Director – Michael A. Simpson, Screenplay – Fritz Gordon, Producers – Jerry Silva & Michael A. Simpson, Photography – Bill Mills, Music – James Oliviero, Makeup Effects – Bill Johnson, Art Direction – Frank Galline. Production Company – Double Helix Films
Pamela Springsteen (Angela Johnson), Renee Estevez (Molly Nagle), Tony Higgins (Sean Whitmore), Valerie Hartman (Ally Curtis), Brian Patrick Clarke (TC), Walter Gotell (Uncle John), Terry Hobbs (Rob), Kendall Bean (Demi), Susan Marie Snyder (Mare), Julie Murphy (Lea), Carol Chambers (Brooke), Amy Fields (Jody), Benji Wilhoite (Anthony), Walter Franks III (Judd), Justin Nowell (Charlie), Heather Binion (Phoebe), Jill Jane Clements (Woman in Truck)
calling herself Angela Johnson, Angela is working as a counsellor at the Rolling Hills summer camp. As the various teenagers at the camp start to misbehave, Angela responds by killing them, afterwards maintaining the pretence that she had to send them home.
The first Sleepaway Camp (1983) is classic of the slasher film. It is as much so for the relative degree more imagination with which it was made as its classic twist ending revelation about the gender of the killer. Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers was the first of three sequels and was followed by Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (1989), which was shot back-to-back with this and also featuring Pamela Springsteen as Angela. Over a decade later, there was a third sequel with Sleepaway Camp IV: The Survivor (2012). The first film’s director/writer Robert Hiltzik had also made his own sequel independent to these others with Return to Sleepaway Camp (1988).
With Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers, the original, which stood out amid the wasteland of the slasher movies of the day with some freshness, has slipped into being just another formula slasher film. For one, the issue about Angela being trans has been all but erased from the show. It is mentioned and there is about one scene where Pamela Springsteen gets uncomfortable about being seen in the shower but otherwise Angela is treated the entire way through the film as someone who is a regular girl rather than intersex. Nor is there is any scene where any of the characters get to discover the truth, which the first film built out into a big shock twist.
Michael A. Simpson’s direction is average, no more, no less. Sleepaway Camp 2 doesn’t slip into any particularly bad stakes; it’s just an average example of the 1980s slasher films on all regards. There is nothing particularly clever about any of the slashing sequences – there is not a single one of them that stands in memory after you finish watching, for instance. The film’s most amusing meta moment is having kids dressing up in Freddy and Jason masks in order to prank Pamela Springsteen only for her to turn up wearing a mask as Leatherface from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and kill them all with a chainsaw.
The cast is mostly peopled by the usual list of nobodies who failed to ever go on to do anything again (as was the case with almost every slasher film of the decade). Of the names that do stand out, one of the most eye-catching of these is Pamela Springsteen – yes, the younger sister of rocker Bruce Springsteen. Pamela had a minor career as an actress and appeared in a dozen or so film and tv roles but after the Sleepaway Camp films quit the business to become a photographer full time. She is an odd choice as replacement for the first film’s Felissa Rose. At complete contrast to Felissa’s frightened, withdrawn performance, Springsteen plays the part up with a bright and sparkly cheer that can turn cold at a moment’s notice (although is something you hardly judge her for – she comes across more as the sort that would usually get cast as the best friend in a film). Renee Estevez, who plays the Final Girl of the show, is one of Martin Sheen’s children – the one who never gained the fame that Emilio and Charlie did – and appeared in half-a-dozen roles. The strangest name in the cast is Walter Gotell, a German-born actor who had a long career on stage and in film (usually as Russian heavies) and was most known for his recurring role as a Soviet general in the James Bond films.