Teenage Wasteland

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Pamela Springsteen, Tracy Griffith, Michael J. Pollard
Director:  Michael A. Simpson
Audio:  Dolby Digital Mono
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Anchor Bay
Features:  See Review
Length:  80 Minutes
Release Date:  August 20, 2002

“Where did you learn to chop wood like that?”

“I’ve never chopped wood before.  But I’ve chopped other things.”

Film ***

The third time isn’t necessarily the charm, but for the Sleepaway Camp series, Part III has the biggest chutzpah.  What’s with that opening, anyway?  Doesn’t Angela normally dispatch of campers while they’re in camp?  Her excursion with a garbage truck is something we fans hadn’t seen before…and maybe that was the point.

The principal team returned from Part II to make Sleepaway Camp III:  Teenage Wasteland.  That includes director Michael A. Simpson, writer Fritz Gordon, and star Pamela Springsteen (still the best thing to happen to the slasher pic since young Michael Meyers first walked down those steps a decade earlier).  The film retains the sense of wicked humor that Part II introduced, but the primary goal of Part III seems to be devising more gruesome and creative deaths than before.

So gruesome were the killings, in fact, that Simpson had to excise a few frames here and there just to avoid an NC 17 rating, which he did begrudgingly (fear not, friends…check out what’s included in the features!), but even still, Angela is in top form from start to finish.

The ridiculous premise has Angela attending a new camp headed by a lecherous old man (Pollard) and his wife, designed to bring both rich and underprivileged kids together for an experience in sharing (I’m thinking yeah, all the rich kids I knew in the 80s would be just chomping at the bits to go to such a camp!).  This experience in sharing includes ludicrous activities like blindfolding and binding a kid so that his or her assigned partner can do the leading around.  It’s supposed to be an exercise in trust, but in fact, it makes Angela’s work a whole lot easier!

It’s more of the same…more beautiful women get naked before they get butchered while Angela goes about “taking care of business” with her usual wry humor.  She may have had more character in Part II…in fact, a newcomer watching this film first wouldn’t understand Angela’s motivations or attitude…but Part III regards those aspects as a waste of time.  It’s streamlined Sleepaway Camp…it cuts away almost everything that isn’t essential and concentrates on the aspects fans like most.

It’s frankly too bad for us that Ms. Springsteen turned from acting into a successful career as a photographer.  She was very, very good in making Angela very, very bad…easily the screen’s most charismatic serial killer until Hannibal Lecter.  Have lawnmower, will decapitate. 

Video ***

Anchor Bay’s anamorphic offering is an improvement over Part II…the source material seems a little better, and the images are noticeably sharper.  There’s less softness than before, and colors are improved, while the transfer still manages to steer clear of grain and other problems.  Another nice effort from horror’s best studio!

Audio **

The mono soundtrack is serviceable, with no dialogue or sound effects problems and a general freedom from noise, but as with most mono mixes, dynamic range is truncated.

Features ***1/2

The real highlight of this disc is 18 minutes of extended scenes originally cut when the MPAA threatened an NC 17 rating.  Just about every death in the movie is a little bloodier than what you remembered.  Only the original live-take audio tracks exist with them, otherwise, I’m sure Anchor Bay would have put these scenes back in for a director’s cut!  At any rate, it’s extremely cool to finally see them the way they were meant to be seen.

The disc also includes a solid commentary track hosted by webmaster John Klyza with director Simpson and writer Fritz Gordon.  As with Part II, these fellows do the film justice with their memories, attention to detail, and humor.  There is also a reel of outtakes and behind the scenes footage, the video release trailer, stills gallery, and a cool Easter egg that gives you a local 1988 newscast clip from Georgia that takes you to the set of the movie!


Anchor Bay’s release of all three (completed) Sleepaway Camp films should make all fans extremely happy.  Teenage Wasteland took the series about as far as it could go, as evidenced by the cut footage in the extras, as director Michael A. Simpson and star Pamela Springsteen brought out the best and worst that Angela had to offer.  Sleep well, campers.