Thursday, June 11, 2015


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

The second sequel to 1983’s Sleepaway Camp – shot back to back with its immediate predecessor (reviewed here) – sees Angela (Pamela Springsteen back again) bumping off a trampy NYC chick with a garbage truck in order to take her place at an experimental outfit where rich and poor teenagers attempt to discover common (camp)ground. If you’re thinking that Camp New Horizons’ “experience in sharing” probably won’t work out so hot, you’re on the right track. But it serves as the ideal setting for Angela to do what she does best, i.e. thin “immoral” teenagers from the herd, which is what we came here for.

Because screenwriter Fritz Gordon was still working on the script for Teenage Wasteland while Unhappy Campers was being filmed, with only a week separating the wrap of the latter and the starting shoot date of the former, it’s no real surprise that there’s not as much clever being served up at the evening mess hall this time around. In fact, beyond the fact that all of the rich kids have names from The Brady Bunch, the poor ones from West Side Story (in the subtitles, Jill Terashita’s “Arab” is dubbed “Arad ” – clearly our young intern wasn’t a big musical theatre fan), and the grown-ups from The Munsters, it’s essentially a 78-minute string of less-creative-than-before death scenes and one-liners from Springsteeen.

There are a few bright spots, such as a snotty bigoted rich bitch being flown up a flagpole, and the torching of a nylon tent is equally novel in watching just how quickly it all goes up. But on the whole, Bill “Splat” Johnson isn’t given as much leeway and/or time to make the executions as memorably juicy this time around (and what grue he did strew was clipped by an overeager MPAA).

Other than Springsteen, the biggest “name” in the cast is professional weirdo Michael J. Pollard as head honcho Herman, spending his time shamelessly mugging and bizarrely canoodling with Stacie Lambert’s Jan, arguably the hottest of the hot chicks and undeniably the least shy about showing the goods.

Tracy Griffith, younger sister of Melanie, plays our ostensible “good girl” Marcia despite the fact that she has (safe) sex with bad boy Tony (Mark Oliver) and even though she already has a boyfriend back home!

Griffith is curiously billed as “introducing” even though she technically appeared in Abel Ferrara’s Fear City and Leonard Nimoy’s The Good Mother beforehand (as well as Simpson’s Fast Food, which ended up being released before SC3 in 1989). As Herman’s wife and business partner Lily, character actress Sandra Dorsey gets more screen time, but isn’t given much to do other than send the campers off on “trust” exercises and get herself run over by a lawnmower.

In keeping with its older sibling, this installment features plenty of gratuitous boobage, with three separate racks showcased in the first 15 minutes, courtesy of Lambert, Jill Terashita, and Kashina Kessler. (It’s probably worth noting at this time that SC3 remains both Lambert and Kessler’s sole onscreen credit.)

There’s decidedly less male skin shown this time around, although we should probably be thankful for that, considering it’s only Pollard getting lucky. (You gotta wonder if that’s what put Lambert off show business.)

And in the role of "Hot Chick Actually Interested in MJP's Junk," the Oscar goes to...

Because of the shift in seasons, the night shoots got a lot colder for the second sequel, which is why so many of the scenes take place during the daylight hours. (You can clearly see Springsteen and Haynes Brooke’s breath in the “hands off = arms off” scene.) But since these films are less about scares and more about spoof, it’s no great crime.

As with Sleepaway Camp II, the audio commentary (ported over from the 2002 Anchor Bay release) features Simpson and Gordon and is expertly moderated by John Klyza, webmaster for Klyza is again in fine form although he does step on a few toes; his pointing out some of the film’s technical goofs and logistical errors is often met with awkward silence from the creative team. It’s great intel nonetheless, and his knowledge of the original shooting script and intelligent queries regarding changes made on set are representative of the kind of research future moderators should take to heart. He also makes a few off-color remarks about Griffith, and it’s clear that Simpson carries a bit of a torch for his “discovery” (she originally read for Angela’s role), since he’s not having any of it.

Make another crack about my boo Tracy, fool. I dare you.

The back half of Michael Felsher’s hour-long A Tale of Two Sequels retrospective doc, entitled “Part Two: New Victims, New Horizons,” is replete with continuing interviews with Simpson, DP Bill Mills, editor John David Allen, f/x man Johnson, art director Frank Galline, and actors Mark Oliver (Tony), Dorsey (Lily), Daryl Wilcher (Riff, lover of “rap” music that sounds more like Howard Jones outtakes), and Kim Wall (racist Cindy, she of the flagpole). There’s also a lot of dishing about Pollard’s wacky on-set antics and Oliver’s wistful reminiscences of late-night jam sessions in the meal hall.

The Behind-the-Scenes segment, with commentary by Simpson, details the truck chase of Kessler that opens the film (subsequently creating Angela’s “in” as a camper), with downtown Atlanta standing in for NYC. It’s an impressive stunt, and in the making-of, we see it’s just as close quarters as it looks in the finished product: Real actress, real truck, real street, real alley, real danger.

Probably one of the more intriguing extras is the 84-min workprint (sourced from VHS) before the MPAA’s repeated “X” rating forced many the gore scenes to be excised from the final release. If you’re willing to forgive the occasional lack of dialogue, music score, or sound effects, this is a nice glimpse into Simpson and Johnson’s original vision. However, if you’re just looking for the bloody bits, you can click down to the next section in the Special Features, unveiling 18 minutes of extended scenes with additional gore, most of which are also shown in the Red Shirt doc.

Do yourself a favor and skip the “Tony Lives!” short film, a truly uninspired 1-minute gag “written” and “directed” by Jeff Hayes of, with Mark Oliver reprising his role to zero-to-negative comedic effect. A home video trailer (as with SC2, technically a promotional trailer for video store owners) and an extended still gallery round out the extras.

Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland is available now from Shout! Factory and can be ordered HERE:


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