Staging the Garbage Truck Death in Sleepaway Camp III

The production for Michael A. Simpson’s back-to-back Sleepaway Camp sequels, Unhappy Campers and Teenage Wasteland, would take place over a six-week period at Lakewood Studios in Atlanta and Camp Younts near Waco in Georgia, although the last day of filming would see the crew relocate to downtown Atlanta for the opening sequence of Sleepaway Camp III. The set piece in question would see a sexy young woman, Maria, leaving her home early in the morning and making her way to a nearby bus stop in order to catch a ride to summer camp, only for a garbage truck to appear and chase her down to the road, eventually trapping her in an alleyway and running her down. This would prove to be the most complex sequence to film, due to the stunts involved and the fact that the entire scene had to be completed in one day.

The filming of the sequence would take place on November 31st 1987 in a high-risk area of Atlanta, forcing the crew to require security to keep members of the public away from the set. The role of Maria would be portrayed by New York-based Kashina Kessler, one of the few young actors involved in Teenage Wasteland that had not been hired locally. In keeping with the slasher clichés, Kessler would appear in just her pants in the very first scene and, thus, would meet a gruesome death soon afterwards. This would be the first of many nude scenes in the movie and would include a gratuitous close-up of her breasts with the words ‘Milk Shake’ tattooed on them. Unlike many actresses, Kessler would perform all of her own stunts during the sequence, which would include jumping out of the path of the truth at the very last moment.

Although it is believed that the vehicle is driven by the film’s antagonist, Angela Baker (portrayed by Bruce Springsteen’s younger sister, Pamela), stunt coordinator Lonnie Smith took the wheel for the duration of the scene, wearing a wig and wardrobe to match Springsteen’s character. The first part of the sequence saw Kessler crossing the street as the truck appeared in the background, which begins to speed up and crash through garbage bags and cardboard boxes that lay at the side of the road, forcing Kessler to run for her life. After only two takes, Simpson was satisfied with the footage and moved the production into a nearby alleyway. Meanwhile, members of the crew quickly picked up the garbage from off the road, as onlookers began to gather further up the street. For the next set up, a camera was moved swiftly along a track as it followed Kessler down the alley to a large pile of garbage bags at the end.

It was important that Kessler hit each mark in a specific way in order for the various different takes to match up during editing. For the moment in which Marie is run down by the truck, Simpson worked closely with his young actress in order run through how she should fall onto the bags in order to give the impression that she was actually struck by the vehicle. It would take some time for Kessler to master the movements, each time twisting around as she ran in front of the camera and jumped backwards onto the bags. The make-up department then brought out a life-size dummy that was dressed in a denim jacket and jeans, as well as an ‘I Love NY’ t-shirt, in order to resemble Kessler. Finally, a wig was attached to the dummy and it was placed in front of the bags where Kessler had practised her fall.

As the camera began to roll once again, the truck came speeding around the corner into the alley and crashed into the bags, crushing the dummy. Kessler then replaced the dummy by lying amongst the garbage bags as the make-up department applied fake blood to both her face and the front of the truck. Springsteen then made her first appearance in the scene, climbing out of the truck in the exact same clothes as Maria was wearing and dragging Kessler’s body into the waste disposal at the back of the truck. Due to her small size, two crew members had to help Springsteen move the body, whilst remaining out of shot so it seemed like Angela was acting on her own. With Maria out of the picture, Angela would take her place on the bus and head to a new summer camp to continue her gruesome killing spree.

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3 Responses to “ Staging the Garbage Truck Death in Sleepaway Camp III ”

  1. I’ve always seen this scene as the biggest weapon a slasher ever used to kill someone.

  2. Yeah it’s definitely a little less subtle than a knife.

  3. 1988? I thought the movies were shot in ’87?

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