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Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (1988)

Nightmare Vacation III

Shes back to Slash last years record.

Directed by:

Michael A. Simpson

Rating: 4/10

Running Time: 79 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Country: United States

After running a girl down in a garbage truck, outdoors-loving maniac Angela Baker assumes her identity in order to be admitted as one of the campers at the grounds where her last killing spree took place. The camp, renamed New Horizons, is now an 'experiment in sharing', where rich and poor teens are brought together – but they are all the same to Angela, who is soon hammering, chopping and even lawnmowing her way through anyone who is lazy, takes drugs, fornicates, swears, or, worst of all, is a cheerleader.

Although the second and third 'Sleepaway Camp' films were both directed by Michael A. Simpson and written by Fritz Gordon, and one was wrapped only a week before shooting commenced on the other, 'Sleepaway Camp 3: Teenage Wasteland' shows all the signs of a franchise in terminal decline. While it sticks to the blend of horror and comedy that proved so successful in the first sequel, and still features the talents of Pamela (sister of Bruce) Springsteen as everyone's favourite transsexual psychotic campgoer, the jokes are few and far between, there is much less gore than in the preceding films (with a higher nipple-count by way of dubious compensation), and the social satire is about as sharp as the big stick which Angela uses more than anything else as her murder weapon.

In Sleepaway Camp 2 all Angela’s victims were named after eighties bratpackers – it was a clever gag, but in his second sequel Fritz Gordon lays it on far too thick, naming the rich teenagers after the Brady Bunch kids (Cindy, Greg, Jan, Peter, Bobby, Marcia), the poor after the characters from West Side Story (Arab, Snowboy, Anita, Riff, Tony, Maria), and the two self-serving counsellors after characters from the Munsters (Herman and Lily). Beyond their names, and some lazy stereotyping (the spoilt rich girl, the rap-loving gangbanger, the spraypainting vandal etc.), there is no real characterisation here and little drama, so that the succession of murders feels tired and dull, as though those old camp-fires have just been burning for far too long. The only bright spark is Bobby (Haynes Brooke), a Young Republican whose opening conversational gambit is “So, you’re underprivileged, huh?”, and who likes “movies that make America look great – like Rambo part III”.

Perhaps the neatest touch in the film (and be warned that this is a spoiler) is that Angela spares the plain-looking Marcia (Tracy, sister of Melanie, Griffith), as she spared Molly in the previous film, because she seems like a ‘nice’ girl (i.e., in Angela’s terms, a clean-living virgin) – but it turns out that all it takes is one kiss for Marcia to be reaching for the condom that she carries about with her, and even her new boyfriend Tony (Mark Oliver) is surprised to learn that she already has a boyfriend back home. Still, you’ve got to wonder whether such understated irony really has a place in a film which is otherwise all tits and assassination.

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It's Got: A character with the words milk and shake tattooed on her breasts, and Jasons hockey mask found in the lake by some fishing campers (on Saturday the 14th), and a new use for a flagpole.

It Needs: More laughs, more gore, better characters - and for the whole camp franchise to end while it is still vaguely tolerable.

DVD Extras Choice of Dolby 2.0/5.1/dts; behind-the-scenes (8min) of the opening garbage truck sequence, narrated amiably by director Michael A. Simpson; deleted scenes (19min), including some gore which had been removed by a peevish US censor (Bobbys arms torn off, Lily lawnmowered, Cindys brains beneath the flagpole); Atlanta news footage (3min), news story about the local film production; trailer; extensive stills galleries (behind-the-scenes & artwork/make-up & gore effects/garbage truck scene); full audio commentary (by Michael A. Simpson and writer Fritz Gordon, moderated by überfan John Klyza of sleepawayfilms.com), including anecdotes about script changes owing to budgetary constraints, about the high price of Camp New Horizons T-shirts on e-bay, and Fritz declaring "Anything I can do to promote wood, I will do" (with John replying "The lumberjacks salute you"). This DVD is available either on its own, or as part of Anchor Bays boxset of the first three Sleepaway Camp films. DVD Extras Rating: 7/10

Alternatives:

Friday the 13th, Friday the 13th, Sleepaway Camp, Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers

Summary

Time for the tentpoles to come down (even if there are another two sequels).

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