Night #14: Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers (1988)

Directed By: Michael A Simpson

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!”

 

On some previous iteration of this blog I talked about Sleepaway Camp and how it stands out in the pantheon of 80’s slashers for being just so weird. There’s no way a sequel could live up to that – particularly that insane ending – but here we have a movie that tries. On the one hand it’s too incompetent to really work, but that same incompetence adds up to be something sort of magical.

Pamela Springsteen (Yes, his sister) plays Angela, who as we learn has been spending some time in a Psych hospital but is now totally fine. A group of camp goers sit around telling their horror stories with one girl telling the story of the first movie. Before she can get to the end Angela appears to drag her back to camp, then she kills her and cuts her tongue out, uttering warnings of what happens to girls who tell ‘dirty’ stories. As far as anyone is concerned Angela has sent the girl home (And it’s used as a running gag throughout the movie as Angela repeatedly has to explain that she’s sent yet another person home).

Sleepaway Camp 2 is so strange as a slasher because it spends nearly all of its running time with the killer, at least Jason et al invade on your teen sex comedy or after school drama. This time it’s the other way around, with Angela only leaving briefly so she can set up another kill, for increasingly frivolous reasons. If you want to talk about a moral code in slasher movies then, as a character, Angela is probably the strictest of them all. Sex and drugs are off the menu, as is anything which breaks the camp codes. Eventually she just starts killing for the minor infraction of being alive.

What we’re left with though is a double edged sword. When we’re not spending time with Angela, other characters are talking about how uptight she is. Sometimes they’ll stop to talk about tits (One character – the slut of the group – mentions hers about 3 times in a minute at one point) but more often than not they’ll just talk about Angela. I think there’s kids at the camp too, but they seem to vanish early on that it starts to look like it’s just a bunch of camp counsellors having a holiday while Angela sternly reprimands them for having fun. By spending next to no real time with the counsellors they get to be as flimsy as you could make a character. There’s some burgeoning romance between two of them but it’s so uninteresting it might as well not exist.

There’s no real construction to the deaths either, with Angela just appearing and then killing while being delightfully cheerful at the same time (I don’t think I’ve seen a slasher in which the killer gets such simple pleasure while murdering someone else), but it’s this which makes it borderline inept. It’s all filmed as flatly as possible and I’m not joking when I say that I could probably Direct this movie about as well as it was, and I’ve never picked up a camera. For example, there’s a neat sequence where she kills one man with a Freddy Krueger glove and then kills another who’s dressed as Jason Voorhees while she’s dressed as Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Sure it’s meta, but the movie does nothing with it and the sequence is over before it begins and it’s all done without any real sense of pacing or flourish. I would’ve at least liked it if they got Michael Myers in there, or even that guy who kills with the giant guitar/drill from Slumber Party Massacre II (I know you think I’ve just made that up, but I haven’t – see).

Still, there’s something that’s just charming about the movie that I can’t dismiss it entirely. It works despite itself, with Springsteen’s cheery antagonist a counter to the death on display (She tallies up a whopping 18 kills!) and great lines like “You don’t have AIDS or anything, do ya?” after two characters are done having sex. There’s a third one, filmed back to back with this one – Take THAT Lord of the Rings – but I hear it lacks the charm of this one. Oh well, maybe next year.

 

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