Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers is technically a sequel. It is set a few years after its predecessor, and it follows its protagonist, Angela. That is the extent of the connections, and those familiar with Sleepaway Camp’s twist ending will already see flaws in the premise.
This time around, Angela is portrayed by Pamela Springsteen (who, incidentally, is Bruce Springsteen’s sister), and let it be said: she puts in one hell of a comedic performance that fits the tone of the movie perfectly. Yes, in another leap away from the original, Unhappy Campers is a slasher-comedy, featuring Angela as a camp counselor. I’m not sure what the fans of the original could have been thinking when they left the theater in 1988.
Unhappy Campers has little in the way of a plot, and what is there serves as an excuse for Angela to be an overly giddy killer. Anyone who does anything to make her summer anything but wholesome, family fun, are taken out without hesitation. By the end of the movie, that’s for all intents and purposes the whole camp.
It would be easy to categorize Unhappy Campers as a parody, but that really isn’t the case. This film plays it straight as far as being a cheesy, over-the-top slasher-comedy. It never mocks Sleepaway Camp in any significant way. The murders are ridiculous, even mimicking movies like Friday the 13th to a T. It’s downright impressive how straight Unhappy Campers plays those scenes.
The almost sole reason any of this works is Springsteen. She plays Angela with a sincerity that elevates even the dumbest of scene – and there are many of them – to a snort. Rarely have I seen a character feel so entitled to take out people whose actions she disapproves of. She might be the antagonist, but she is more likable than any other on-screen character.
I don’t know if there is much more to say about Unhappy Campers. It doesn’t have a lot of substance, and it is at its heart a dumb movie. It would be a lie to call it a good film. Yet, I can’t help but recommend it to anyone who likes a funny slasher. Springsteen is that good in it, and it’s too bad she has appeared in preciously few other movies.
One she did star in was Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland, which was filmed back-to-back with Unhappy Campers. More about that soon.