Starring Pamela Springsteen, Tracy Griffith, Michael J. Pollard, Mark Oliver, Haynes Brooke
Directed by Michael A. Simpson
Distributed by The Scream Factory
Horror films of the ‘80s were often made on the cheap – part of the reason why a follow-up to something successful popped up so quickly – but it still takes a serious level of ambition to do back-to-back sequels. And that’s exactly what director Michael A. Simpson did with Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (1989). Commencing production mere days after Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988) wrapped, this second sequel utilizes the same horror-comedy formula that worked so well last time but it turns up the dial ever so slightly. Some could argue the film stretches credibility right from the opening scene, but this is also the third film in a series about a transsexual serial killer who murders adolescents indiscriminately, cheerfully even, and manages to avoid capture all along the way. If anything the filmmakers should be pushing the envelope as far as possible. Embrace the ludicrousness of the series. It’s a wonder why Angela Baker seems to be a bit of a forgotten slasher. It isn’t as though viewers have forgotten about Sleepaway Camp, but Angela maybe doesn’t get enough credit for being such a lovably twisted lunatic.
Right from the start it’s clear this entry doesn’t care about any semblance of reality, as Angela Baker (a returning Pamela Springsteen) is seen using a semi-truck to run down a lookalike who is heading off to camp. How Angela knew this girl, or the camp which she was attending, or anything else that might matter is irrelevant. A tone has been set. Angela boards a bus headed to Camp New Horizons, former site of her past murder spree. The camp leaders, Herman (Michael J. Pollard) and Lily (Sandra Dorsey), have rechristened the camp as a sort of social experiment, bringing together inner city teens and the snobby elite. Angela is posing as “Maria”, one of the urban girls. As luck would have it, the teens are divided up into three groups – one led by Herman, one by Lily, and one by Officer Barney Whitmore (Cliff Brand), a cop whose son was killed by Angela Baker in the last film. Will he learn of Maria’s true identity? Of course he does. Everyone does, as Angela slices her way through each group to which she’s assigned – impaling, exploding, beating, dismembering and shooting everyone in sight.
As sadistic as Angela was in Sleepaway Camp II, she seems even more deranged on this outing. She makes a concerted effort to get back to a summer camp for her killing fix; at least in the previous entry she was working under the guise of a counselor punishing those who deserved it (harmless as their sins might have been). After wiping out dozens of kids over the past decade, you’d think a camp is the last place she should go to get her jollies off. But, then again, what gets her blood pumping is offing sexually active and drug-fueled teens, and what better place to find them than at a summer camp for delinquents and preppies.
Angela is no less creative in her killing here, but the film does feel a tad trite since it’s essentially a carbon copy of the last one. These films have next to no story; the closest Sleepaway Camp III gets to a plot is the build-up to a face-off between Angela and the officer whose son she killed the year prior. Otherwise, this entry is simply another 80 minutes of Angela bouncing between camp groups, killing everyone along the way. That isn’t a complaint, just an observation. I’ve always found these two sequels to be a blast.
Speaking of which, some of the kills here aren’t as “fun” as last time around… except for one: Riff’s (Daryl Wilcher). Riff is a bad dude. He spends all of his time listening to hip-hop tapes and reading nudie magazines. This dude must’ve brought a backpack full of batteries because his boombox is playing music every time he’s shown, all day and night. He’s surprised when a blank white cassette is thrown into his tent. He pops it in and it’s a rap song, performed by Angela, letting Riff know he’s about to die. Sure enough, as soon as the rap ends so does Riff’s life. It’s kind of a brilliant moment.
Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland is a raucous romp through the woods, filled with depravity and death every step of the way. By embracing sheer outrageousness and eschewing logic, the series embodies every ‘80s horror trope without feeling stale. That this entry manages not to feel static despite being so similar to the previous film is a testament to Simpson’s direction and Gordon’s writing. Those who can forego a storyline in favor of watching a nubile young female execute one camper after another, in exceedingly creative ways, should find this “wasteland” to be highly entertaining.
The video quality of the 1.85:1 1080p image is not dissimilar to that found on the previous film – heavy grain, a marginal uptick in detail and definition, improved color saturation and relatively consistent black levels. The print used here only has minor flecks and dirt, with no major damage inhibiting the image. Similar to the last film, this entry features a lot of daylight shots, allowing for additional details to flourish under the improved conditions.
The same goes for the English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track, which is clean, clear and as balanced as the limited sound design allows. The track kicks off with a bang as the glorious sound of heavy metal fills the soundfield. Metal is an equally important part of the ‘80s, and both sequels use it effectively and often. Subtitles are included in English.
Once again, director Michael A. Simpson and writer Fritz Gordon come together for an audio commentary track, featuring the same easy rapport, constant chatter and extensive production details heard on the last track. Of note – two words: breast distribution.
“A Tale of Two Sequels – Part Two” picks up where the last one left off (duh), covering the lead-up to production on III, which was still being written while II was in production.
“Behind the Scenes Footage” features director Michael A. Simpson once again providing audio commentary, this time with an extended look at the making of the opening scene.
Here’s a cool treat – “Workprint of the Longer Cut” (1.33:1) runs for 1 hour, 24 minutes and 48 seconds. As long as you don’t mind the VHS quality, this version of the film offers up all of the deleted gore footage intact. It’s rough, but fun in a retro sort of way.
Alternatively, the deleted scenes are available to watch as a separate reel.
“Short Film: Tony Lives!”, features a mock quasi-interview of a now older Tony leaving his hotel room.
Finally, the home video trailer and a still gallery complete the extra features.
- Audio Commentary with Director Michael A. Simpson and Writer Fritz Gordon
- A Tale of Two Sequels – Part Two featuring new interviews with director Michael A. Simpson, cinematographer Bill Mills, actors Mark Oliver and Kim Wall and more…
- Behind-The-Scenes Footage with commentary by Michael A. Simpson
- Workprint of the longer cut (from VHS)
- Deleted Scenes featuring additional gore footage (Taken from the workprint)
- Home Video Promotional Trailer
- Still Gallery