Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers and Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland are both available on instant Netflix.
It is no surprise that I love horror movies. Since I was about nine, I have viewed cinematic horror as the world’s greatest all you can eat buffet and I have been a glutton. I love monsters and the supernatural.
John Carpenter’s Halloween was one of the first movies to ever scare the tar out of me. What I learned from that was that I loved John Carpenter movies not that I loved slasher movies. I saw Friday the 13th, part 2 at the theater and did not think much of it. I saw, and enjoyed, some other slashers (Prom Night, Halloween II, Terror Train) but they always took second place to good horror stories like Carrie, The Fog, Alien, etc. That said, until today, I’d never seen Sleepaway Camp 2 & 3.
Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988) – Rated R
“Five years after a series of violent murders left Camp Arawak looking like Armageddon, the killer returns to the area to work as a camp counselor.”
“Say no to drugs!”
“Keep your morals strong and you’ll never go wrong.”
Sleepaway Camp II begins, as it should, with campers telling cheesy horror stories around a campfire. Naturally this includes a recap of Sleepaway Camp (1983) where they talk about thirty people being killed even though eleven was the actual body count. Oddly, while the impetus for the original killings is mentioned, it is never dealt with in this sequel.
Interestingly, Felissa Rose, who played Angela in Sleepaway Camp (at the age of 13!) did not do another movie for a decade and basically stayed away from movies for two decades. With the rise of the internet and nostalgia for the slasher subgenre, Felissa became a minor celebrity and has since had four dozen roles, almost all of them horror related, including 2008’s Return to Sleepaway Camp. She does not appear in Sleepaway Camp 2 or 3.
Sleepaway Camp II is definitely tongue-in-cheek with the killer tossing off one-liners with each kill. The campers are a ridiculous mix of children and adults making one wonder what kind of a camp has several counselors for each camper. Of course by the end of the film, the ratio is much better. This fault occurs in many other movies, including some of the Friday the 13th movies. There are nods here to the Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Nightmare on Elm Street series of movies.
Pamela Springsteen (Yes, Bruce Springsteen’s sister) takes over the role of Angela for Sleepaway Camp 2 & 3 and her cheerful wholesomeness helps make the movie entertaining. Weirdly, Walter Gotell (The African Queen, From Russia with Love, The Guns of Navarone) plays Uncle John, the head of the camp.
As expected from a late era slasher, Sleepaway Camp II has plenty of sex, nudity, swearing, drug use, violence, and gore. Angela makes it her personal mission to punish all the counselors who have sex, use drugs, swear, or are generally mean. Being the 80s, there is also homophobia on display – somewhat odd, considering Angela’s true nature.
If you like slashers, I was surprised to find this a fun one to watch. If you do not care for slashers, then there is not enough here to recommend.
Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (1989) – Rated R
“Angela joins Camp New Horizon after she kills a lookalike and takes her place. And it doesn’t take long before history begins to repeat itself.”
“It seems every year I’m at camp someone loses their head.”
Sleepaway Camp III was wisely filmed back-to-back with Sleepaway Camp II to save money. Same director, writer, star, and technical crew unsurprisingly produces pretty much the same film. Instead of Walter Gotell slumming, we have noted character actor Michael J. Pollard (Bonnie and Clyde, Tango & Cash, Danny and Max, Simon and Simon, Melvin and Howard, Little Fauss and Big Halsy, Jack and Jill, Leo & Liz in Beverly Hills – what a weird pattern!).
When you watch them back to back, Sleepaway Camp III suffers from fatigue. The jokes fall flatter and the kills become tiresome. Racism replaces the homophobia (though it is one specific character that is racist so presumably the audience is just waiting for them to fall under Angela’s auspices). Maybe it wasn’t so good to film them back to back. There is no suspense in either film as Angela is front and center killing her way through the campers.