Bluray/DVD Review: SLEEPAWAY CAMP II

unnamed (5)The original Sleepaway Camp has lived in loving notoriety since it was released in theaters and first found its place on countless mom and pop video store shelves back when black clamshell rental cases and membership fees were all the rage. Immediately being dismissed as yet another cookie-cutter rip-off of the budding Friday the 13th machine, this cleverly written piece of who-done-it teenage slice-and-dicing shocked an entire generation of VHS renters and became a major success on the home video market, creating a strong cult following that no one would have ever expected.There isn’t anyone my age who got to experience the decade of new wave music, Mr. Belvedere and the Nintendo Entertainment System first-hand who doesn’t remember this film with both deep fondness and utter shock by going into a burst into giddy fits when asked which 80s horror film they remembered most.


THE FILM

79562_frontWhile in high school and browsing a local video store in the early 90s, I naively came upon the display box for Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers for the first time and pondered to myself as to why a sequel would ever be made as I – and probably everyone else who had ever taken a gander at it – felt that the original had served its purpose. As Angela had revealed herself at the close of the first film that she was well, different, I was confused as the back of the box announced that Angela had returned to be a counselor at Camp Rolling Hills and impart violent punishment on all the disobedient “bad kids” who would choose the carnal pleasures of booze, drugs and sex over a summer of good, clean fun.

The second entry in the series would take a drastic and surprising turn from the dark and violent tones and themes that had made the first one so powerful and memorable, trading it for comedy and at times, direct references and nods to the slasher films of the time without losing the great set pieces and gore scenes that would go on to make it a fan favorite. The highlight of the entire 80 minutes would have to be, without question, Pamela Springsteen in the role of Angela. There is an absolute brilliance to her incarnation of a mild-mannered, grinning, always helpful post-operative transsexual with murderous tendencies. As Felissa Rose, who played Angela in the original film, said to me when I had the privilege of meeting her two summers ago, “I just love Pam! Nobody could have played Angela like she did!” and I couldn’t agree with her more. Along with clever and unique murders, a great cast that includes Renee Estevez (who would later appear in the classic Intruder), Tony Higgins and Brian Patrick Clarke, what fans probably remember most fondly is the song Angela sings during the mess hall scene, guitar in hand, and eager-to-share positive disposition painted across her pretty face. I dare you to walk up to a fan of this film, ask them how familiar they are with it and watch as they give an energetic smile, hold our their arms, and belt out the tune word for word at the top of their lungs.

I still have yet to see a horror film made within the last fifteen or twenty years that will stay in your head – and your heart – as this one and give you the desire to sit through it over and over again as only the ones made during the years that Saturday Morning cartoons, cassette decks and big crimped hair held their supremacy could. There is a reason why Sleepaway Camp remains one of horror’s most beloved series and one of my all-time favorites as it will forever be one of those films that horror fans like me will turn to and sit in front of when that feeling of homesickness for those simpler times comes over for a long-overdue visit.


 

SPECIAL FEATURES

There aren’t enough NC-17-rated words in Webster’s Dictionary to describe how excited I was to read that Scream Factory’s release of this film would come ScreenHunter_279 Jun. 12 12.12piggybacked with special features put together exclusively for this edition. The thing I love most about the company is that it looks like they do their homework when putting out special editions of beloved 80’s horror films and they have solidified their reputation doing what Anchor Bay did in the late 90’s and Blue Underground did in the early to mid-2000’s: putting out quality discs made from the best available sources – with the strict guideline of accepting nothing less – and loading them with special features catering to both the budding retro-horror buff looking for their first experience and the seasoned, veteran expert who first watched this when Nelson Entertainment released it on home video in the late 80’s in their parent’s pastel-colored wicker-decorated living room.

Along with an audio commentary by director Michael A. Simpson and Fritz Gordon, who penned both Unhappy Campers and Teenage Wasteland, we series die-hards are given a treat of being taken by the hand and led into some fantastic features that don’t sound like much from reading them on the cover of the DVD itself, but don’t be discouraged. Take a moment to check out –

· A Tale of Two Sequels – Part One: a very well put-together mini-documentary about how the film got off the ground with great on-camera interviews with sleepawaycampmovies.com founder Jeff Hayes, director Simpson himself, members of the crew and make up effects team and a brief appearance by actress Amy Fields. Scream Factory assembled this piece with a fantastic intro and closing made in the style of what an old VHS cassette looked like back when the format reigned supreme complete with color bars, blue screens, hiss and video burp. A total nostalgic – and much appreciated – nod to the era in which Unhappy Campers and other infamous camp slashers were at the height of their popularity. Part Two will be available on the upcoming Teenage Wasteland release.

· Abandoned – The Filming Locations of Sleepaway Camp II & III – If you are a fan of this film and it’s follow-up, you will love and appreciate this 15-minute short showcasing many of the actual shooting locations on Camp Waco in Georgia hosted by a duo of fellas who call themselves Adam and The Woo. Both these guys really had the chance to completely screw this up but they take us on a tour through the now-abandoned camp with a respect and a reverence that can only be conveyed as a true fan of the series could. Frames of the closed camp including the pool, mess hall and Angela’s cabin are quickly compared side-by-side with the way they appeared in the final film along with the two of them reciting lines in front of the locations from heart which added an unexpected charm to the whole thing. The best part? When the two of them sit on the same stoop of the cabin once shared by Molly and Angela. I was immediately overcome with both barely-controlled glee and a deep envy and sadly, I don’t think I’ll ever recover.

· Behind the Scenes Footage – Hosted by Simpson himself, this is a must-watch if you’re even remotely a fan of this sequel. Unreleased footage of the director with Pamela Springsteen in rehearsal, shots of the make-up crew applying gore make-up showing us how it was done, the costume crew showing us how they prepared TC’s shirt for the battery acid scene, and how the scene for the outhouse was put together. Absolutely superb and a great look back at how a beloved horror sequel came to be.

· Home Video Trailer – Yes, the original Nelson Entertainment promo trailer sent to video stores just before the film was released. For those of you, like myself, that were around when this hit shelves in 1988, it will bring back some great memories. Gore Galore!

· Short Film – What Happened to Molly? Yes, just what did happen to Molly at the end of the film? Taken from page 94 of the Fritz’s original script, we get a very quick visual of what could have happened to her. It’s very short, eerie and completely plausible.


Without argument, this is the definitive version of the film with Scream Factory giving it an amazing treatment with a gorgeous transfer of the film that looks better than it ever has. I have to send them loud and boisterous props for releasing the original trilogy after the Anchor Bay original editions – and much sought after 3-disc Sleepaway Camp Survival Kit – went out of print and going a step further to bring them to Blu-Ray for the very first time. They have preserved the original poster art on the flipside of the fantastic, newly-commissioned sleeve and slipcase and have adorned the discs themselves with that same well-remembered art which I know will appease fans everywhere. They are listening to fans of 70s and 80s horror and giving us exactly what we want and for that, I both commend them and recommend them very highly.

I have to admit that I have a sentimental attachment to my original Nelson Entertainment VHS and have probably watched it so many times that the video burps have progressed into full-blown indigestion. So for anyone reading this, let me say that yes, it’s ok. It’s time to finally put your worn-out videocassette to rest on that mahogany shelf and fully embrace this two-disc DVD/Blu-Ray set as it’s the best that it has ever looked. It’s so good that there will never be a need for another version. Thank you, Scream Factory, from the bottom of the heart of this rabid Angela-loving 80’s kid.

Leave A Comment