.
This movie takes places years after the original in another summer camp (one not far enough away that the campers and counselors are unaware of the massacre at Camp Arawak) and there is a brand new counselor this year at Camp Rolling Hills: Angela Johnson, played perfectly by Pamela Springsteen (yes, Bruce’s sister). We don’t have to wait long for the first murder, nor is this a whodunit… we are well aware that Angela is the killer and it doesn’t take much of a leap to associate this Angela with Angela from the first movie. There isn’t much here in the way of plot: it’s pretty much just a bunch of good-looking kids (most of which are named after the Brat Pack), teenage sex, drugs, boobs, heavy metal, and Angela picking out the kids she decides are “bad” in increasingly hilarious ways. The movie both embraces and lampoons 80’s teenage culture and the horror genre.
This movie is pure fun, something the filmmakers intended. It’s not scary because they knew they couldn’t go down that road when making this sequel, so they decided to amp up the comedic element along with the gore. Some of the effects are cheesy as all hell, but the deaths are pretty memorable: Phoebe getting her tongue hacked off, TC’s face melting from battery acid, Sean’s decapitation, and most unforgettable, Ally in the outhouse. Apparently, doing any of the things normal teenagers do in the woods sets Angela off, so the only safe kid at Rolling Hills is the clean-cut, virginal Molly (played by Rene Estevez, little sister of Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez). It’s apparent to everyone now, but I really didn’t realize back then how slasher movies in the 80s were morality tales of a sort, trying to subtly program us kids with the message: get drunk, get high, get fucked… you get killed. Or maybe it wasn’t subtle at all. And not that any of us heeded the warnings. This movie sure makes no attempt at subtlety; Angela is the gleeful “Angel of Death” doling out justful punishment on the “bad kids”, lecturing most of them just before she kills them off.
Nobody here is going to win an award for acting, but it doesn’t matter. The acting isn’t the worst I’ve seen, but some of it is pretty amateur and it fits right in with the tone of the film. One of the things that made me love this movie is the dialogue… I quote from this flick all the time and I love to sing the Shit Sisters bastardized version of The Happy Camper song. They made Sleepaway Camp 2 and 3 back to back with virutally no budget, so this was one of those projects where nobody was getting paid, but everyone was having a blast and you can tell because it comes out on the screen. There are no redeeming qualities to this movie; I guess I could write a few pages about this movie being ahead of its time for addressing queer themes and treating them in a quite serious manner, but nah. Fuck it. Sleepaway Camp 2 is 80s VHS trashiness at its finest. It’s a romp, fun to watch with friends, and if you haven’t seen it make sure you check it out.
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I’ll be back in a few days to discuss Sleepaway Camp 3…