Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988)

A generic but throughly entertaining slasher movie with plenty of blood and boobs. Anchor Bay US R1 DVD & Boxset.

The Film

By the end of the 1980s, slasher films were in decline - market saturation meant that films were having to go to more and more extremes to get noticed. With the rise of home video though, there was still plenty of demand, and so Jerry Silva, who produced the first Sleepaway Camp, decided to seize the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the ever popular Friday 13th, Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises, and produce sequels to his own film.

At a Summer camp somewhere in America, a group of boys are telling scary stories around a camp fire. A girl, who has sneaked away to sit with the group recants a story about a slaughter at a summer camp some 60 miles away, caused by a traumatised child - now that child is grown up and has been let out of the asylum... suddenly the senior councillor Angela appears and hauls away the errant girl - but after an alteraction in the forest, the girl is left dead. Angela covers up the killing by explaining that she had to send the girl home, but as more and more errant campers start to be "sent home" it becomes clear that something is up...

While Sleepaway Camp is considered to be among one of the genre's most original films, with a realistic summer camp atmosphere, a dark toned storyline and some effective mystery surrounding the killer, Unhappy Campers is to all extents just a generic slasher movie, even down to the wisecracking killer and cliché characters. Fortunately the film is highly entertaining throughout and certainly knows that it was not designed to be taken seriously, so the wisecracks and clichés just become part of the fun (the film intentionally referencing a whole variety of other slasher movies), not to mention the gratuitous nudity and over-the-top deaths, but fortunately it avoids becoming pure comedy or descending into slapstick. Although not as impressive as in the first film, Unhappy Campers' scipt does contain some well observed touches and characterisation, particularly the awkward romances and a superbly funny fumbling sex scene. Pacing is good throughout, and although there is no real climax, the film ends very well.

Little known director Michael Simpson takes the chair for this and the third film, and does a solid job with the shooting - most noteworthy are the gore effects, that certainly do not betray the film's low budget production, and are well incorporated into the end movie. The soundtrack is a mix of rock music and it suits the film very well.

Unhappy Campers
boasts a mix of familiar faces, names, and complete unknowns. The role of Angela is played by Pamela Springsteen, best known as being the brother of singer Bruce Springsteen, but fortunately she can act, and very well, managing to tread the fine line between purely serious acting, and daft wisecracking to make the character actually believable. There is strong acting from both Renée Estevez, sister of Charlie Sheen and now best known for her work on the West Wing, who plays the 'good girl', and German born Walter Gotell, instantly recognisable for his repeated role as Russian General Anatol Gogol in the James Bond movies, who plays camp owner 'Uncle John'. The rest of the cast give good performances, for a slasher movie, and there are plenty of attractive girls.

While some might mourn Unhappy Campers as being deeply inferior to its predecessor, slasher fans should find plenty to enjoy in its ample supply of blood and nudity, and although not very original, the script is well paced with some well observed touches, while acting and production are above average for a late 1980s slasher movie. Recommended to all slasher movie fans, and generally recommended to trashy horror fans.

In Brief

Anyone famous in it? A variety of familiar names and faces, but no-one too well known.
Directed by anyone interesting? Michael Simpson - an occasional television director who's only cinema work includes this film and its sequel, along with a comedy film Fast Food (1988).
Is it scary?No, and it doesn't really try to be.
Any violence/gore? Some strong and quite realistic gore.
Any sex? Several female topless scenes.
Who is it for?
Slasher movie fans should enjoy this knowingly cliché and gore filled genre entry.


Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 anamorphic wide-screen. Colour.
The image is generally strong with minimal print damage and light, but noticable grain.
Audio Original English mono - sounds solid.
Subtitles None
Extras The disc includes:
  • Audio commentary with director Michael Simpson and writer Fritz Gordon and moderator/fan John Klyza - flows well, with some good information and stories.
  • Behind the scenes footage - seems to be 16mm footage shot on the set, including interviews with some of the special effects crew, includes a voiceover by Michael Simpson. Very interesting to see. 13 minutes.
  • Original US trailer (for the video premier release) - filled with spoilers. 2 minutes.
  • Teaser trailer for Sleepaway Camp III.
  • Extensive photo gallery, including on-set photos of the cast, crew and effects, plus artwork from various video releases.
  • EASTER EGG: A music track "More Love" by Ravenstone, originally to have been used as the end credit music for this film, accompanied by photos and details about the band.
AvailabilityReleased as a single disc as detailed here, or the same disc is available as part of the Sleepaway Camp Survival Kit boxset, along with a booklet. 
Region Region 1 (USA, North America) - NTSC
Other regions? An Anchor Bay UK release includes the same bonus features, plus remixed 5.1 and DTS soundtrack - detailed at DVD Rewind.
Cuts? The film is uncut as per the video original release, but was cut down to receive an R rating when filmed, and these shots are not included on this print [although some of the effects can be seen in the behind the scenes footage] - the missing shots are not noticable when watching.



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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 22nd July 2007. Released as part of Horror September 2.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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