Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland

I suppose there’s something to be said for laying all your cards out on the table in the first five minutes of any movie.

“Sleepaway Camp III” does this by coming up with what may well be the world’s most implausible scenario for getting Angela back to camp.

We start off with a teenage girl who has what I’m going to call exceptional hair. She gets up, listens to some screaming through her door, and then prepares to go to camp.

In the next scene, she’s walking down the street with a sleeping bag and a very small bag which, I guess, contains six cans of hairspray, a toothbrush, and possibly one half of a pair of clean underpants. Just in case.

And it’s at this point that a garbage truck starts chasing her down the street.

Let’s break this down, for just two seconds:

We’re somewhere in the middle of what appears to be a reasonably sized city. And yet, not only is there no one on the street itself, but it also appears that no one has, say, glanced out their window and noticed that a garbage truck is driving towards a screaming teenage girl.

But it gets better.

The truck chases the girl into a nearby alley, where it finally catches up and runs into her.

At which point, Angela, who has a hairstyle identical to the now-dead girl, steps out of the truck, picks up her victim number one, and tosses her into the back of the truck. Angela follows this action by putting on some sunglasses and taking the girl’s sleeping bag and her other bag with its six cans of hairspray and hopefully only slightly used toothbrush.

This means that Angela 1) Located a person who was going to be going to a camp soon. More importantly, a person who was going to the exact same camp Angela was at last year. 2) She then grew her hair out and replicated this other person’s general took. 3) She waited until the girl was headed to the bus station, at which point she 4) Stole a garbage truck, waited until the girl was on a deserted street, and ran her down.

I genuinely suspect that the opening five minutes of the movie are designed to act as an opt-out clause.

“Look,” the movie is saying to you, “I realize that this is completely ridiculous. So are you in or out?”

And I went, “Well, okaaay…”

I forgot to mention the graffiti on the wall as the bus pulls away – “Angela is back!”


With that, we’re off to camp. The same camp as last year, only it’s under new management, as the folks running the joint have decided to start a camp where boys and girls from the wrong side of the tracks and the right side of the tracks can come together and learn about each other. They even have a slogan: “An experience in sharing.”

There’s a nice reporter-type-female there, and she makes everyone state their name and where they’re from, which is clearly a way for the writer and director of the flick to get through everyone’s name and toss out a personality trait so you might possibly care when Angela starts a-killin’.

Though I have a hard time imagining people watching this movie, getting to the end and going, “You know, when that girl was dropped from a flag pole? I felt that impact. Not on my head, like she did, but in my heart. Poor kid.”

We also get to meet the counselors, which is sort of exciting because for the first time in “Sleepaway” history, they’ve got an actor you might recognize. Michael J. Pollard is one of those guys who has been in pretty much everything, and here he plays Herman, co-counselor with and husband to Lily. The year before this movie came out, he played a hobo in “Scrooged,” and shared screen time with Bill Murray. And now, here he is, stepping up to the plate with Pamela Springsteen.

And also making out with a girl about thirty years his junior. One wonders if he reached that page of the script and told his agent that THIS, yes, THIS would be his next project.

Sorry. I digress.

The reporter figures that Angela looks like a dope fiend, and asks Angela to score her some coke. Note the small c. Angela scores her some drain cleaning powder, which ends with the reporter snorting a line and then watching blood gush out of her face.

At which point, of course, she dies.

Back at the camp, the counselors are giving a spiel about how the campers will be broken up into three groups, and then a bunch of other rules and explanations happen, none of which matter because everyone is dead before they make a lick of difference.

They also introduce Officer Barney. For those taking notes in part II, this is the guy who arrested Angela in Part I. Oh, and also in part II, Angela cut off Barney’s son’s head. On a continuity level, this is important. On a story level, well… I suppose I should leave a little suspense.

Okay, now it’s morning. Everyone gets their camp t-shirts, and we learn some of the female campers care not for female undergarments.

Then everyone is divided up into groups. Angela is put in Herman’s group, along with another girl and two guys.

Angela and the two guys head off the fish, and in another odd and pointless stroke of continuity, Angela catches the Jason mask used in part II. At which point we get a joke about Saturday the 14th, one of the dudes decides to stick a firecracker in a fish’s mouth, and Angela runs off.

These things may or may not be related.

Back at the camp, Herman is spending some special time with his nubile female charge. This comes to an end when Angela starts hitting him with a stick. Eventually, she discovers this isn’t killing him very quickly, and she moves to stabbing him to death with the aforementioned stick. Then she does the same to Herman’s buddy.

Meanwhile, at another camp site, a girl named Marcia needs to go potty, and she heads off into the woods with Tony. Where we get a fake scare which I suppose is meant to serve as a meet cute. Eh.

Back at Angela’s camp, Angela jams firecrackers up the nose of the guy who was firecrackering fish, and his head sort of blows up. For an encore, she knocks the last guy in her group unconscious, puts everyone in a large tent, and torches it, so you can hear the not-quite-dead guy do some screaming.

Angela breaks out the marshmallows. (Yes, she really does.)

The next day, Angela wanders over to another group and says that she was told to swap with one of their campers. She then leads her “trade” back to camp, has her crawl into a tent, and when the girl crawls back out, Angela cuts off her head with an axe.

Over at Officer Barney’s campsite, everyone is chewing through some exposition in an attempt to make this movie seem even remotely plausible. They attempt to accomplish this by having Barney say that Angela’s juvenile record was destroyed when she turned 18, which is why no one knows what she looks like.

Back in Angela’s group, it’s time for trust games! Which means first Angela gets tied up and blindfolded and then led around. After which her partner gets tied up, blindfolded, led around, tied to a flag pole rope, hoisted in the air, and dropped to her death.

Angela heads back to camp, where the counselor-whose-husband-is-charcoal sends her to take the trash to the garbage pit.

This prompts a long sequence where Angela wanders around having what first appears to be a flashback to the last movie, until we realize that the footage seems to be all wrong. So it’s either some sort of alternate cut, or perhaps newly shot footage. Either way, Angela gets to sing “I’m a Happy Camper,” again.

Angela goes back to her camp site, and she’s tied together with a dude named Bobby, so they can learn to “work together” catching fish.

Bobby reveals that he REALLY, REALLY likes being tied to Angela. Angela says they’ll do something about this later. Bobby does not realize this is bad news.

Back at the camp again, an attempt to made to get another camper to clean and cook the fish, only he pulls a gun on Angela.

Elsewhere, Marcia and Tony are hitting it off. And by hitting it off, I mean Tony makes a move and Marcia demonstrates that she’s always prepared to have an intimate moment in the woods with someone she met two days ago.

Angela convinces Lily-the-counselor to play a trust game with her, which ends with Lily buried in dirt and garbage up to her neck. And then Angela fires up a lawnmower and runs it over her head.

Angela and Bobby meet up for their special rendezvous and Angela, wanting to give the man what he wants, ties him to a tree. Then she ties his arms to her car with rope and drives away. With the expected results.

Man, I would kill for a plot point right now.

Only I’m not getting one, because Angela has to go back to camp and kill the dude who has spent the entire movie listening to loud rap music. She accomplishes this by giving him a special tape wherein she raps, and then nailing his hands to the ground with tent spikes and beating him to death with a hammer.

Angela goes to the final group and tries to pull her “swap” routine again, only when she tries to walk her swap-mate back to her old camp site to kill her, Barney the cop comes along.

Angela twists her ankle, though whether she really did so is something of a mystery, and Barney patches her up.

Angela takes this opportunity to whine about the other counselors, and at the end of her story she sends her new swap-mate outside to look at Lily, who Angela notes is lazy. Also, Lily has no head.

Angela’s swap-mate runs off, and now, here it is. The big showdown between Barney and Angela. The confrontation to end all confrontations. Angela vs. the man who put her away.

No, wait. I’m sorry. I’m thinking of a good movie. Instead, we get a reminder that Angela killed the cop’s kid, and then Angela shoots him dead.

Let’s recap:

Plot of the movie: Angela kills a bunch of random people because they are somewhat mean, or take drugs, or engage in marital relations outside of marriage. Sometimes we get to follow Marcia and Tony around for a bit, in hopes of maybe generating some sympathy for them when Angela gives them the axe. And the one interesting subplot, about the man who arrested Angela, is resolved as lamely as possible.

I don’t understand, movie. Why do you hate your audience so much? They just want something to happen.

Having shot Barney, Angela runs out, hops in her jeep, and chases down Marsha. But Marsha’s fate is not yet decided.

Angela returns to her camp site (how many times have I said that already!) and convinces the three remaining campers that Barney wants them to participate in a trust game. So they head back to the main camp.

Angela ties to three people left together, with Tony in the middle. Then she cuts a rope so that Barney can swing down from a tree dramatically.

She relates the rules: The three remaining campers have exactly two minutes to locate Marsha in one of the three cabins.

Consequences aren’t really discussed, but one assumes it’s a live-or-die scenario.

The campers, naturally, select the wrong cabin the first two times, so that we, the audience can see how Angela has artfully posed the many dead campers.

Finally, they enter the right cabin and find Marsha, only the game is rigged and two of the campers are killed by axe booby-traps.

Angela says adios and heads out, only Marsha decides that she must be avenged and she runs out and attacks Angela. There’s a scuffle. Marsha stabs Angela, and Angela dies.

Later, the cops arrive, and Tony and Marsha chat in the back of a cruiser. He’s decided to escape his wrong-side-of-the-tracks ways and come be with Marsha, only it seems that Marsha already has a boyfriend back home.

Which means, if you’re paying attention, and I was, that even the final surviving characters are kind of hateful.

Angela is put onto a stretcher and ambulanced out of the camp. The cop and EMT in the back of the ambulance debate killing her, but Angela gets the drop on them and kills them both with a syringe.

A voice from up front asks what’s going on, and Angela replies: “Just taking care of business.”

And this version of Angela is never heard from again.


  1. So does the fact that she's a dude just never come up again?

  2. Not really. In part II, and possibly in part III, we get a quick mention that she talked to a bunch of doctors and has had some woman-makin' surgery.