SLEEPAWAY CAMP's Angela transforms from adolescent split-minded serial killer into horror anti-hero in this back-to-back pair of sequels on special edition Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
Six years after the events of the first film, Peter Baker has been institutionalized, treated, and gone under the knife for a sex change, emerging as Angela Johnson (FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH's Pamela Springsteen, replacing Felissa Rose) and has become a counselor at Camp Rolling Hills sixty miles from Camp Arowak, the site of her previous massacre, with the goal of rooting out the bad campers who would spoil the experience for the rest of the good apples. Angela spies her charges engaging in fornication, drugs, panty- and jockstrap-raids, pranks, and general mean-spiritedness – including cheerleader Ally (Valerie Hartman, INTIMATE OBSESSION), exhibitionist Mary (Susan Marie Snyder, TV's SANTA BARBARA), motor mouthed Demi (Kendall Bean), pranksters Judd (Walter Franks III, FAST FOOD) and Anthony (Benji Wilhoite, GLORY), defiant Phoebe (Heather Binion), "tit patrol" Charlie (Justin Nowell, JASON LIVES: FRIDAY THE 13TH VI) and Emilio (Jason Ehrlich, INVASION U.S.A.), and stoner "shit sisters" Jodi (Amy Fields, A KILLING AFFAIR) and Brooke (Carol Chambers, DEAD AIM) among other unfortunates who happen to share given names with the brat-packers – and the number of campers start shrinking as she explains to camp owner Uncle John (Walter Gotell, the Bond series' General Gogol) and bemulletted fellow counselor T.C. (Brian Patrick Clarke, SINGAPORE HARBOR U.S.A.) that she has sent them home for misbehavior. Angela's standards of good behavior become so strict that it appears that even good girl Molly (Martin Sheen's daughter Renée Estevez, INTRUDER) and her "nice guy" beau Sean (Tony Higgins) might not even survive the bloodbath.
"Why did I think this year would be any different," asks Angela, who has assumed the identity of New Yorker Maria (Kashina Kessler) and heads to the re-christened Camp New Horizons a year after the events of SLEEPAWAY CAMP II. New owners Herman (Michael J. Pollard, BONNIE & CLYDE) and Lilly (Sandra Dorsey, GRIZZLY) are conducting a media-friendly an thoroughly condescending "experiment in sharing" by pairing six upper class campers – Midwestern hayseed Marcia (THE FIRST POWER's Tracy Griffith, sister of Melanie), slutty Jan (Stacie Lambert), racist debutante Cindy (Kim Wall, THE MIST), SoCal nerd Greg (Haynes Brooke), prankster Peter (Jarrett Beal), and kinky Young Republican Bobby (Haynes Brooke, FRIED GREEN TOMATOES) – with six inner-city youths: East L.A. gang member Tony (Mark Oliver, THE CRAZIES remake), gangbanger Riff (Daryl Wilcher, FREEJACK), tagger Snowboy (Kyle Holman, HIDE AND CREEP), switchblade-slinging Arab (NIGHT OF THE DEMONS' Jill Terashita), Anita (Sonya Maddox, MADE IN HEAVEN), and of course Maria. This time around, Angela does not have to wait to spot the bad campers as they are all immediately at each other's throats. Things are made easier to Angela to pick them off when the twelve campers are split off into three groups for a three day camp out; however, she discovers that the third counselor is cop Barney Whitmore (Cliff Brand) whose son Sean she killed the previous year and who arrested her seven years before at Camp Arowak.While these two back-to-back sequels are generally entertaining, they cannot help but seem like goofier retreads of the first film. The first film's fresh humor and general air of naughtiness – made all the more discomforting by the age of the performers – was informed by the director's camp experiences while the sequels are riffs on the played-out slasher genre in which the audience is cheering the killer on due to the sometimes extreme stupidity or obliviousness of the victims. SLEEPAWAY CAMP II is generally regarded as the better of the two thanks to its goofier humor (including variations on the "I'm a Happy Camper" song), better if not by much delineated characters, and inventive if not always convincing murders and make-up effects. Springsteen is a genuinely gleeful psycho while Estevez and Higgins are reasonably sympathetic; however, seasoned actor Gotell is not much match for the first film's Mike Kellin as the crotchety camp owner. Nods to other slashers come in the form of the two pranksters dressing up as Freddy and Jason to scare Angela only for Leatherface to make a surprise appearance. SLEEPAWAY CAMP III seems not only rushed in execution but also in scripting – it was written during the shooting of the second part and shooting commenced a week after the former film wrapped – with the victims defined by their obnoxious characteristics and the camp owners as a pair of grotesques (although Pollard is far more entertaining miming obscene and flirtatious gestures to Lambert's Jan behind his wife's back). The death scenes are generally less creative (with Angela resorting to simple bludgeoning a few times) while the more inventive ones are executed in a slapdash manner. The third film in the series probably fares better when watched directly after the second, as part of a triple bill with the first two, or at the top of a triple bill with the worse follow-ups.
First released directly to video by Nelson Entertainment, the two films made their digital debuts through Anchor Bay in 2002 separately and part of a boxed set (designed to look like a first aid kit) with the first film. Transferred from 35mm vault elements owned by MGM, Scream Factory's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 transfers of both film sport strong colors and crisp detail. Heavier grain pops up in some underlit shots – including the climax of the third film spoiling the reveals of the corpses to the survivors during Angela's "trust game" – and the reel changes occasionally evince some faint scratches. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono tracks are both crisp, but only some piercing screams and the rock soundtracks have much presence. Optional English subtitles are available for both films.
Both films can be viewed accompanied by commentary tracks – carried over from the Anchor Bay discs – with director Simpson and writer Fritz Gordon, hosted by sleepawaycampfilms.com's John Kylza. Simpson discusses how the sequels came about after Hiltzik's own sequel concept was turned down. His concept of a transsexual killer might seem a little un-PC until one remembers that Angela's abuse-induced gender split personality preceded her operation by more than a decade. Gordon also clarifies the brat pack naming device with TC standing for Tom Cruise and Uncle John being John Hughes (THE BREAKFAST CLUB). Simpson also discusses the difficulties of picking out suitable rock songs from the Enigma Records library. Moderator Klyza contributes nicely throughout, pointing out that Angela does indeed have a sense of morals and wants her victims to be good campers, but she's also nuts (and reminds us in the context of her seeming homoerotic attraction to some of the women that she used to be a boy). He also clarifies the names of the inner city youth characters on part three as being derived from WEST SIDE STORY for those of us that did not get the reference (making a little more sense of the forbidden romance between Tony and Marcia), and that the reporter character had a different death scene in the script but it was deemed too expensive. Klyza does suggest that the SLEEPAWAY CAMP sequels gave audiences and filmmakers permission to laugh at the slasher genre, but we did have STUDENT BODIES and PANDEMONIUM before this.
A retrospective featurette titled "A Tale of Two Sequels" is split between the two discs. Part I (28:06) features director Michael A. Simpson (FUNLAND), cinematographer Bill Mills (FAST FOOD), editor John David Allen (AFTER SCHOOL), art director Frank Galline (THE RETURN OF SWAMP THING), effects artist Bill "Splat" Johnson (BLOOD SALVAGE), actress Fields, and series super fan Jeff Hayes. Simpson reveals that producer Jerry Silva (IMPURE THOUGHTS) felt that Robert Hiltzik's own script for the proposed sequel was too dark and wanted to take things in a more comedic direction. He slags the first film as only being remembered for its twist ending and decided to use that as a starting point. Mills describes the first film as looking flat visually and what he attempted with the sequels on the budget while Allen and Galline discuss the shooting experience on the abandoned Camp Waco location in Georgia while Johnson recalls landing the films as his first feature assignments after taking a course under Dick Smith (THE EXORCIST) and having to turn down additional work on EVIL DEAD II since he did not do mechanical effects. Fields recalls that her parents were not okay with her doing a make-out scene and Simpson recalls that the underage actors were not allowed to participate in the violent scenes so he had to shoot around her. As suspected, Angela's third act nightmare was a piece of padding to bring the film up the contractually-required eighty minute running time when they came up short by two minutes during editing. Part II (26:12) features Simpson, Mills, Allen, Johnson, and Hayes as well actors Oliver, Dorsey, Wall, and Wilcher. Simpson recalls that the film was greenlighted on the basis of the rough assembly for the second film and that they had only a week between the wrap of the first and the start of the second. Oliver and Wilcher discuss the choreography of their fight scene while Wall and Dorsey discuss their death scenes (and all have something to say about how crazy Pollard was on the set). Simpson and his crew conclude the discussion by discussing which of the two films they preferred (most of them like the second because it was less rushed than the third).
Both are also accompanied by vintage behind the scenes video with commentary by Simpson. The one for the second film (13:21) is centered on rehearsal of the sequence where Angela looks for an appropriate weapon to dispatch Demi, as well as the application of the actresses special make-up for the corpse reveal later on. We also get a look at the wardrobe assistants Tracy Thornton (THE NEON BIBLE) and Laura Paris (DEAD AIM) roughing up the costumes to reflect the state of damage and decay when the bodies are later found (including burning holes in one shirt for the unfortunate victim of a face full of battery acid. The featurette for the third film (8:28) is focused on the shooting of Maria's death by MAC truck with the actress doing her own stunts and a clear view of Angela's burly driving double Lonnie Smith (one of the Georgia-lensed CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE's pissed off bikers). Simpson fares better with a moderator as he at times struggle for relevant comments here. SLEEPAWAY CAMP II also features "Abandoned: The Filming Locations of SLEEPAWAY CAMP II & III" (15:28), a largely dull visit to what remains of the Camp Waco locations with host Adam the Woo pointing out where various scenes occurred intercut with clips from the film. The only interesting part is when he comes across the swimming pool which is now green with algae and completely surrounded by thick foliage.
While SLEEPAWAY CAMP II was given an R-rating upon appeal to the MPAA, SLEEPAWAY CAMP III suffered cuts to obtain the contractually-obligated rating. The trims were never preserved, but the deleted gore bits are available in two viewing options: first in a deleted scenes montage (18:26) which runs so long because it presents the death scenes in their entirety including the surrounding footage, and then as part of the full VHS-sourced workprint cut of the film (84:48) with unfinished music and audio mixing. Video quality is poor enough that the recovered gore is not always clear, but I found watching the workprint as a whole more interesting than fast-forwarding through the deleted scenes for the few seconds of added gore here and there. SLEEPAWAY CAMP II includes the short film "What Happened to Molly?" (0:50) which envisions her actual fate based on the last page of the shooting script, while SLEEPAWAY CAMP III features the short "Tony Lives" (1:10) in which Oliver reprises his role and is pestered by an off-camera reporter (played by Hayes) about events he would rather forget. Since the films were not released theatrically, the discs feature spoilersome home video trailers for the two films (2:24 and 2:38, respectively) – the latter part of Nelson Entertainment's "Women With a Passion" promo – as well as individual still galleries. As usual with the collector's editions, the reverse cover sports original artwork and is the preferable choice. (Eric Cotenas)
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