Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers - Collector's Edition [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Shout! Factory
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (21st June 2015).
The Film

“Ooooh, I'm a happy camper, I love the summer sun. I love the trees and forest, I'm always having fun! Ooooh, I'm a happy camper, I love the clear blue sky, and with the grace of God, I'll camp until I die!”

Call it serendipitous timing, but with all the talk of Caitlyn Jenner in the news the media should take this opportunity to highlight everyone’s former favorite transsexual, serial killer Angela Baker (Pamela Springsteen), who is arriving on Blu-ray with her two trashy sequels in tow. The original “Sleepaway Camp” (1982) is well-liked and rightly considered a cult classic; it still, to this day, has one of the most shocking WTF endings in all of horror. The film’s writer/director Robert Hiltzik had plans to return for a sequel that was intended to be darker and more violent, but producers had the complete opposite intention. The slasher heyday was long over by 1988; the film needed to lampoon a dead movement while still retaining the gore and nudity fans sought. Enter director Michael A. Simpson, who pitched a couple of back-to-back sequels that could be done very cheap, with clever scripts and a plethora of boobs & blood.

“Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers” (1988) finds Angela Baker returning very close to her old stomping grounds of Camp Arawak, only now she’s an actual counselor at nearby Camp Rolling Hills. A campfire tale that opens the film purports that Angela went under the knife to complete her transformation, dropping the first film’s climactic co-star and finally becoming a full-fledged woman. Just as Phoebe (Heather Binion) gets to the story’s end, Angela, her cabin leader, shows up and angrily insists she return to her bunk. Angela wastes no time in reminding viewers of her favorite camp activity – killing – as she beats Phoebe over the head with a log before cutting out her tongue. And so begins an 80-minute series of loosely plotted murders and mayhem, peppered with very liberal doses of magnificent breasts. Angela murders campers for the slightest of infractions, disposes of the bodies in her backwoods cabin, and uses the excuse of having sent the person home as a reason for why they’re suddenly missing come morning. Eventually, though, everyone goes missing…

It would almost be too easy to write off “Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers” as soft core horror sleaze – which it sort of is – but the script by Fritz Gordon is much sharper than those Skin-e-max late-night tit-fests. Gordon’s words are witty and occasionally hilarious, mainly due to how literal the writing can be. When Angela has a soon-to-be-dead camper in her car, she starts rooting around in back looking for something. When the girl asks “What are you looking for, a gun?” Angela replies, “No… a drill” before digging deep into the girl’s cranium. Later, when the camp is hosting a haunted house kids are blindfolded and made to put their hands in “eyeballs” or “guts” – in reality just certain foods mixed together. In Angela’s box? - “dead teenager’s brains”, something she cheerfully reiterates when someone asks what’s really in the box.

Nobody in this film is an acting wunderkind; however, all the credit for making this such a fun, fearsome adventure goes to Pamela Springsteen. Unlike Felissa Rose’s withdrawn, nearly-mute portrayal of Angela, Springsteen is full of verve and chipper as a chipmunk. Those doe eyes and beaming smile belie her unremitting need for punishment and morality, which is ironic given her near total lack of morals. I highly doubt Angela’s character is a reflection of the transgender community, and it’s probably safe to assume she isn’t welcomed with open arms despite the fact there are very few transsexual leads in film period, horror or not. On a related side note, I would absolutely watch a reboot starring Bru…er, Caitlyn Jenner.

Simpson knew this film couldn’t simply kill campers with traditional methods; Angela needed to be creative, often killing kids in a befitting manner given their perceived transgressions. For example, the “Shit Sisters” – Brooke (Carol Chambers) and Jodi (Amy Fields) – are caught smoking the devil’s lettuce, so Angela drags the siblings up to a remote fire pit where they’re burned alive. In a memorable scene lampooning horror’s three biggest icons – Freddy, Jason and Leatherface – a hockey mask, chainsaw and finger knives figure into the deaths of a couple campers. But the crème de la crème of disgust is easily “shitty” camper Ally’s (Valerie Hartman) death by outhouse. That scene of her gurgling in gallons of human waste while Angela gleefully jabs her under with a heavy log (no pun intended) grossed me out as a kid; it still grosses me out now, too. Nearly every death scene is unique, which is saying a lot considering the body count approaches twenty before the credits roll.

Horror films aren’t known for straying too far outside the box when it comes to sequels, so it’s refreshing to see “Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers” embrace equal parts comedy and horror without playing one aspect too heavily over the other. It’s absurd, trashy, violent, nasty, disgusting… and entirely entertaining. Angela would return once more for “Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland” (1989), which was filmed virtually right after this one wrapped, with results equally as outlandish and gruesome.

Video

The 1.85:1 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded image looks to have been culled from an early master, with results that offer up minor improvements over the previous DVD. Colors are decently saturated and a little more robust, even if they look a bit washed out at times. Daylight scenes can look a little too hot, resulting in some blooming and faded hues. Black levels are mostly black. Close-ups yield some decent details, but medium and wide shots present a softer image. Film grain is clearly evident, sometimes to a fault, but personally I find it helps retain a look emblematic of most low-budget ‘80s horror films. Anyone who has viewed this film over the years on various formats will notice this Blu-ray easily trumps all that have come before.

Audio

There isn’t a whole lot to discuss when it comes to the English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track. Dialogue is clear and balanced, effects are decently placed and the track is alive with all the sounds of the forest. There are no hisses or pops, and the audio never struggles to deliver the moderate sound mix. Subtitles are available in English.

Extras

This is a Scream Factory Collector’s Edition, so you know what that means – lots of extras! This Blu-ray includes an audio commentary, featurettes, theatrical trailers, stills and more.

DISC ONE: BLU-RAY

Director Michael A. Simpson and writer Fritz Gordon are on hand for an audio commentary that delves deep into the making of the film. I tend to enjoy tracks for low-budget films more than any other because the filmmakers usually spill the beans on how they managed to do so much with so little.

“A Tale of Two Sequels – Part One” (1080p) is a featurette that runs for 28 minutes and 6 seconds. Typical of Scream Factory featurette, this one covers all the ground leading up to the filming of this sequel, including the decision to film is alongside the follow-up. It sounds like the cast & crew had a blast making these pictures, and I’m envious they all got to stay at the campgrounds for the duration.

“Abandoned – The Filming Locations of “Sleepaway Camp II” and “III” (1080i) is a featurette that runs for 15 minutes and 28 seconds. This is similar to Scream’s other location segment, Horror’s Hallowed Grounds, only the two guys hosting here are too bro-tastic for my tastes. Their shtick gets annoying quickly.

“Behind the Scenes Footage” (1080i) is a featurette that runs for 13 minutes and 21 seconds. Director Michael A. Simpson provides un-optional commentary over this footage, which is comprised of rehearsals, make-up tests, wardrobe choices, set building and, everyone’s favorite, craft services.

Home video trailer (1080i) runs for 2 minutes and 24 seconds.

Short film “Whatever Happened to Molly?” (1080i) runs for 50 seconds, finally answering the question of the film’s final girl’s fate. Don’t expect much.

A still gallery (1080p) contains 84 images, running for 7 minutes and 7 seconds.

DISC TWO: DVD

This is a DVD copy of the feature film.

Packaging

The two-disc set comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keep case, with each disc on a hub opposite the other. The cover art is reversible, allowing for display of the original theatrical art. A slip-cover with the newly commissioned art is included on first run pressings.

Overall

Full of thoughtfully creative executions, crass humor and boobs aplenty, “Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers” is a raucously entertaining horror sequel that steers away from its predecessor and is all the better for it.

The Film: B- Video: B- Audio: B Extras: B+ Overall: B-

 


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