The F*cking Black Sheep: Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

SLEEPAWAY CAMP III: TEENAGE WASTELAND (1989)

DIRECTED BY MICHAEL A. SIMPSON

If it’s the dog days of summer, you bet your balls we’re hanging out a gore-sodden summer camp!

Thing is, as far as 80s slasher franchises are concerned, just as its title ironically indicates, SLEEPAWAY CAMP has always been super slept on. Granted, the infamous ending of the original SLEEPAWAY CAMP is one for the books – a legitimate jaw-dropping moment of cinematic shock and awe – but not many people know about, or give much credence to, its two solid subsequent follow-ups; SLEEPAWAY CAMP II: UNHAPPY CAMPERS, and the back-to-back-shot sequel, SLEEPAWAY CAMP III: TEENAGE WASTELAND. The oversight of which frankly sucks, as both films are not only a joyously droll riff on the FRIDAY THE 13TH template, but both flicks also exude an overtly comedic tone that poke fun at themselves without spilling into spoof, while also treating the graphic violence as brutally as Bava in his heyday.

And while it’s true UNHAPPY CAMPERS has its larger share of adorers than TEENAGE WASTELAND (GET IT HERE), we’re here to stick up for SLEEPAWAY CAMP III as one of the most entertaining late-80s slasher flicks y’all have either forgotten about or have never seen to begin with. Either way, as TEENAGE WASTELAND celebrates its 30th anniversary this week, find out below why it SLEEPAWAY CAMP III is not only a F*cking Black Sheep among its own franchise, but among all of the 80s slasher imitators and emulators. Crack a motherf*cking tall one yo, it’s camping time!

First comes the genesis. Any Christopher Guest fans in the house? Well, believe it or not, SLEEPAWAY CAMP III was written by Fritz Gordon, alias of actor Michael Hitchcock, star of Guest mockumentaries going back to WAITING FOR GUFFMAN. If you don’t know the name, dude played the brace-faced-Weimaraner-lover opposite Parker Posey. Yeah, that cat wrote TEENAGE WASTELAND! In any event, the great thing about the flick is how fast-paced and efficiently-told the simple story is (every film in the franchise is under 90 minutes). Here, zero time is wasted. Our progressive trans-slasher Angela Baker (played by Bruce Springsteen’s sister Pamela, replacing Felicia Rose from the original) has such a homicidal hankering that she concocts a scheme to return her to her favorite crime scene: Camp New Horizons. How does she achieve this? Easy. Angie hijacks a dump-track and runs down a potential camper named Maria (Kashina Kessler), vehicular (wo)manslaughters the poor gal, takes her clothes and assumes her identity. She hops aboard the camp van with a blissful smile and baleful itinerary!

What instantly strikes one about TEENAGE WASTELAND is how self-aware it is and hilariously intentional the dopey dialogue seems to be. Most 80s horror flicks are required to come with a certain amount of cheese and corn, but here, Hitchcock and director Michael A. Simpson (who also helmed UNHAPPY CAMPERS) lean into it, embrace it, push it to the limits of non-PC offensiveness, and give not one shit about what you think about it. There’s a sense of liberation to the film which allows flourish with as much unadulterated fun as possible. Once Angela arrives at camp, she meets an extremely welcomed ethnically diverse cast, albeit risibly stereotypical, that she puts immediate targets on the backs of. There’s redheaded Marcia (Tracy Griffith), east LA Chicano Tony (Mark Oliver), grade-A dufus Bobby (Haynes Brooke), black rapper Riff (Daryl Wilcher), punk-rocker Snowboy (Kyle Holman), Asians Greg (Chung Yen Tsay) and Arab (Jill Terashita), cool chick Cindy (Kim Wall), as well as clueless camp counselors, pervy Herman (Michael J. Pollard, who also played Herman in SCROOGED) and little old Lilly (Sandra Dorsey).

As humorous to watch as this motley crew is throughout the film, they’re never quite as amusing as Angela is. This is done deliberately to ensure we, which is the brilliance of both UNHAPPY CAMPERS and TEENAGE WASTELAND, root more for Angela than her unwitting victims. We can’t understate how cool and original this dynamic is. Think about it. Most horror films prop stories that are seen through the eyes of the protagonists. But in SLEEPAWAY CAMP II and III, we identify first and foremost with Angela, who we know to be the killer from jump street, and as a result, we witness the action of the story through her perspective. It’s a great twist on the subgenre, and honestly an approach I wish we saw with even more venerated slashers, a la Krueger, Voorhees and Myers. Moreover, Simpson clearly understands that, by 1988-89, much of the fun derived in watching slasher films is rooting for obnoxious characters to die in a spate of inventively gory ways, not watching them survive to defeat the primary foe. TEENAGE WASTELAND is all about delighting in the sights of Angela wickedly waylay one unsuspecting teenager after another. And in between the kills, Angela lays down an ill rap track with Riff that would make Freddy f*cking blush!

Speaking of the slayings, it’s worth noting that the 2015 Shout Factory DVD includes all the glorious gore that was excised from the original cut to avoid its initial X-rating. Never mind the laughable amount of gratuitous nudity, that was never deemed an issue. Still, this is the version y’all should seek and enjoy, if you haven’t already. Not just for the graphic carnage, but the ingenious death modes Angela exacts without a morsel of compunction. Shite’s an absolute ball!

After running down a chick with a dump-truck, Angela wastes little time tallying a cool 16 corpses in a zippy 80 minutes. Math majors, that’s one death every five minutes! The first hilarious homicide Angela orchestrates? A TV newscaster asks if she know where to score some coke, to which Angela responds by directing her to a nearby soda machine. Unamused, the newswoman asks again, resulting in Angela cutting up a bag of Comet cleaning detergent. Yeah, the poor bitch snorts a lethal dose of powder before falling dead out of her Ferarri. Shite's hysterical! Later, once catching the lecherous Herm cheating on Lilly with hot teenager Jan (Stacie Lambert), Angela beats the ever-loving-stuffing out of the f*cker with a large stick, stabbing him through the mouth multiple times until dies (she was originally to jam a flaming hot poker into Herman’s nards while quipping “Now that’s a weenie roast!” She then goes after Jan with the same stick, bludgeoning her to death inside her tent. Later, Angie cracks the f*ck out of Snowboy’s dome with a large log, before setting him and Peter (Jarrett Beal) ablaze in their tent. For hilarious good measure, stops, begins singing the happy camper song and begins roasting marshmallows in the flames of their smoldering corpses. Pure camp and comedic kitsch!

Not to spoil each character’s fate, but Angela really does exhibit a wide range of fatalistic salvos. At one point she decapitates one character and kicks the lopped-off down a hill until a squirt of blood shoots out. Later, she spikes a poor bastard to death a tent-stake until a fountain of grue erupts. Not enough for ya? How about burying a person alive neck deep and then rolling a goddamn lawnmower their head? Okay then, the absolute showstopper? During one scene, Angela strings a character up a flag-pole to its highest point, and in one fell swoop, drops the poor victim at free-fall speed to the hot cement below. The original cut of this shot is legendary, as it not only shows the forceful bodily impact as the torso explodes, but then cuts to the grisly aftermath in close-up of the character’s smeared brain matter. The shot is so brutal that Michael Simpson received a call explaining that the woman who screened the original X-rated cut of the film was so disturbed by the flagpole death that she became physically ill after watching it. Shite’s savage! So too is the final death blow Angela exacts as she’s driven away from camp in an ambulance. Five words: hypodermic needle to the eyeball!

As silly as it may sound, SLEEPAWAY CAMP III: TEENAGE WASTELAND is truly a F*cking Black Sheep of an 80s slasher flick. Not just in relation to its own franchise chapters, but writ large, as it compares to the ungodly cavalcade of FRIDAY THE 13TH posers and wannabes. One need look no further than the scene in which Angela, while fishing, reels in a Voorhees hockey mask, the same she used in UNHAPPY CAMPERS, as an example of the self-reflexive sense of humor TEENAGE WASTELAND has in spades. The visual gag is one thing, but the line uttered by Riff about the date being Saturday the 14th drives the joke home even further. TEENAGE WASTELAND knows what it is, stays in its lane, revels in it, and along the way gives us one ingeniously crafted and highly gory kill every five minutes. Cheap dumb summer fun at its finest and most ferocious!

GET SLEEPAWAY CAMP III: TEENAGE WASTELAND ON BLU-RAY HERE

Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

5379 Articles Published

Jake Dee is one of JoBlo’s most valued script writers, having written extensive, deep dives as a writer on WTF Happened to this Movie and it’s spin-off, WTF Really Happened to This Movie. In addition to video scripts, Jake has written news articles, movie reviews, book reviews, script reviews, set visits, Top 10 Lists (The Horror Ten Spot), Feature Articles The Test of Time and The Black Sheep, and more.