The Sleepaway Camp series has been a longtime favorite of mine, as I’ve always found Angela Baker to be one of the more fascinating villains and cinematic serial killers the genre has ever seen. When we first meet her in the original Sleepaway Camp, she’s a precocious pre-teen (portrayed by Felissa Rose) who has endured one messed up childhood. By the time we are reunited with an adult Angela (Pamela Springsteen) for the next two sequels, she’s embraced her complicated nature through the "help" of some professionals and has evolved into the perfect camp counselor.
Far more decisively comedic in tone than their predecessor, both Sleepaway Camp II and III are a ridiculous amount of fun for anyone who grew up on a steady diet of slasher movies. They do a fantastic job of fully embracing and celebrating everything great that was happening in the horror genre at that time. The Sleepaway Camp series is also historic for being one of the first instances in which we’ve had a transgender character not only prominently featured in a film, but also had an entire franchise built around them, which is pretty incredible considering the sociopolitical landscape at that time.
Just in time for summer, Scream Factory is giving both Sleepaway Camp sequels a nice high-def upgrade with their Collector’s Edition Blu-rays that do a fantastic job in the presentation of the films and with their special feature materials as well. Clearly, purchasing both Sleepaway Camp II and III is a no-brainer for fans, but for anyone who enjoys a wickedly fun slasher movie, newcomers to these films should enjoy adding them to their home collections, too.
In Sleepaway Camp II, Angela just wants to have the perfect summer. As one of the counselors at Camp Rolling Hills, she doesn’t tolerate misbehavior of any kind—childish pranks, loud rock music, underage drinking, drug use and most of all, fornicating—so anyone that breaks the rules on the eager counselor’s watch ends up getting “sent home” (which is the nice way of saying they eventually make it home in a body bag). And as more and more campers go missing, Angela’s methods come into question as the other counselors at Rolling Hills begin to suspect she’s crossing a line. Little do they know just how far that line has really been crossed.
Far more subversively comical than Robert Hiltzik’s 1983 original, Sleepaway Camp II admirably mixes things up in a way that not only manages to still be faithful to the spirit of the first film, but also takes some wild leaps in tone and approach, courtesy of director Michael A. Simpson and the script from Fritz Gordon. These choices pay off and, coupled with a performance smacking with an infectious energy from the aforementioned Springsteen, Sleepaway Camp II manages to succeed as both a successful sequel and as its own charming ode to the slasher subgenre, complete with clever nods to Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
For example, there’s a scene in which Angela is trying to pick a weapon in order to dispose of an overly chatty camper that’s pure comedy gold and gives Springsteen yet another perfect opportunity to make her iteration of Angela so uniquely memorable. Felissa Rose will always be the iconic pre-teen Angela Baker who first brought the character to life, but Springsteen does an admirable job of taking the character to an entirely new level with her sublimely chipper delivery and razor-sharp wit. As a horror fan, you also have to appreciate her “leave no survivors mentality” too—if only all serial killers were as thorough as Angela is in these sequels.
Which brings me to Sleepaway Camp III. The story for this third installment picks up one year after the slaughter at Camp Rolling Hills with Angela now assuming the identity of Maria, an inner city kid-turned-camper at Camp New Horizons. We find out early on that New Horizons is actually Camp Rolling Hills, but due to notoriety from the previous year’s massacre, the new owners (Michael Pollard, Sandra Dorsey) have renamed it and are hoping they can turn a new leaf with their unique approach to the outdoors. The duo decide to hold a progressive camping retreat where upper-class kids and lower-income youngsters come together in a social experiment to see how each group would react to spending time with each other while roughing it in the woods.
And, as you may have suspected, Angela takes exception whenever someone on the retreat decides they don’t need to follow "the rules."
Once again helmed by Simpson and penned by Gordon, Sleepaway Camp III is a fantastic follow-up to the previous sequel, even if all the jokes don’t necessarily stick the landing in the end. Springsteen is once again a superstar and the story for Teenage Wasteland does an excellent job of involving several key elements that came into play during the first two films (which I won’t ruin just in case you haven’t seen the others yet). That kind of attention to detail is something I always appreciate as a fan. There are also a few more homages to both Friday the 13th and other slasher movies in Sleepaway Camp III and we also get several more creative kills from Angela, making her truly one of the more memorable (and underappreciated) horror villains of all time.
As expected, Scream Factory does an incredible job with their Collector’s Edition presentations of both Sleepaway Camp sequels—the stellar artwork really captures the spirit of both films (major props to Scream Factory to feature art with Springsteen’s likeness—something that always bothered me about the original art), the image and sound quality is leaps and bounds beyond my terrible DVD versions and both Blu-rays boast some entertaining and informative special features that should keep fans out there busy for some time. While I enjoyed digging through everything, my personal favorites are the A Tale of Two Sequels featurettes included on both releases, as there are a lot of fun memories shared that should tickle the fancy of anyone who has enjoyed both Sleepaway Camp II and III, or for anyone who just digs hearing about a little horror history.
While it may have taken over 25 years, it’s really awesome that Scream Factory is finally celebrating (or rather, continuing the celebration) of Angela Baker in the grand fashion she has always deserved. This longtime fan of the Sleepaway Camp series is one happy camper with these Collector’s Editions.
Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers Score: 4/5
Disc Score: 4.5/5
Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland Score: 3/5
Disc Score: 4.5/5