Spotlight

One Too Many: SLEEPAWAY CAMP II – UNHAPPY CAMPERS!

25 June 2019

We forced our intern, Charlotte Daraio, to watch a film, not just any film though, it had to be a sequel to a film from a franchise that she had never seen any of the films from before…then we asked her to review it. 

One too many times have I found myself watching a continuation of a beloved franchise that doesn’t quite hit the mark, or watching a follow-up to a film I didn’t like that much in the first place. I’m all too familiar with the bitter disappointment and self-hatred of having probed the sanctity of closure, only to never be able to shut it quite as tightly.

Well, what better way to eradicate these negative emotions than to jump the hurdle of the high bar altogether? That’s right: I’m talking about skipping the original. Because who needs all that pesky pretext that hinders a sequel-viewing experience?

These reviews are based not on tech specs or creative merit, but on stand-alone-ability – on how well the sequel braves the cruel elements of knowledge, nostalgia and time. So sit back and let an ignoramus warble on about – and maybe trash talk –  the nth instalment of your favourite franchise. Because let’s be real: you know she’s right.

SLEEPAWAY CAMP II: UNHAPPY CAMPERS (1988)

Do not – and I cannot stress this enough – watch Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers on public transport. I did, and boy is my face red. Not only is there a crazy amount of screen-time for breasts alone, there are also longwinded sex scenes that would make even the horniest among us cringe and wish for the agony to end.

This movie is more of a stand-alone film than any of the other sequels I’ve seen. A slasher to its core, there aren’t any returning characters from the first film outside of Angela, the murderous camp counselor. The entire first movie is summarised around a campfire in the opening scene as a spooky story – and even this seems generous and unnecessary. It’s like the producer of the first movie said, ‘I just really love the idea of killing kids at camp. Maybe we should run with it again and call it a sequel?’ There isn’t a plot. It’s just killing. Creative killing, sure: we’ve got characters being burnt alive, drilled, slashed, stabbed, whacked, chainsawed, drowned. It’s creative – not smart, but creative.

Man, call me a feminist – because that’s exactly what I am – but this movie really goes gung-ho on the whole ‘we hate women’ horror trope: our antagonist, Angela, is a victim of forced gender-reassignment surgery – a literally emasculated figure who kills teenage camp girls who bear ‘unfeminine’ traits. I surely don’t need to explain why this is transphobic and sexist but I will anyway: having a transgender woman – continually referred to as a ‘dyke’ – as the central antagonist of a slasher film reaffirms the belief that gender non-conformity is something to be scared of.

Granted that this is a very 80s movie, with very 80s hair and very 80s acting. We could say that negative representation of minorities ‘was just how it was back then!’ And I get it. I really do. But this movie’s opinions about women are so clear cut that I could see the death hierarchy playing out from the first scene: only The Virgin can be The Final Girl and The Slut needs to be stabbed with a phallic weapon, then punished with the most horrific death of the film – Sleepaway Camp 2’s Slut is drowned in the leech-ridden shit of an old outhouse. But she had it coming, right?

Maybe it’s meant to be satire. Maybe it is. But let me ask: who is it satirising? Is it just being sexist and transphobic by way of trying to satirise sexism and transphobia? Because that ain’t how satire works.

All this aside, perhaps the thing that upset me the most about this film was how easily our Final Girl, Molly, escapes from being tied up in a shed. She just slips right out of that bondage, but surely Angela would surely have some fancy knots up her sleeve to prevent this exact scenario from happening. They’re supposed to be scouts, yet she just double-knots Molly to a nail in the wall and calls it a day. Actually absurd.

I know I said I wish I was sent to summer camps in a previous review, but I take it all back. The dialogue– though terribly acted – is super realistic. I can’t stand the cringey, hyper-sexual, rude, malicious way these teenagers speak to each other. Despite the fact that some of the actors are well into their 20s and pretending to be teenagers, their tiffs and conversations take me back to high school. And I hate it. It was on point, truly. There’s no way I’d ever willingly subject myself to the conversations of teenagers again. Yuck.

5/5 for stand-alone-ability – and for stand-alone-ability alone.