Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers

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After years of electroshock and (highly essential) psychiatric treatment Angela Baker, now sporting the new last name Johnson, has been given a clean bill of health by her many doctors and is now officially out of the psych ward. What is one supposed to do when you’re best known as a sexually confused kid who slaughtered a bunch of kids at summer camp? Why you become a camp counselor at a new summer camp, of course! Because didn’t everything just turn out all hunky-dory the last time you were there.

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If this was her first choice than those pills and electroshock screwed her up more than her nutty aunt ever could.

The good news is that all that professional help has converted Angela from a shy, awkward teen to a bubbly, enthusiastic extrovert. The bad news is that despite all those countless hours of therapy, medication and observation the doctors seem to have been unable to cure Angela’s nefarious murder bug. On top of that, she’s become a stickler for rules and is a new, card-carrying member of the Moral Police in a camp filled with back-talkers, bullies, pranksters, sex fiends and druggies. I predict this will end well.

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Note: My predictions are often quite wrong.

How does one continue a series when the first film ended in such an outrageous and shocking way? Well, Sleepaway Camp II decided that the answer to that question was to completely change the tone of the film and to give the maniacal killer a brand new personality.

Set several years after the events of the first film, Pamela Springsteen replaces Felissa Rose as the troubled Angela. I imagine this was partially done because Rose would have only been about 19 years-old when the sequel filmed, a bit too young to be a camp counselor, I guess. But Springsteen does a good job of making the role her own, imbuing her character with a new level of fanaticism. Despite some very cheesy dialogue and the character’s tendency to be rather annoying, Springsteen attacks (heh) her role with lively, bubbly enthusiasm, showing she clearly had a good time slowly knocking off a bunch of unruly teenagers with a cheery smile on her face.

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Speaking of the teenagers in this film, they’re…. not in any way teenagers. Unlike its predecessor, which used actual children and teens in their respective roles, the ‘teen’ cast of Sleepaway Camp II is primarily filled with people who are obviously well into their 20s. It’s not a terribly unsurprising choice, considering the films rating and some of the sex-filled subject matter, but it is a bit disappointing and very off-putting. Part of the nice thing about the first film was, yeah, the kids are saying some stupid stuff, but they’re kids. Kids say stupid stuff all the time. But here, the dialogue is the same (and in some cases even sappier), but instead of being uttered by pre-teens, now it’s coming out of the mouths of people who look like they should be well into their fourth year of collage, thus making them sound like complete idiots. And, okay, the film is more of a comedy and I grant you that some of them sounding like morons may be completely intentional, but I guarantee it wasn’t meant to be quite this bad.

From a production standpoint it makes sense I suppose, as it does solve the dilemma of how to get away with showing all those sex scenes and exposed breasts of ‘kids’ who are supposed to be in their teens. But unfortunately from a viewer’s standpoint it begs the question: Who in the hell is still going to summer camp when they’re 24?

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Welcome to Camp College Dropou-…I mean Mullet-…I mean, Camp Rolling Hills. Damn.

Like a lot of long running horror franchises, Sleepaway Camp II transitions into the realm of comedy in this installment. The only real difference here is that it didn’t take them 3-4 extra sequels to get there. Unlike the first film which tried to play everything straight (even with its unintentional cheesiness), Sleepaway Camp II does away with all that and goes right into full on, self aware goofiness. As I was watching it, I started to think of it as the Heathers of horror. The once quiet Angela is now spouting off dark murder quips, homage is paid to other horror franchises and just about everyone dies an ironically gruesome death.

This also means that the film isn’t in any way scary (unless you count the unusual number of mullets.) You know who the killer is from the start and what little tension there is usually comes not from wondering what’s going to happen, but when, how and to whom. Hell, at one point they literally list off all the upcoming murder implements so you can have ample time to sit there and guess how they’re going to be used. The drug obsessed sisters? Yeah, they’re not gonna make it. The shit-talkin’, sex-crazed cheerleader? I envy her not. The peeping toms? Their pain will be legendary. The two nimwits who decided to run around in the woods dressed as Jason and Freddy Kruger?

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They get taken out by better franchises.

Despite being more self aware than the first film, Sleepaway Camp II follows in its predecessors footsteps as far as feeling socially dated. Not only is there a cringe-worthy amount of sexist set pieces and language, but it also suffers from the same homophobia and transphobia present in the first film. A small, miniscule part of me remains happy that at least one aspect of the original film remains consistent with the sequel. The rest is less than thrilled.

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Though that same part of me is also thrilled I didn’t end up like Ally.

Sleepaway Camp II ends up as a bit of a mixed bag as far as sequels go. On the one hand, if you’re a fan of dark, ironic deaths that are carried out by a quip-filled killer then you’re going to have a good time. It may not be Freddy level of quipping, but it’s still pretty good. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something that is in any way similar to the first film, you’re going to be extremely disappointed. The film is still very fun, it’s just fun in completely different ways than the first film. So expectations should be properly checked.

Sleepaway Camp II is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

It has also recently received a very nice Blu-ray release along with Sleepaway Camp and Sleepaway Camp III, thanks to Shout! Factory.

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