Michael A. Simpson
Review by Rumsey Taylor
Posted on 11 July 2004
Source Anchor Bay Entertainment DVD
Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland employs an enormous irony to establish Angela in her third outing as the series’ iconic killer: in an anonymous inner-city ghetto, a girl named Maria awakens and packs for camp. (She is seen topless in the first five minutes, contriving the film’s unreasonable use of nudity.) The slender female approaches a street from an alley, where she is disposed of, literally, by an imposing garbage truck. The driver is Angela, the series perennial killer, wig intact, who assumes the identity of Maria and proceeds to join the company of her third slew of unwitting, stereotyped teenage victims. In the minutes following, which include a glaring metal riff over the opening credits (zooming to fill the frame with confident and unpersuasive significance), it becomes evident that Teenage Wasteland will affirm its role as a horror sequel; it is the loudest, cheapest, and most impotent entry in the series.
It must be realized, if not before this scene, that Sleepaway Camp’s Angela, like other horror serial killers, is creative and able (this is discerned in her success at stealing a garbage truck and being able to drive it), and unlike her murderous colleagues, she is friendly, approachable, and irritatingly positive (no one else at camp sings the “Happy Camper” song with such genuine glee).
The camp is the same location as in the first installments, and in stride has been renamed to cover-up the murders that occurred in the past. This camp (Camp New Horizons, appropriately) has a concept to it; the party is comprised of two halves: teens from both underprivileged and privileged households. The purpose is to intermingle teens from opposed sociological circles and to effort their realization of their similarities despite their contrasted upbringings. This would make for a loosely engaging teenage film (not to mention an involving sociological experiment) had the film not positioned it — its only successful concept — secondary to its aspiration for clever self-awareness. A shame, because Teenage Wasteland’s self-awareness isn’t all that clever.
Suffice it to say Teenage Wasteland contains female nudity, innovative gore (there is, after all, an evolving creativity in Angela’s calling as a murderer), and loud music. The directions to this horror recipe are adhered with careful precision, and the film lacks its own, characterizing taste; Teenage Wasteland contains all the ingredients and risks no extraneous addition.
Teenage Wasteland is thematically impotent and unentertaining. Though there is a discernable humor in its deliberate employment of horror clichés, the same joke is told over and over — and in its frequency the punch line is less effective with each overpronounced utterance. And the joke wasn’t very funny to begin with.