Ed. note- Reviews of the first two SLEEPAWAY CAMP sequels are popping up all over the internet. While other sites have connections with Scream Factory, I don’t, so I don’t have a free screener. But that’s ok, because I’m not reviewing the Blu-Ray. I’m reviewing the film itself because of what’s going on in our society. When Bruce Jenner revealed himself as Caitlyn Jenner a few weeks ago, it became the high point in the transgender/transsexual movement that has been gaining steam for several months (or maybe the low point, given how the media covered it). This is the first in a series I call the Trans-Gressor reviews.-P.F.
Since I first watched DEXTER and subsequently read the first Dexter novel, I’m intrigued by killers with a moral code. What sets Jigsaw, Dexter and Hannibal Lecter apart from the mindless Jason Voorhees is they kill with a very specific agenda, slaughtering evil people who arguably deserve to be slaughtered. While the concept produces mixed results (I love DEXTER, I hate the SAW movies), at the least it keeps the bad guy interesting. Sadly, it’s the only interesting thing about SLEEPAWAY CAMP II.
SC II begins with a scene any fan of camp slashers will recognize: the fireside storytelling. Lead counselor TC and campers are sharing scary stories, when one decides to recap the tale of Angela, the violent transgender who brought down a whole camp in the previous film. Seems the doctors at her mental institution gave her a sex change, as one exuberant character states, “OUR PARENTS’ TAXES PAID FOR IT!” Out of the woods comes Angela herself! She’s a counselor at the new Camp Rolling Hills, and her first act is to punish the girl telling the story. And so begins a new swatch of terror.
The beginning of that swatch reveals Angela’s motivation. She kills the girl for violating orders by sneaking off to hang out with the boys. She’s broken the camp laws, and further sinned by telling Angela’s story, so Angela commits poetic justice by cutting out her tongue. Along the way, she’ll kill all sorts of campers, each of whom violated a moral code. One half of what makes a slasher film work is the slasher herself, and Angela’s fragile psyche is the only element that made the movie watchable. I got into the psychological aspect as she steeped herself deeper and deeper in blood. Midway through the flick she’s so far gone that she doesn’t understand why camp owner Uncle John rebukes her for, as she tells him, sending bad campers home; he’s upset because it’s killing his business. If only he knew how literal she was doing just that.
Don’t misunderstand. SC II is not a profound exercise in morality or psychology. Any flick that names two of its characters the Shit Sisters isn’t aiming for higher ground. No, its intent is purely to please slasher fans, so what we get is a slasher film full of all the tropes. Nudity and blood dominate the woodland scenery, there’s an extremely high body count (a whopping 18) and there’s even the old “killer collects all the dead bodies and props them up in a room” scene. Instead of high concept fare, the flick becomes just another lazy effort in a cycle that, by 1988, was long past its prime.
As for how it exercises those tropes, it’s so-so. It’s got a lot of female nudity going for it, but even that couldn’t keep my interest for long. It’s also got a few creative kills (the other half of what you need for a decent slasher), including barbecuing two victim and dumping another down a port-a-potty. But the kills get lazy as the film plays out, resorting to the stabbings and tool usage that are so prolific in the slasher subgenre. Two of the kills mock the Power Trio of slashers, Jason, Freddy Krueger and Leatherface. But those only reminded me just how much more staying power those guys had.
Credit Pamela Springsteen for pouring her all into Angela. This isn’t the shy mute of the first film, but a deeply scarred woman who grew out of what happened at Camp Arawak. Given how poor a script she’s working with, Pam does a solid job of knowing when to dial it back and when to go full on chewing scenery. In one early scene, she tells Uncle John there are still good kids out there, and they just have to weed out the bad. Later, she sings the “I’m a Happy Camper” song, which provides her view of a perfect world. In a better movie, these scenes would have been touching. In this one, I applaud Pam for selling them with all the integrity she’s worth.
SLEEPAWAY CAMP II is a lazy effort that’s full of poor writing, poor acting and a bunch of kills that you’ve seen portrayed better in other movies. At the core, it’s got an intriguing concept about a killer with a misguided sense of morality. If only that were the core of a better film.
Ed. note 2- SC II also has some of the most bizarre trivia surrounding it. I’d feel remiss if I did not share. Enjoy.- P.F.
Some bizarre trivia from SLEEPAWAY CAMP II: UNHAPPY CAMPERS
- Let’s start with the most obvious. Pamela Springsteen is the much much much much much less famous sister of Bruce “Born in the U.S.A.” Springsteen. Sure, he gets all the glory in the family, but he never killed anyone with a port-a-john.
- Most of the campers are named after members of the Brat Pack. Which tells you how much respect writer Fritz Gordon had for his audience’s intelligence.
- Not content with just naming characters after the Brat Pack, director Michael A. Simpson cast Renée Estevez, sister of Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez.
- None of these kids look anything like the Brat Packers after whom they’re named.
- Brian Patrick Clarke, who plays TC, is best know to soap fans for his stint on General Hospital. In one storyline, he captured popular characters and went by the name The Snowman. If I ever meet this guy at a convention, I’ll ask him all sorts of questions about the Snowman storyline. I’ll also ask him about his mullet in SC II. It’s luxurious.
- Walter Gotell plays Uncle John. The actor is no stranger to films with over the top acting and insane plots. A decade earlier, he co-starred in THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL.
- Freddy Krueger’s glove and Jason Voorhees’ mask appear on the old VHS box cover. So does a young lady who is obviously NOT Pamela Springsteen.
- At the campfire, Sean reveals his dad is a cop that busted Angela at Camp Arawak. Remember this if you watch SC III. Do yourself a favor and don’t watch SC III.
- The name of the camp is Rolling Hills. When I was at Nova University outside of Fort Lauderdale, I used to use the pool at a country club with the same name. For some reason, I could never remember the name of the place, and called it “Rolling Springs” all the time. Of course, the “Hills” was way off base, as Florida is the flattest piece of land on the East Coast.