As a kid, I wondered long and hard as to what possible plot could hide behind the cover to Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers.
Based on the hockey mask and blade-tipped glove poking out of the girl’s backpack, the movie seemed to include at least two of the most popular killers of the day. The truth isn’t quite as exciting.
Beware spoilers for Sleepaway Camp!
Okay, so, in this sequel to the classic Sleepaway Camp (1983), Angela Baker has spent years seeing psychiatrists, receiving electroshock therapy, popping every kind of pill there is, aaaaand submitting (willingly or not is unclear) to surgery. The surgery, it is implied, was to complete her transition from male to female. Angela is now fully a woman and, according to her, completely cured.
She celebrates her newfound sanity with a new name, Angela Johnson, and a new career as a camp counselor. Naturally.
Camp Rolling Hills has to be one of the oddest camps around. While Camp Arawak was populated by kids in their tweens (and pedophiles in their fifties), Camp Rolling Hills seems to target kids just a few months away from applying to college. Why any of these post-pubescent hormone machines would want to attend a camp run by an old codger named Uncle John is absolutely beyond me. One of the activities the camp provides is painting. On paper. Seated at a table. Like they’re making a very special birthday card for mommy.
Also, the chief counselor, T.C., looks like Dave Coulier with a head-swallowing mullet.
I like to think that this sequel is actually a prequel to other franchises ‘cause, given her extreme moralizing, Angela could easily have grown up to be Mrs Voorhees or Mother Bates. She absolutely hates the idea of teenagers having sex, drinking or even talking back. Her cure for such moral decrepitude is murder.
The kills here are largely bloodless, but, unlike the original Sleepaway, Unhappy Campers is clearly going for dark humor over scares. Angela is one of the most casual murderers I have ever seen. In one scene, she does a Bruce-Willis-in-Pulp-Fiction bit as she considers and rejects murder weapons, one after the other, while she continues to converse with her eventual victim.
The most memorable kill features Ali, the camp’s reigning queen of creative breast exposure. Ali is killed not by knife, axe or cleaver, but by outhouse. She is drowned in shit, piss and leaches—the movie is very specific about this: shit, piss and leaches. In that order.
Other kills include an off-screen immolation, a drill to the abdomen, and a fairly funny decapitation.
The Final Girl, Molly, is pretty sad. She spends most of the film wondering how far she should go with the dude she likes and, in the end, escapes only through clumsiness.
Even at a running time that barely cracks 80 minutes, Unhappy Campers feels as though it has a fourth act. A fourth act which includes the inexplicable murder of a foul-mouthed female shit kicker in a pickup truck. At this point Angela seems to be killing out of annoyance more than anything, as though even she knows the movie should’ve wrapped things up ten minutes ago.
As for that cover? A Jason-like hockey mask, Freddy-style glove and even a Leatherface-approved chainsaw do make an appearance (though I have absolutely no clue where these campers found this rather specific gear), but they’re all used to provide a big ol’ wink at the audience, as though to say, “Hey, know those movies you really like, this is kinda like those, right?”
But, no, not really.
Unhappy Campers isn’t a total waste of time, but I’ve already linked to the best part up there. Y’know, the part with the shit, piss and leaches.
A note about the cover: That is not Angela—who was played by Pamela Springsteen, Bruce’s sister—but a model whose name is now lost to history. It seems Pam wasn’t available for the photoshoot that day. Seriously.
A note about the music: The movie features some hilariously eighties hair metal and, in a few scenes, an album cover can be seen. I woulda bet that it was some band name and music created just for the movie. But no. It’s a real band. And their name means “ocean garbage”. Seriously.