Monday, September 21, 2009

Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (Michael A. Simpson, 1989)

I can't believe I had to wait a whole year for it to get made (man, was 1988 a crazy year), but it's finally here: My favourite transgender, camp-based murderess is back and chipper than ever in the gloriously straightforward Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland, an unabashed kill-o-rama from respected filmmaker Michael A. Simpson. To put it simply–now that I have seen three of them–this is my horror franchise. The hockey mask guy and the menacing nut-job in the jumpsuit are lame ass punks compared to Angela Baker, the bloodthirsty nitty-gritty of these series of films that give camping a bad name. Yeah, that's right, she makes those mask-wearing crybabies seem like a bunch of pussies. The gender confused camp enthusiast (she must love camping by now) is the essence of cinematic murder, as she kills when she is wronged and for sheer fun of it. This lax criteria when it comes to selecting victims means that no one safe while in her presence. You could be the nicest guy or gal in the world and Angela will somehow find a reason to kill you. And she won't just kill you willy-nilly, uh-uh, she'll put some serious fucking thought into your pathetic demise. Sure, the campers and staff being killed by her can't really appreciate the amount effort she puts into her murders; you know, with their brain activity being a tad on the wonky side (after all, they're in the process of getting killed and junk). But speaking as a well-balanced audience member, I can proudly say, that not only do I appreciate what Angela is putting out there, murder-wise, I applaud her.

The camp from Unhappy Campers, Camp Rolling Hills, is under new management and looking to put the bloodshed of a year ago behind it. Re-branded as Camp New Horizons, a summer camp that allows troubled teens from different socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds to grow, learn and understand one another better through sharing and camping, this newfangled experiment in camp sociology gets an influx of new victims for Angela to slaughter in a timely and capable manner.

If my stark assessment of this fresh batch of campers and their chances of survival sounds a little bleak, well, that's because there's no way anyone in this group is gonna step it up in the plucky department. I mean, I could just tell when they did the roll call that Angela was going to have an easy go of it in terms stress-free carnage. And holy festering neck boils, was I ever right.

Killed with an almost workmanlike efficiency, Angela literally bashes her way through this stereotypical morass of teenage humanity. Assuming the identity of a skid row camper (she ran her over with a garbage truck), Angela shows up at Camp New Horizons as Maria Nacrastro and quickly begins to implement her homicidal agenda. (A yuppie newswomen reporting on the camp feels her wrath first, as she does the old bathroom cleanser-cocaine switcheroo on her.) Firecrackers, lawnmowers, wooden branches, tent spikes, axes, a flag pole, and even a run-of-the-mill handgun, are all utilized with a fanciful flair by the fiendish femme fatal.

However, it's not all about murder and death. On the contrary, the film takes the time to expose the tits of a couple female campers. (Quirky fun-fact: Angela wears a huge bullet bra.) While not as overtly titillating as the second chapter work of the beautiful Valerie Hartman, these topless moments nevertheless reminded me of a time when teenage campers could get naked without the fear of reprisals.

There's also some inexplicable dramatic pathos supplied when Angela longingly wonders the camp's kitchen (if you remember, she used to be a camp counselor).

Anyway, the use of flashback, recreated scenes, and competent acting on the part of Pamela Springsteen render this sequence as strangely touching. In that, it plays up her genuine love of camping and connects the two films quite nicely.

The cast list for Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland may be awash with big names like Jill Terashita (a perky breasted, leather jacket wearing delinquent), Tracy Griffith (a wholesome redhead who has a hankering to date outside her own ethnic group), Kyle Holman (a spray paint artist named Snowboy), and Kim Wall (a racist hosebeast). But the real star of course is the tantalizingly deranged Pamela Springsteen as Angela Baker, the world's coolest transgender serial killer.

Uncompromising when it came time to bump off her hapless peers, Pamela kills with a point-blank, almost inhuman effectiveness. And that's what makes Pamela so horrendously awesome. The insane amount of giddy delight she seems to take in coldly dispatching each stereotype with a weird brand of deadly indifference is what makes her the best in her field. Add the fact that she goes about her heinous routine always sporting a smile, and what you end up with is a psychopath who is both twisted and alluring.



  1. I know it's kind silly to say but the campers lacked any real personality. I know, we're supposed to be rooting for Ms. Springsteen but what I liked about the SC II was Rene Estevez's (HEATHERS) sympathetic camper. SC III seemed to be lacking that element but it is still a fine film and a helluva lot of fun to watch.

  2. I did always enjoy this franchise. Angela was a riot. Not my favorite film in the series, but still a fun watch.

  3. Ahhh, the "SLEEPAWAY CAMP" trilogy (I do NOT personally count the fourth one as of yet... I can't bring myself to watch it based on the previews)... great review, though. *milk shake* indeed... and Pollard! Good times.

  4. J.D.: Tracy Griffith and company are definitely lacking when it comes to exuding that certain Estevezian flair.

    Keith: You won't find many who prefer Teenage Wasteland over the other camp chapters.

    J. Astro: I haven't built up the courage to watch the fourth film yet, either.

    "Milk shake"? Ah, yes, the chest tattoo in the opening scene.

  5. I just watched all three, long after your review of #2. By the way, someone on Tumblr pointed out that the rich kids are all named after the kids in The Brady Bunch, and all the poor kids from characters in West Side Story. Go figure?

  6. I can't believe I failed to mention that quirky fun-fact. I dare you to watch Return to Sleepway Camp.

  7. I have been watching The Cinema Snob's reviews. Not sure if he did that one. Another aside, from him; most of the kids in #2 are named after Brat Packers. I am loving these more every day. Not sure if I have the uncut #1, or if I blocked some things out. :-)