Counselor Superior Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers (1988 / director: Michael A. Simpson) 1/2*/5Let me run this by you as though you're a movie fan with the power to greenlight a film, here's the idea: after the brilliance of 1983's Sleepaway Camp which mixed the setting of Friday the 13th with the dark subversion of Carrie, what would you think of doing a no-budget, direct-to-video sequel in the spirit of Police Academy and turning the killer from a bullied girl getting revenge to a Nazi who ruins the party for everyone and then kills them because they don't agree with her uptight, puritanical values? Surely, you'd say the same thing I was thinking: why on Earth would we want a sequel that makes former victim Angela the bully? The movie's answer: relentless T&A, AIDS insensitivity, homophobic slurs, bad acting (although, in fairness, Renee Estevez - yes the sister of both Charlie Sheen and The Breakfast Club's Emilio Estevez - is okay), non-existent writing (I'm not kidding- this movie's numerous attempts at character conflict are as sloppy and jittery - and these are kind descriptions - as all the dialogue in Street Trash), bargain basement-quality special effects (these are by far the cheapest looking gore FX you're likely to see in the entire 80's output of the genre), and the chance to make Angela into a one-liner-spouting female Freddy Krueger. What can one say about something like that? Here's what: Serial Mom mastered this formula brilliantly 6 years later. And Unhappy Campers doesn't belong on the same planet as Serial Mom, let alone at the same table as the original Sleepaway. And if all this has to offer is some T&A, why wouldn't you just watch a porno instead? Or, better yet, go to Spring Break? Nevertheless, this sequel works like gangbusters on 80's horror hounds with no standards and has gone on to become a minor cult hit. Some even think the novelty of having Bruce Springsteen's real-life sister rack up such a huge bodycount or beefy male counselor T.C.'s Dave Coulier-styled frizzy mullet are enough to put this in the same league as the first film. However, it's movies like this that serve as a reminder of just how much insufferable shit populated the 80's. Which is bizarrely viewed as a precious decade by many hardcore horror fans (I mention this because many of them attacked Scream for no good reason and fail to realize how influential the 90's were to horror, to say nothing of how vastly superior they are to the last 12 years in the genre). Most of the time, excess is just plain stupid. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Any Last Words? Sleepaway Camp 3: Teenage Wasteland (1989 / director: Michael A. Simpson) **1/2/5A rare occurrence in the world of sequels: they actually realized the mistake they'd make previously and decided to fix it. Color me shocked! Angela is finally a camper again rather than a counselor and this time, they strive to find some kind of balance between her role as a victim in the first film and as a judgmental vigilante terminator in Unhappy Campers. She still kills a lot of people for moral reasons, but this time she actually gives them all a chance to "do right" by her first. Best of all, instead of going ape shit at the end and killing anyone in her sight, she doesn't even target a single person who doesn't viciously insult, threaten, or try to attack her first. And, hey- the plot actually has some ambition too. First of all, the cast of wrongdoers are either spoiled rich brats or desensitized jerk criminals. Secondly, the dialogue is a lot smarter. The plot revolves around Angela's entry into a kind of social diversity mix group- half the kids from the city, the other half from the suburbs. She disguishes herself as a Latina (after dispatching her) and they head out to the woods to do various "sharing and caring" exercises. Only, things don't turn out so well as the husband and wife who run the place are lazy, selfish, tax-cheating fornicators. Angela won't have that. The secret to the movie's half-success is that it really is very clever in comparison to the crapfest to come before it. Angela doesn't just change a little- she changes a lot. In addition to killing people for having sex, she also kills them for being racists, polluters, and violent thugs. As she dispatches a guy who aspires to become a politician for insinuating that she must be a slut because she's poor, she remarks: "thank God there'll be one less idiot in politics." I'd like to think she was referring to a republican (but in times like this, you really can't read a screenwriter's mind). Angela really is a much more likable and sympathetic character. There's a great scene where she walks out to the old main lodge-cabin from the second movie and reminisces on the happy day where she sang the "Happy Camper" song with a cheering crowd of...happy campers. A memory which obviously never took place (since she was so intolerable in the 2nd movie). It's actually a better scene than her blue-tinted nightmare from Unhappy Campers (a nice break from the onslaught of stupidity that was the rest of the movie). And finally- dear lord, the acting is greatly improved. I actually can't count on one hand the number of actors who are doing a genuinely good job (especially Mark Oliver and Cliff Brand, as Tony and Officer Whitmore). Like Renee Estevez in Unhappy, Teenage Wasteland (great title, by the way, and wonderfully fitting) continues the series' tradition (this eventually became a huge thing in direct-to-video flicks of the early 90's) of casting the siblings of huge stars. In her place as good-girl Marsha is Tracy Griffith, the beautiful, vivacious redheaded sister of Melanie (Working Girl, Something Wild). As previously mentioned, Angela in both sequels is played by Bruce Springsteen's sister, Pamela. But, back to Marsha. The greatest surprise of the movie is that there's a twist. No, it's not that Angela is somehow again able to survive a brutal stabbing without even screaming and ends the movie sitting in a triumphant position with a large grin on her face. It's that Marsha's not actually the girl you think she is. I know that's a bit of a spoiler but I'm not sure most people appreciate it. There's actually a lot right with the movie. I'd like to be able to give it a passing grade somehow but the special effects are so bad and again, the movie isn't scary. I hope I mentioned that with the last film. I guess you have to look at it this way: just because it's so much better than the last movie doesn't make it a classic. It's just a lot better than it gets credit for being. Some people call it worse than the 2nd film and that simply isn't true.