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Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988)

Nightmare Vacation II

When you go camping just take the essentials

Directed by:

Michael A. Simpson

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 80 minutes

UK Certificate: 18

On DVD

Country: United States

In the cinema of the 1980s, teenagers had one of two predefined rôles. Either they charmed, emoted and, let’s face it, annoyed their way through comedy dramas about love, class and young angst, typically directed by John Hughes – or they were killed off one by one in slasher franchises like Halloween, ‘Friday the 13th’ and ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’. The genius of low-budget horror comedy ‘Sleepaway Camp 2’ is that it bring both genres together, setting Hughes-style teens, armed only with their own whining idiocy, against a versatile killer with a low tolerance for adolescent antics.

At Camp Rolling Hills, all the teenage campers just happen to share their forenames with the lead bratpackers of the day. There is Sean (Penn), Ally (Sheedy), Rob (Lowe), Demi (Moore), Lea (Thompson), Brooke (Shields), Anthony (Michael Hall), Judd (Nelson), Charlie (Sheen), Phoebe (Cates), and Emilio (Estevez), the head counsellor is named T.C. (after Tom Cruise), the owner of the camp is called Uncle John (in homage to John Hughes himself), while the heroine Molly (Ringwald) is played by Renée Estevez, real-life sister to Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen. Since the first Sleepaway Camp film, cross-dressing psychotic killer Angela, here played by Pamela (sister of Bruce) Springsteen, has undergone a sex change and been released from the psychiatric ward, and now, in her dream job as camp counsellor, is less shy than before, but every bit as confused and homicidal. Angela does not take kindly to the behaviour of the eighties teen icons around her, and in her determination t o improve the camp, is soon expressing her criticism of all their swearing, drug-taking, fornication, smoking, sex-mania and even over-talkativeness in terms that are truly cutting. Only shy, virginal Molly wins Angela’s approval, but having this crazed, kumbaya-singing counsellor as an admirer can be more than a little disturbing.

‘Sleepaway Camp 2’ dispenses with the whodunnit and twist-ending elements of the original, instead going for extravagant gore, gratuitous female nudity, and lots of laughs, with some knowingly ironic gestures (like Angela disguised as Leatherface taking on two boys disguised as Freddy Kruger and Jason Voorhees) that are a whole decade ahead of the postmodern ironies of Scream. Pamela Springsteen’s perfect comic timing and manic cleancut chirpiness (like a revivalist Christian on prozac) holds the whole thing together nicely.

So come on everybody, sing along (and don’t forget the hand movements):

“Oh I’m a happy camper

I love the clear blue sky

And with the grace of God

I’ll camp until I die”

It's Got: Deaths by knife, powerdrill, barbecue, chainsaw, guitar string, battery acid, big stick, and even a drowning in a leech-filled latrine.

It Needs: For teenagers just to behave themselves.

DVD Extras Neat animated menus and scene selection; choice of Dolby 2.0/5.1/dts; hidden link to lost track More Love by Ravenstone (with background on the band); thirteen minutes of behind-the-scenes footage amiably narrated by director Michael A. Simpson; trailer; teaser for Sleepaway Camp 3; extensive stills gallery (behind the scenes and artwork/abandoned cabin scene/make-up effects); full audio commentary by Simpson and screenwriter Fritz Gordon, moderated by knowledgeable megafan John Klyza, including an homage to the 1980s mullet, a surreal anecdote about the union insisting that the line "nips at 5 oclock" be removed on grounds of taste (although they had no objection to its replacement, "party hats at 5 oclock"), and observations on the ever shifting accent of Uncle John. This DVD is available either on its own, or as part of Anchor Bays boxset of the first three Sleepaway Camp films. DVD Extras Rating: 7/10

Alternatives:

April Fools Day, Friday the 13th, Friday the 13th, Happy Birthday to Me, Sleepaway Camp, Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland, The Burning, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Summary

If you have ever wanted to see bratpack adolescents get their bloody comeuppance, then this teen-trashing sequel might just put a smile on your acne-pocked face.

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