Wednesday, November 4, 2020

219. Only when we are } hidden bodies.

Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland begins with a pan & tilt from a teenager’s messy bedroom floor to her bed, where she lies uncovered & asleep. (Not wholly unlike the static opening shot of a sleeping Scarlet Johansson in Sofia Coppola’s Lost In Translation & not wholly unlike the dolly shot & pan of a sleeping Sheri Moon Zombie in Rob Zombie’s Lords of Salem.) Her alarm clock radio blares Anvil’s “Wild Eyes” (“evil knows I fell / in your evil spell”). Her mother shouts “Maria, turn down that radio!” Maria, played by Kashina Kessler, replies, “Today’s the day I’m going to camp!” She has a book on her pink & yellow side table—I can’t read the title. She gets out of bed, walks to her bedroom window. Outside—judging by the light—it’s a bright morning; the window blind is red (a detail I find quite odd), the drapes are blue with a pattern of orange fish & shells & coral. She says, “Ma, did you hear me, I’m going to camp today.” He mother replies, “Yeah, I heard you, what do you want me to do about it?” At her dresser she peels off her t-shirt—she’s been on screen for under 30 seconds. She wants her mother to walk her to the bus “or anything”; her mother is not interested. It’s too early. A man’s voice interjects, “Hey, shut up.” Ma says, “You shut up.” Maria says, “You both shut up” while she looks at herself in a mirror. She adds, “I’m going to camp & I might never come back.” Above her left breast is tattooed the word “milk”; above her right breast “shake”—her chest fills the frame. Presumably this is meant to be funny.

Cut to a city street. Maria exits the Mitchell St. Hotel building—which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me—& is on her way to the bus that’s going to take her to Camp New Horizons. She’s promptly chased by a black & red garbage truck into an alley filled with garbage where she’s run over. By Pamela Springsteen, Bruce Springsteen’s sister.

Pamela—who plays Angela—puts Maria’s body into the truck’s compactor. Somehow after she does this she’s dressed in Maria’s blue “I [heart] NY” t-shirt & has Maria’s ID. She takes Maria’s place on the Camp New Horizons bus. When the bus pulls away it reveals the message, spray painted on a white brick wall in red, “Angela is back!”

Heavy metal! Nudity! Mayhem! All by minute 3:53. It doesn’t make a lick of sense, but if Sleepaway Camp III maintained that level of lunacy, I’d be hailing it a classic.

It has its moments: Angela murders a local news journalist (who’s driving a red Ferrari) with a gram of Ajax (the journalist believes its cocaine), Angela fishes a hockey mask out of the lake, Michael J. Pollard seduces a camper by flashing a Playboy Bunny belt buckle at her, & Angela nonchalantly dispatches the camp’s director with a lawnmower. Otherwise, Sleepaway Camp III is boring.

Not to suggest I wouldn’t have watched it anyway, but the reason I watched Sleepaway Camp III was to see an actor who stood out to me in a less boring but also stupid movie, Night of the Demons.

There’s a video on YouTube posted by Jamaal Bradley that celebrates Rodger (portrayed by Alvin Alexis) as “One of the few brothers to survive a horror film.” What stood out to me about Night of the Demons is that it features an actor I assumed was Asian American (she’s Asian Canadian, in fact)— Jill Terashita. She doesn’t have much of a role, but I can’t think of a whole lot of 80s horror movies with Asian actors. In Night of the Demons, Terashita’s character is just part of the gang; in Sleepaway Camp III she’s a leather-jacket-wearing tough.

Terashita’s acting career was brief. She did the bulk of her work between 1985 & 1990. She was “part of the gang” in a War Games rip-off flick called Terminal Entry. I haven’t seen it. Otherwise her credits include “first bikini girl” & “hostess”—nothing notable.

In Night of the Demons her character’s name is “Frannie.” In Sleepaway Camp III her character’s name is “Arab.” I’m not sure what to make of that.

[ Images: scenes from Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (1989). Kashina Kessler chased by a dump truck, Jill Terashita reacting. ]