John's Horror Banana-nanza Episode Five: The "Sleepaway Camp" Series
So in this episode we will review an excessively underrated series from the 80's that just recently released a very entertaining fourth movie, the Sleepaway Camp series. These movies had everything 80's slasher films were famous for. Tits, campgrounds, dope smokers, the ever reliable POV killer cam, and of course, an anti-hero for the killer. But who is the anti-hero in this series? Ever hear of Angela Baker? If you have, you know she deserves to be up there with Jason and Michael Myers. If not, prepare to hear the story of one demented lady. And don't worry. I won't spoil a thing. Here's the order in which I enjoy them.
4. Sleepaway Camp II : Unhappy Campers
3. Return to Sleepaway Camp
2. Sleepaway Camp (1983)
1. Sleepaway Camp III : Teenage Wasteland
Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers
So the movie begins at this new camp called Camp Rolling Hills, where the counselors tell a story around a campfire about Camp Arawak and the girl who killed everyone there, Angela. There's even an epic mullet haircut on one of the campers. Anyway, a camper sneaks up behind them and tells them to all go back to the campground. But the girl keeps on telling a very exaggerated version of the last movie where campers were "hatcheted to death" and "about 30 people were killed" which isn't even close. Without even trying to hide it, we find out that Angela is the sneaky camper, and she immediately cuts out the storyteller's tongue. As usual in this series, the movie pulls no punches. Angela keeps saying that the campers "got sent home" for not following the rules. Apparently, it's vital that the campers follow not only the rules of the camp but also the rules of every horror movie ever. Drinking? Dead. Smoking? Dead. Naked? Dead. Pooping? Yes. Dead. I personally take offense to anyone named "John" in these kind of movies, mostly because when I watch these with my friends, everything the character says is a reflection of me. But yes, there's a dimwitted character named Uncle John in this film, and he's completely pointless. Honestly, I'm happy when some of these people get killed. Not because I like people dying, but because I'm glad to see them get out of the film. For instance, two girls not wearing pants get drunk in the middle of the day in the woods and scream "Only when I'm shitfaced will everyone get high!" What the hell are they talking about? I don't know, but Angela burns them to death. Ha. I'm kind of weirded out that Angela thinks any of the people she's killing are learning anything. They're dead. So...whatever. My favorite kill is the drill, simply because when the girl she kills is asked to apologize for showing her gazongas, she simply says, "Never. I'd rather die first, Angela." Well, I'm sure she was happy to oblige. There's some dumbass references to Leatherface, Jason and Freddy which seem misplaced, and the movie just kind of plods on for a while with more and more bizarre kills. (The outhouse drowning.) The effects aren't really that great. It's easy to do a slit throat scene, but they botch that up. Stabbing scenes look like someone taking their anger out on a pillow. Angela throws hot water at mullet-guy's face and it looks like a crater blew up on it. And man, the cabin at the end...that has to reek so bad. So although this movie has moments that make you go, "What the fuck?" it's not really close to the level of awesome that the original, or the third, came up with. Although Pamela Springsteen really rocked her part as Angela, and would re-assume it with vigor in Part 3.
Return to Sleepaway Camp
This sequel is more like a nod to the original. Lots of rip off scenes, including the boiling water are thrown in. This fat kid named Alan keeps getting picked on and his only friend is a frog. The original cast returns and has to accept that, yep, here we go again. Ricky and Ronnie are now counselors at Camp Manabe, and they think that Angela may somehow be behind this outbreak of murders. However, she's been locked up. I just can't give too much away because even I was kind of caught offguard by the ending. Some of the kills are great. Some of them are just plain silly. For instance, one of the kids sees a hole in the floor of his cabin and sees a spear come up through it. So what does he do? Puts his head, repeatedly, over the hole. Guess what eventually happens after about the fifth time he does this? And the guy who gets strapped to a tree while...well, you just have to see it. For a direct to video movie, this film has a lot of good things about it. It seems to have a more polished look than either of it's predecessors. Although it does feel like the fourth movie in a series, it is definitely worth a look. Besides, Vincent Pastore and Issac Hayes are in it!
This movie spawned a line that I can't use if I want to avoid spoilers, but if you've seen it all the way to the end, you know what I'm talking about. So this girl Angela and her brother Ricky go to Camp Arawak and the Angela meets the biggest group of bitches you'll ever see on film. How she doesn't tear them to shreds is beyond me. Oh wait. She does! The killer isn't the real shocker in this movie. The effects are not so great. The bee sting scene just proves once again that using a bathroom in a horror movie is a rule not many discuss, but seems to prod it's ugly head again and again. We also see the most cruel use of a curling iron ever put on film. It's a movie that kind of makes you want to stand up and say, "Yeah. Take that you bitch!" But that would make you seem like a real asshole, so you just calmly smile...which probably makes you insane. Anyway, there's no real reason you can't watch these movies in order, and if so, this is a great movie to get you started with. But it pales in comparison to the over the top humor and top of the line B-grade acting in the third movie.
Sleepaway Camp III : Teenage Wasteland
The movie opens up with graffiti telling us that yes, Angela is back. Once again played by Pamela Springsteen, we start to see more of a Freddy-esque attitude that she brings to the character. Witty one-liners and over the top death scenes make this my favorite in the series. So some reporters show up at Camp New Horizons, which is basically Camp Rolling Hills from the last movie, and talk about how 19 people were killed there last year by Angela Baker. While Angela is standing right beside her. So the reporter tries snorting coke and instead snorts what looks like rust remover. HA! Anyway, why'd they re-open the camp after only one year? And does anyone check the credentials of the counselors they hire? Not in Horror-World. Of course, as we learned in Friday the 13th VI, if you change the name of the camp, everything gets better! Yep. A cop shows up to give a speech and is met by what looks like a halfway house full of characters who belch at him. Okay? Anyway, apparently the cop's kid was killed last year at the camp, and now he's out for revenge. Or something like that. Angela kills two people with a stick, which she seems to do often. She blows some people up with a flare and roasts marshmallows on the fire! That's right. She turns someone into a puppet using only an axe. Then comes the flagpole scene. Not my favorite in the movie, but one of the better ones. She quizzes some girl about 3 things. Is she a cheerleader, a virgin, and a drug user? Of course the girl answers yes to all three. Then we find out that Angela has super strength because she hauls the girl up a flagpole and drops her. Yeah. Then comes my favorite scene, the one I saw first that got me hooked on the series. She buries the fat head counselor up to her neck in dirt and runs a lawnmower over her head! Freaking ridiculous! So the plot isn't really a plot. It plods along with frenetic pace and goes one liner after one liner. And in the end, nothing is really resolved. But my goodness, it is fun. The series isn't the most popular in the horror genre, but it's all the elements and fun of the slasher films of the 80's. I highly recommend these movies for laughs. Don't take them seriously, because it's obvious the filmmakers didn't.