Film Review: Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (1989)

Also known as: Nightmare Vacation 3 (UK, Germany)
Release Date: August 4th, 1989 (limited)
Directed by: Michael A. Simpson
Written by: Fritz Gordon
Based on: characters by Robert Hiltzik
Music by: James Oliverio
Cast: Pamela Springsteen, Tracy Griffith, Mark Oliver, Michael J. Pollard

Double Helix Films, 80 Minutes, 84 Minutes (uncut)

Review:

“Good thing you’re dead ’cause in a couple of years your breasts would have been sagging something terrible!” – Angela

Since I recently watched Sleepaway Camp II, I thought that I’d follow that up with a viewing and review of the third movie in the series.

Honestly, this one is pretty much just more of the same and it’s fairly consistent to the one before it. My only really gripe about it is that the kills aren’t as creative as they were in the previous installment.

Now there are a few good kills like the lawnmower one but most of them are pretty basic and repetitive. Usually, we see Angela just beat someone to death with a flimsy branch and then follow that up with a stab or a fire.

Pamela Springsteen is really the glue of these two films, as she’s simply entertaining and commits to the bit so well. Even though these are far from the best slashers or horror comedies out there, I could’ve easily watched her return a few more times to do the same schtick. She’s just funny and has a lot of charm, even when she’s brutally murdering someone.

I liked that this movie brought in Michael J. Pollard, as I’ve always liked the guy. He’s mostly a character actor that most people might recognize from Scrooged or Bonnie & Clyde but he always comes off as enjoyable and likable. In this film, however, he plays a scummy pedophile summer camp owner. While his character is weirdly played up for laughs, he handles the controversial material pretty well and you enjoy seeing him get what was coming to him.

Overall, this is a goofy, violent picture that actually doesn’t push the gore as hard as I had hoped for a late ’80s slasher picture but it’s still amusing, entertaining and it kept me distracted from the pandemic that has taken over the world in 2020.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Sleepaway Camp films, as well as the Friday the 13th film series and The Burning.

Film Review: Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988)

Also known as: Nightmare Vacation 2 (UK, Germany)
Release Date: February 28th, 1988
Directed by: Michael A. Simpson
Written by: Fritz Gordon
Based on: characters by Robert Hiltzik
Music by: James Oliverio
Cast: Pamela Springsteen, Renée Estevez

Double Helix Films, 80 Minutes

Review:

“Easy. I’ve got great recommendations from doctors, psychiatrists, even clergymen. I did my time. Two years of therapy, electroshock, was on every pill you ever heard of, plus an operation. I’m completely cured. If I wasn’t they wouldn’t have let me out. How do you know so much about me?” – Angela

Over the years, I’ve noticed that fans of the original Sleepaway Camp are split on whether or not they like this almost parody sequel. It’s certainly goofy, somewhat bizarre and it isn’t in the same league as its predecessor but it has charm to it while being amusing and giving its audience some unique and creative kills.

Unfortunately, Felissa Rose does not return to the role of Angela in this one, but that may have been for the best due to the tone and comedy approach of this installment. And even though Rose will always be the Angela, I thought that Pamela Springsteen was great in the role, especially for how hammy she played it with nothing less than pure enthusiasm and spirit. Seriously, I enjoyed her so much in this that I’m actually excited to check out its direct sequel.

Side note: Felissa Rose would return to play Angela again, years later, in a more serious installment.

Anyway, this was a pretty cheesy and enjoyable picture. And by “cheesy” I mean cheesy in the best way possible.

The film is stuffed full of great kill sequences, I especially liked two of them.

The first is the one where Angela is literally bludgeoning and stuffing a camper into an outdoor toilet.

The other is the one that parodies the top slasher franchises of the era, as it has homages to A Nightmare On Elm Street, Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre all in the same scene.

I mostly dug the rest of the cast as well, as they all played archetypes well, especially the buff, jock counselor with the ’80s power mullet.

Now I can’t quite call this a classic like its predecessor but it’s definitely a film that should be rotated into a horror/comedy marathon. Especially during these troubling COVID-19 times, where most of us are stuck at home.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Sleepaway Camp films, as well as the Friday the 13th film series and The Burning.

Film Review: Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

Also known as: Fast Times (working title, informal title)
Release Date: August 13th, 1982
Directed by: Amy Heckerling
Written by: Cameron Crowe
Based on: Fast Times at Ridgemont High: A True Story by Cameron Crowe
Music by: various pop bands
Cast: Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates, Brian Backer, Robert Romanus, Ray Walston, Amanda Wyss, Forest Whitaker, Vincent Schiavelli, Lana Clarkson, Eric Stoltz, Anthony Edwards, Nicolas Cage, Kelli Maroney, Scott Thomson, Taylor Negron, Lana Clarkson, James Russo, Pamela Springsteen

Refugee Films, Universal Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Why don’t you get a job, Spicoli?” – Brad Hamilton, “What for?” – Jeff Spicoli, “You need money.” – Brad Hamilton, “All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz and I’m fine.” – Jeff Spicoli

Teen sex comedies were all the rage in the early 1980s. However, unlike all the others, Fast Times at Ridgemont High was much more than just a teen sex comedy. It was a film with purpose, heart and characters that you actually cared for and felt connected to. It had high drama, human emotion but it was still true to the spirit of the genre it was actually better than.

There were several factors that contributed to this movie being better than one would expect at first glance.

First, the story came from a book written by Cameron Crowe, who spent some time undercover in high school to capture the real lives of the teenagers around him. The book was full of true stories, which got adapted into this fictional movie tale. Crowe’s work gave this film a sense of realism and human emotion that other films like it were lacking.

Also, this was directed by Amy Heckerling and even though it was her first feature film, she was young, hip and connected to a lot of cool people at the time. She gave this picture a sort of life and energy that it wouldn’t have had otherwise. She also pulls off similar magic with 1995’s beloved teen comedy Clueless.

Additionally, this film benefits from having an incredible cast for its time. It has Sean Penn, just before he became a superstar, as well as Jennifer Jason Leigh, one of the best actresses of her generation. The shy kind of nerdy character was played by Brian Backer, who had already won a Tony Award the year before for his leading role in Woody Allen’s The Floating Light Bulb on Broadway. You’ve also got quintessential ’80s cool guy Judge Reinhold, the always lovable Phoebe Cates, Robert Romanus, future Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker, Nicolas Cage, Eric Stoltz, Anthony Edwards, Amanda Wyss, Kelli Maroney, Scott Thomson, as well as veterans Ray Walston and Vincent Schiavelli. How many other ’80s teen sex comedies can boast a lineup that impressive? And this didn’t even have a single person from the Brat Pack in it.

The film is well balanced between all of its main characters. It also doesn’t showcase the token stoner as just a token stoner. The chemistry between Penn’s Spicoli and Walston’s Mr. Hand is fabulous and makes for some of the best moments in the film. Seeing Walston go that extra step for a student that most teachers would just roll their eyes at is both sweet and refreshing. I could’ve watched a spinoff movie of just Spicoli and Mr. Hand and been happy, even if it had a lackluster script.

I also loved the chemistry between best buds Mark Ratner (Backer) and Mike Damone (Romanus). The shy Ratner needs Damone’s help in getting with the ladies and their exchanges are hilarious and entertaining. Life throws these best buds a curveball though but it was great seeing real friendship conquer all.

There are several good stories sprinkled throughout this ensemble piece. And it is sort of timeless in that the jokes still work, the characters are amusing and even though this gets very serious at points, it is never short on laughs and keeps things generally lighthearted.

It also has one of the best soundtracks of its decade.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High is a perfect template on how to create a teen coming of age movie. Sure, it is sex heavy, as it was the ’80s, but it’s light-years more mature than similar films like Private School and The Last American Virgin.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Dazed and ConfusedThe Last American Virgin and Private School. Also, Gremlins, as that features both Phoebe Cates and Judge Reinhold. Plus, Clueless, another teen coming of age comedy directed by Heckerling.