Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland

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Released just a year after SCII: Sleepaway Harder, it’s the last in the original trilogy of this franchise and the end of the line with my review of the whole shebang before moving onto gorier pastures. No preamble this time, you know the deal: camp, murder, Angela, yadda yadda yadda, LET’S DO THIS FUCKING THING!

So it’s a weird introduction with a reporter covering a camp opening (slooow news day) that is run by married couple Tragic Bum That Dies in Scrooged and some weirdo Reaganite lady who say they’re opening this camp to “bridge the gap between the rich and the poor” in the most condescending way imaginable. Her name might be Muffy. I guess it’s a national program, because campers or something were brought in from all over the country for this shitshow.

Let’s meet the kids: There’s Cindy Hammersmith, Greg Nakashima (who’s totes rad-looking), Jan, Peter, Bobby, Marsha (protagonist?), and then there’s another group of kids (the bad kids; you know they’re bad because they’re poor): Arab (?) (she’s from San Franscisco so she’s Asian), Snowboy from Chicago, Anita, Rev (?) from Detroit, Tony the Hispanic Stereotype from East LA, and Maria the Runaway.

You know how I got down all of their names? Because the reporter introduces each one of them (is all of this airing on the news?) like it’s the fucking Mouseketeer roll call. Anyway, Cindy lets Marsha know that she should feel humiliated for finding a Mexican attractive. So we’re doing that in this movie, I guess.

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In case you missed it: there’s Cindy, Greg, Jan, Peter, Bobby, Marsha…hey! I see what you did there, movie (͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

The reporter then lets us know that this is a rebranding of the Rolling Hills camp that just last year was the site of the mass murder from “alleged psychopath” Angela. Is there anything “alleged” about her being a psychopath? She butchered 19 people. Anyway, that shit happened just a year (!) ago and they’re re-opening the place as a camp. That’d be like opening a daycare on the site of the Sandy Hook shooting on its one year anniversary! It’s a crazy conceit, and it makes everyone involved in this whole organization a damn, damn fool.

Angela has a cool new nickname in the media, “The Angel of Death,” and I spy a telling close-up of one of the bad kids who’s wearing sunglasses and an obvious Tina Turner wig. You know, the only one who didn’t provide a location of origin and refused to take off her sunglasses for the cameras and it has already been commented on that she looks much older than the other campers. I’m sure it’s nothing.

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*record scratch* *freeze frame* Yep, that’s me. You’re probably wondering how I ended up in this situation.

Muffy comes across a little desperate on-camera and chastises the newswoman for bringing the whole murder thing up, and this news report is a real rambling affair. Afterwards, the news anchor goes up to bad kid not-Angela and tries to score some coke off her. Whoa! So Maria-Not-Angela says she’ll be right back. She goes into a supply closet and bags up some white powder poison and gives it to the news woman, who can’t even wait until she’s off the property to do a bump. The powder fries her immediately and that’s one down, and however many people that were named in the beginning to go.

So the whole camp thing is weirdo Muffy’s social experiment with the snobs vs. slobs. Everyone’s getting split up into three groups so they can bridge those social/class/racial gaps by going camping. The camp counselor Herman is a goddamn pervert, there’s a shoutout to the “I’m A Happy Camper” that Angela sang for Counselor of the Week in Slumber Party II (Remember that? Fun.) and Officer Barney becomes the third counselor, much to Angela-in-a-Wig’s chagrin. Rev (Ruv?) and Tony get into a tussle over just the most delightful racial epithets, but Officer Rubble cools it out. Sunglass Hut Angela chills and checks it out at the library.

So a little conversation reveals that the rich kids paid $3000 for the camp, and the poor kids are there because of government-subsidized camping…but for some reason the rich kids paid to go here. To the murder camp. With these poor, violent (no offense) strangers. It’s difficult to put it together logically, and I’m just waiting for the clockwork of death to strike murder!

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“So do we just stand around waiting to die, or is there a secret word that starts this ride?”

The officer’s pretty suspicious of Angeria and this shit’s taking a while to get going. We have to hear everyone’s goddamn name again. Into the woods without delay! They get to where they’re going and jib-jab with each other for a bit, but I’m not interested in dead men’s tales. Wuh-oh! We find out the officer’s son was murdered there the year before, so Angela’s got some goddamn heat on her this time around.

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But her future’s so bright she’s gotta wear shades.

So everyone quickly proves to Angela that they must be cleansed. Pervin’ Herman—the camp director married to the other camp director–makes time with the teenage girls and he moves in on one of them because let’s not forget what we’re watching, after all. We get treated to a disgusting series of scenes between old, bald, frizzy, gross Herman and one of the girls (who’s topless the whole time, and unzips his pants, and this scene just goes on for way too long for what it is). Angela beats him to fucking death with a stick. Then the girl (while still topless) is also beaten to death likewise. Then she’s dead and topless and being dragged around. It’s, uh, yuck.

The Dead Meat Duo mess with Angela some more; she’s stuck with Snowboy and the other one in her group (he keeps throwing firecrackers–that’s his main character trait). Snowboy (these names…) screams, “Party all night! Teenage wasteland!” He’s my new leader.

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I’ve known a lot of punk rock dudes that look exactly like this.

So more goddamn things keep happening not related to sweet sweet murder. Finally, Angela blows fireworks guy’s nose off with a firework and cracks his head with a bat. She then sets fire to Snowboy (stay gold). He burns and she roasts some marshmallows because Angela doesn’t give any kinds of shit. One group down, two to go.

Rev (Roo? Riff? Names are difficult to discern or care about in these movies) listens to a funky fresh Casio drum beat at Camp Sight #2 while Angela moves like a deer through the forest. She makes room in the next group like she sent home kids in the last movie. The walking dead meat comments on how old she looks, because this movie gives justification for its murders, dammit! Anyway, Angela cuts her head off with an axe.

These fucking nerds are doing some “what’s your favorite movie?” getting-to-know-you crap at the new camp site, and Cindy and Riff have a wildly unenlightened conversation of the various merits of rap music and using slurs, ethnic and otherwise, to describe each other until it devolves into fisticuffs. Considering that Cindy gets physically assaulted at this point, it’s crazy to think that her parents would have paid $3000 for this. They must really, really hate her.

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“Sorry honey, but until you stop looking like a dollar-store Tiffany, it’s murder camp or nothing!”

So from what I can tell, all of these kids are terrible, cruel people, as usual, and the other camp talks about the Legend of Angela and how for some reason there’s no photographic evidence of her despite working at this camp just last year. It was the late 80’s, so I’m sure there would have been at least one photo of her that was taken at the camp. The cop says if he ever meets her he’s going to kill her, so good luck with that, buddy.

Trust games are played and I’m wondering who the hell would send their kids to this camp. I mean, why? What’s the goal here? Angela’s tied up and blindfolded because this is part of the trust game Muffy put together. Why? I don’t know. But Cindy says the N-word again at this point because yikes. Angela does a questionnaire to make sure Cindy deserves to die (she does) and she strings her up with a winch and hook real high into the air and gives Cindy her thesis statement as to why she does this crazy gig: “Because you’re a cheerleader, a fornicator, a drug taker, a nasty, snotty, bigot, and besides that…you’re real nice.” Then she takes the express train to Splatso City.

Angela’s bummed that her favorite place, the old cabin in the woods, was torn down, and she decides to revisit her old killing fields. She stocks up on some herbs and spices and has a gentle psychotic break while checking out the ol’ canteen. Her memories are in a soft glow, and it’s like she’s remembering the time she won an Oscar, but instead it was for Counselor of the Week right before she murdered everybody last summer, so.

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Angela, you have got to get some more life experiences under your belt, girl.

This is the “message” part of the movie, if I have my thinkin’ glasses on (I don’t know), where she’s fixated on camp as the cause of–and solution to–all of life’s problems. Anyway, there’s some more goddamn trust games, and Riff says no fucking way he’s gonna be Muffy’s trust game partner so she’s probably going to be murdered by him or something because this movie’s pretty 80’s fucked-up with its portrayals of minorities. This horseshit goes on for a bit with Bucky or whatever and Angela go fishing together. She’s certainly fishing for reasons this guy deserves to die (wordplay!), and he goes into rape mode pretty much immediately. She stops him, and instead of immediately murdering him like she usually does in these situations, says he should meet her later that night.

Angela goes to Riff Raff the cat to get some goddamn help cleaning the fish, but he can’t get enough of the demo drum track from every mass-produced keyboard ever made. So she stomps off to find something to kill him with. Since Cindy Hitler is a broken puppet on the ground somewhere at this point, that girl from the beginning that expressed interest in Tony (the Mexican!) is getting somewhere with him and they talk about their class differences (so I guess this program’s working?). They make out. Whatever. This isn’t what I didn’t pay any money for!

Angela primes Muffy for the kill by doing the blind man dance with her. She pushes her into a pit she dug that’s filled with the garbage bag remains of her victims so far and starts throwing dirt on Muffy while singing, “I’m a Happy Camper.” She leaves Muffy buried with just her head above ground, and then chops her head off with a goddamn lawnmower. It’s demented and just the kind of crazy I’ve come to expect from this franchise.

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This is more like it! (What am I saying?)

Bobby shows up just in time to die. She ties him up to a tree (he likes it; it’s a thing from earlier), and ties the rest of the rope to the bumper of a jeep (where’d that come from?) and breaks his arms, and then his body, against the tree.

Riff (Riv? Rav?) is rocking out with something that sounds like a certain Grandmaster Flash song with a message. but it’s not that because money, and someone (Angela) tosses a cassette for him to listen to. It’s her doing a Miranda July piece about how he’s going to die right now. At its conclusion, he says, and I quote, “Fuck?” and then is beaten to death with a stick (*sigh*) in his tent.

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RIP Riff Raff

Angela buzzes over to group three and says Martha or whatever is switching over, but the cop’s escorting the transfer, which fucks up Angela’s plans. So she fakes a twisted ankle and the cop brings her back…to the canteen where it all began.

So I guess Angela’s secret word of the day is fornicate (so SCREAM REAL LOUD!) and the cop senses something’s up, but instead he’s like, let’s go back to your camp, so Angela (she’s pretty damn sly) sends Martha out to check on Chopped-Up Muffy while left alone with the cop. Martha goes to check it out (at the library) and she finds mutilation of course, so this creates a diversion for Angela, and she finally snaps (as she does) and the cop figures it out and tells Martha to get the fuck out of Dodge.

Hey! Angela’s got a gun! Is that a first for the series? She’s getting a little lazy with her killing. She taunts the cop about his dead son because she gives zero fucks and talks about all the justified murdering she’s gotten done that summer. He’s guessing which famously gruesome death she’s chosen for him but guesses wrong because it’s just a plain old gun and bang bang bang. She doesn’t seem thrilled about the use of firearms, either, but you gotta get the job done somehow.

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“I was just wondering if you’ve heard the good news yet?”

She jumps into her sporty yellow jeep and hauls ass to Lollapalooza. But first she’s gotta check in on that loose thread Martha, which she corners and whisks away. CUT TO the remaining three kids still in the woods, and Angela pops by to say they have to meet everybody back at camp.

The trust game/convenient plot device keeps paying off because these three dopes agree to be tied up by Angela with no questions asked. Angela set up a whole psychotic thing with hanging dead bodies and says they’re playing the game “Find Marsha in 2 Minutes or I’ll Kill You.” It’s like the worst frat rush ever.

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“Does it help if I say I’m a legacy?”

So she set up a little horror show for these kids to suffer through, and it’s appropriately disturbing, but how did she do all of this? She looks like she weighs about 110 pounds. They find Marsha, two of them die, and Angela looks at Tony and Marsha and is like, nah you two are cool, and just fucking splits. But Marsha knifes her a bunch to stop the madness because it’s the right thing to do.

The police, etc. show up and Angela’s in an ambulance, where the cop and paramedic are going to kill her once and for all. But that’s not how this shit goes down in Angela’s hood so she gets some good old-fashioned stabbin’ in for old times’ sake. The driver’s like, what’s going on? And she’s like let’s haul ass to Lollapalooza and takes a nap.

Stray Notes

– From Wikipedia, I learned that this movie had the alternate title Nightmare Vacation III, and the other ones were titled similarly in some markets. So, yeah.

– The woman who plays Angela in II and III is actually Bruce Springsteen’s real-lifey sister! She does a good job in these films and is appropriately coo-coo in both. She never really did anything else, movie-wise, after these two. But she’s The Boss’ sister, so that’s success defined in New Jersey. Do you know how many guys would kill to become Bruce’s sister? (Get it? Murder? Gender transition? Like in these movies!)

Conclusions

SC III was a bit of a letdown after the high of the second one: while the sequel managed to streamline the story to provide a consistent, well-paced, and relatively fun horror movie, this one went with the same gimmick but it all feels a little sleepy. The Dead Meat Kids are a carpenter’s dream (callback to the first movie!), and Angela must be starting to feel her age or something, because she simply used a big stick for three of her kills. And a gun! Look, I know how this reads, like I’m looking for wall-to-wall death and torture, but come on, it’s a horror movie! And you should know better, Sleepaway Camp, since you’re a big reason why horror movies are like that in the first place. If I’m ordering a cheesesteak, don’t send me a pizza (or, as once to happened to me, a cheesesteak pizza).

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This…isn’t what I was expecting. Or wanted.

It might just suffer what so many good ideas suffer from if they’re pushed too far: becoming worn out. Trilogies are pretty epic visions, and it’s tough enough to stick the landing on just the sequel. For a movie concept that begins in ends with “Wholesale Slaughter @ Camp,” three movies is probably more than enough.

And hell, they could have made a pretty compelling SC III: Angela’s a really interesting character in a lot of ways, and who knows where else they could have steered this third one? But they didn’t; they made this instead. It’s not a bad movie (well, it is a bad movie, but in that good kind of way), but it’s sloppy. The setup is lazy, the characters are even more odious than the first two put together, and even the deaths—usually the saving grace of this sort of fare—are boring and feel almost compulsory at this point. Angela even seems like she’s just doing whatever the fuck this is, slaughtering the innocent or whatever, until things in her career pick back up.

With too much stacked against it premise-wise and a air of laziness to the whole thing that smacks of cheap, fast profit, it’s easily the weakest of the bunch. But nothing lasts forever—not even murderous, transgender, alleged psychopaths.

Out of four Angelas, this eeks out just two. It’d be lower, but I enjoyed the first two so much that I went into this one with a lot of goodwill built up. Au revoir, Angela!

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Categories: film, horror, humor

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