13 Days of Sequels: SLEEPAWAY CAMP II

With 13 Days of Sequels I’ll be reviewing horror sequels every weekday for the last two weeks of October. You can view all entries HERE.

Thanks in part to the massive success of Friday the 13th, the early ’80s saw a surge in horror movies set around the campfire, lovingly known as “backwoods slashers”. The Burning, Mother’s Day, Madman, Don’t Go in the Woods…Alone!, Just Before Dawn, The Forest, The Final Terror, and The Prey were all released before the decade had even reached its halfway point. The trend would all but dry up by the end of the ’80s, the only real notable exceptions being the franchises that had fostered the sub-genre and had outlived the random copycats.

One of those enduring films was Sleepaway Camp, the cult shocker from 1983 that became a surprise success (making $11M off its $350K budget) thanks largely in part to its bizarre climax – which is still being talked about today.

Despite being released during the apex of the slasher craze, Sleepaway Camp stands out among its contemporaries. Many of the films released during this period were made only to cash in on the trend. They had sloppy production values, incoherent plot lines, and padded out their runtimes with sex, drugs, and violence (possibly in hopes of distracting viewers from the shoddy production and incoherent story). But Sleepaway Camp was different: it was a little weird – which made it interesting, it had an element of genuine mystery to it, and it didn’t rely on sex and drugs to keep the viewer engaged. In fact, one of the things that sets Sleepaway Camp apart from its peers is that they used actual teens to play teens in the film.

But by the time Sleepaway Camp II was released, interest in the oversaturated genre was starting to wane, and the films that helped solidify the genre had become almost self-parodies: Jason was now a zombie fighting a telekinetic teen and Freddy was a wisecracking goofball embraced by schoolchildren.

So it makes total sense then that Sleepaway Camp II is a complete 180 from the first Sleepaway Camp. All the hallmarks of your standard slasher are there: endless bare breasts, numerous sex scenes (two within minutes of each other), copious amounts of drug use (a pair known as the “Shit Sisters” are high/drunk throughout the entire film), and twenty-somethings masquerading as teenagers. (Pamela Springsteen, taking over for Felissa Rose as “Angela”, was 26 when she played the 19-year-old character.)

Gone, too, is the serious tone of the first film, now replaced with a more black humor approach. Angela is no longer a silent leering weirdo; here she’s a gleeful, preachy loner capable of unpredictable mood swings. And despite being shorter than its namesake by almost ten minutes, Sleepaway Camp II‘s body count is doubled – from 9 to 18 – putting Friday the 13th V‘s “Every 8 Minutes” rule to shame by offering a kill every 4 minutes. (Seriously, there’s one before the opening credits even roll.) It also feels cheaper – and therefore sleazier – than a lot of its brethren (or sistren, as it were), and that helps to add a special little something.

Now, if Sleepaway Camp II had been its own stand-alone film with no predecessor, I wouldn’t be too impressed. But seeing as its a sequel, all these changes actually work when compared to the original film. An identical sequel would have been uninspired and boring – however, Sleepaway Camp II swings so far in the other direction, you can’t help but appreciate its totally opposite approach.

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