Of all of the Eighties slasher films released to Blu-ray within the past several years, it surprises me that Sleepaway Camp II and III hold up better than most of them. I never really considered myself to be a fan of this series when I was a kid. I had seen them a few times each, but it was never something I’d develop an itch to revisit. In the not-too-distant past, Dead Air Podcast did a full Sleepaway Camp retrospective series. I’m certain I appeared on at least one of the episodes, because I vividly recall digging my Survival Kit box set off of the shelves upstairs, and watching the three films for the occasion. It surprised me then, and it surprised me again now, that I enjoy these sequels far more than even I was prepared for. In all honestly, I think I prefer the second and third films in the series over even the original, which rarely happens with low budget horror and slasher films.
Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers:
The second Sleepaway Camp movie, Unhappy Campers, is easily my favorite. Not only of the two that are being released this month, but of the entire series. There’s something about it that just oozes rewatchability. Every single time I watch it, I find that I have enjoyed it a little more than the time before. When you really think about it, similar films, and especially their sequels very rarely possess the quality of film-making you get here. I mean, sure, some of the acting is a little over the top, but none of it is bad, and if anything, it adds to the charm rather than detracting from the film itself. By any standards, Sleepaway Camp II should be awful, bordering on unwatchable. Not only is it not, it may be one of my favorite Eighties slashers. I love the Slumber Party Massacre movies for what they are, but never were they as competent and enjoyable as the Sleepaway Camp sequels. There is some real heart, and raw talent on display in the second film in the Sleepaway Camp series, and some of that even trickles over into the third film.
Sleepaway camp III: Teenage Wasteland:
The third Sleepaway Camp film is the lesser of the two, but they were basically filmed back to back, so some of what made the second film so special carries over into this movie. It’s a different kind of film, visually. It’s not quite as dark as the second film. In the opening scene, there is even a segment that takes place outside of a camp setting, involving a victim being chased down a NYC alley in broad daylight. What the third film is mostly known for, is the fact that its final form is a butcher job, thanks to the MPAA, and the flawed way that they operate. There is actually quite a bit more about that on the documentary on the disc, but more about that in a minute. While it might not be as good as Unhappy Campers, Teenage Wasteland is still a far more enjoyable film than some would say it has a right to be. As far as Summer-themed horror goes, you could do much worse.
Both discs come with a mixture of extras, new and old. The star of the show is a documentary titled A Tale of Two Sequels, which is split between the releases. The first part of the documentary, which appears on Sleepaway Camp II is interesting, but the second half is a real eye-opener. I knew before that Sleepaway Camp III had issues with the MPAA and was eventually cut because of it, but I had no idea of the extent. While the MPAA will not tell you specifically what to cut, the filmmakers had a pretty good idea as to what was twisting their titties. Several rough-looking gore scenes are both shown within the documentary, and available on the disc in the form of deleted scenes. In fact, a workprint of the film, including the longer kill scenes is included on the disc. It’s pretty rough, sourced from what had to have been some form of tape, but it is watchable if you would like to see a longer cut of the film. Some people say, gore is not what makes a movie good. And while I’d agree, I’d also state that, if you watch the deleted footage, and the documentary on the disc to see exactly what was cut, and where, I think you’d agree that the cuts that were forced by the MPAA turned this into a different film. Had those scenes been included, this would probably be much more of a cult classic than it is. Beyond the documentary, the deleted scenes, and the full workprint of the third film, both discs have commentaries, behind-the-scenes footage, a home video distribution promo that was sent to video stores, trailers, and a few other little nuggets of bonus content. Overall, it’s a more-than-competent package, for a couple of films that you’re probably going to want to revisit each year, once the heat and humidity become too much for normal humans to breathe properly.
Sleepaway Camp II and III are now available on Blu-ray/DVD combo packs, released by none other than Scream Factory. The picture quality is beyond acceptable, considering the fact that there is no camera negative with which to restore the film, and the extras are plentiful. Highly recommended.