Angela’s Back, and Dumber than Ever

Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland

The Sleepaway Camp series did not exactly get off to a great start. Although the first film was a modest hit at the Box Office, pulling in $11 Mil against a paltry $350k budget, it was also not a good movie. Tired, hacky, and dumb, it became famous largely because of its shocking twist / killer reveal which, in the years that have come since, has only become more and more transphobic. After that movie, the series returned five years later with sequel Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers. It was not exactly a rousing success, receiving only a limited theatrical release before going to home video.

And yet, despite this, the production studio behind the sequel, Double Helix Films, had plans to make further movies in the series. A third film, Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland, was filmed back-to-back with the second, and a fourth was later conceived to come along as well (although by that point, due to poor sales of the other films, Double Helix went under). That’s a lot of faith in a series that, up til then, hadn’t yet proven itself to have legs. And, considering the future fate for the production studio, that was probably a bad call.

Really, you could see the seeds of the studios downfall in this third Sleepaway Camp movie. While it’s not the worst slasher movie I’ve ever seen, it certainly is close. It’s a poorly made, poorly acted, largely bloodless slasher that simply doesn’t know how to craft scares. It maybe could be considered a slasher comedy except it’s also not funny. It’s just a tragically tedious, ineptly crafted film, made on the cheap to cash in on a name and, when that failed, the studio struggled to recover after.

The film picks up about a year after the events of Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers. We have one camper, Maria Nacastro (Kashina Kessler), getting ready to head off to camp. But on her way to the bus, a massive truck comes out of nowhere and veers right for her. She runs, but gets caught in an alley and is killed by the truck. The truck, as you’d expect, was driven by serial camper killer Angela Baker (Pamela Springsteen), and she takes Maria’s identity, sliding into her role as camper to go off and kill again.

Angela makes her way to Camp New Horizons, which has taken over the old spot of Camp Rolling Hills (where Angela cut her bloody swath in the previous film). This new version of the camp is dedicated to having well-to-do country kids meet with poor, unfortunate city kids to help them both see how the other side lives, make friends, and maybe make everyone into better people. It’s a nice thought, except that none of the kids at the camp are good people, city or country, and once Angela shows up, it becomes evident that barely anyone is going to survive their trip to camp at all.

Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland is a terrible movie, having all the same flaws as the previous movie. If you’ve seen the second film then you know just how inept these films can be. Every scene is a setup for Angela to come along and murder someone. A teenager does something bad, Angela sees it, she lures them away, and then they die. It’s a basic cause-and-effect setup that’s used over and over again without any variation, and it had already worn itself thin in the previous film. To continue to do that same setup in this movie as well just shows how much the producers didn’t actually understand crafting slasher movie kills.

It would help matters, though, if Angela were a consistent character. At least in the previous film she (for the most part) only went after teens that were misbehaving. If they had premarital sex, or were drinking, or broke some camp rule, Angela would kill them. That’s her modus operandi. But this film throws that out; the only reason Angela needs to have to kill someone is that they were, somehow, associated with the camp in any way. That first girl, Maria, dies simply because Angela needed an identity and Maria was an easy target. Maria hadn’t even made it to camp yet before she died. She sits far outside Angela’s normal list of targets.

And, in fact, when you start thinking about it, how did Angela even know to kill Maria on her way to camp. Did Angela somehow get the records of who was going to camp? Did she do thorough research on all the camp attendees so she could find the perfect girl to kill and replace? Maria isn’t exactly a great choice since everyone comments that Angela looks too old to be a 17 year old. The film knows it has a dumb premise and a stupid setup and yet it commits to it anyway. Pointing out the flaw in your script does not improve the script.

If they’d wanted to do a better setup they should have found a more organic way to work Angela back into the camp. Instead of having her be a camper they could have had to kill a counselor and take their place. Or maybe, since there was a cop attending the camp to act as a “safety officer”, the film could have had the safety officer be a woman and Angela could have replaced her instead. It could have found irony in the “safety officer” being the one there to kill everyone. It certainly works better than how the film actually handles it.

Since we’re tearing the plot apart anyway, let’s also talk about that cop character. The cop, Officer Barney Whitmore (Cliff Brand), is the father of one of the campers killed in the previous movie, and he swears he will have his revenge on Angela if he ever meets her. This is setup to add danger to Angela’s quest to just kill everyone because she can, except it doesn’t come to anything. Barney, like everyone else, dies stupidly and never actually gets even a chance to have his revenge. Including this plotline adds nothing worthwhile to the film.

It’s hard to understand why this film was made. I get they wanted to film two flicks back-to-back and rush them out to capitalize on the Sleepaway Camp name, but there had to be a better way to handle these films. Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers was a disappointment, to be sure, but this third film just feels tragic for how unambitious it is. It doesn’t try, at all, and it can’t even hold to its own threadbare premise. It only manages to survive being the worst slasher flick ever because it’s not so bad that I had to turn it off. But trust me, that’s a very low bar to clear at this point.