Unhappy Campers

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Pamela Springsteen, Renee Estevez, Brian Patrick Clarke, Walter Gotell
Director:  Michael A. Simpson
Audio:  Dolby Digital Mono
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Anchor Bay
Features:  See Review
Length:  79 Minutes
Release Date:  August 20, 2002

“What are you looking for, Angela?  A gun?”

“No…a drill.”

Film ***

Most people know that horror films are my guilty pleasure, but one movie whose virtues I’ve always gladly trumpeted over the years has been Sleepaway Camp.  It was a modestly crafted but surprisingly sharp and effective thriller with one of the all time best surprise endings I’ve ever seen.

When it came time for a sequel, new director Michael A. Simpson decided Sleepaway Camp II:  Unhappy Campers should be less sleepy and more camp.  Long before any of the Scream movies, this was the first horror flick to be aware of its own genre and spoof it, with blatant homage to the likes of Freddy, Jason, Leatherface and more.  It’s a film filled with gratuitous nudity and graphic violence…in horror, the two go hand in hand, you know.

Pamela Springsteen, sister of rocker Bruce, took up the role of Angela in the second movie, and she is the true shining star.  She delivers her campy dialogue with all-shucks earnestness, then dispatches the “bad campers” in increasingly gruesome ways.  She’s the cute young counselor with one bad-ass attitude.

The tongue is firmly in cheek here (except when it’s on the ground in a memorable early scene)…gone is the more direct thriller approach that the original had, along with a spellbinding whodunit plot.  It’s replaced by a lower order approach…one that emphasizes blood and breasts over brains.  But the results are decidedly entertaining, on a completely base level.

Just like the slicing and dicing would suggest, this is a movie made up of parts that are individually greater than the whole.  My favorite part has to be the boys’ counselor reading off a list of “missing” items, and wondering what exactly Angela is going to do with each and every one of them!  Either that, or the terrific revelation of Angela’s hiding spot near the end.  But then, I’m forgetting the death-by-latrine, the battery acid, and the sequence when Angela does her takes on the other horror icons of the decade!

For some reason, despite its cult status, the Sleepaway Camp films seem to have fallen through the cracks a little bit.  It’s a shame…there’s plenty of fun to be had in this twisted trilogy.  Angela is more than an imitator of Freddy, Jason, or Leatherface…in my book, she’s every bit their equal…women’s liberation at its finest.

Video **1/2

I don’t know if this film has gotten the care it deserved over the years, but it doesn’t come across quite as good as the first movie.  Anchor Bay once again salutes horror fans with an anamorphic widescreen transfer, which is a plus, but because of age (and the ever-troublesome 80s movies curse), the overall look is a bit hit-and-miss.  Lighter sequences boast terrific coloring and more detail, darker scenes are a bit softer, but with minimal grain.  No compression is evident.  In general, a decent effort, but one that falls short of Part I.

Audio **

The mono track is adequate, but nothing to get excited about.  Dynamic range is sorely missing when the screams come rolling in and the hard rock songs come charging through, but apart from that, dialogue is clear (if somewhat thin sounding), and nothing much seems missed effects-wise.  A pedestrian offering; nothing more or less.

Features ***

The disc starts off with a terrific and fun commentary track, hosted by webmaster John Klyza and featuring director Simpson with screenwriter Fritz Gordon.  It’s an entertaining and informative listen…the reminiscing is fun and right on target, because Klyza doesn’t miss a detail or a chance to bring up a piece of trivia.  Horror buffs should really enjoy this one.

There is also a 13 minute collection of outtakes and behind the scenes footage narrated by Simpson, the original trailer, a teaser trailer for Sleepaway Camp III, a stills gallery, and an easy-to-find Easter egg that plays the “lost” song from the film by the group Ravenswood.  A little menu animation is another nice touch!


Sleepaway Camp II is a scream from beginning to end.  Terrifically gory and horrifically funny, it takes on its own campy (no pun intended) tone and runs with it.  If you like horror and have missed out on this one, it’s worth a look.