"Why are all the boys dying to meet Melissa?"
(back of video blurb): choice dialogue:
"This sensational suspense thriller centers on the startling events surrounding a beautiful young girl's sixteenth birthday. SUSAN STRASBERG, BO HOPKINS (TENTACLES), and PATRICK MACNEE (THE AVENGERS) star in this baffling mystery that focuses on the racial tensions of a small town, an ancient Indian curse, and a psychotic killer on the loose. Poor Melissa Morgan. She's a sensual big-city girl who is stuck spending her sixteenth summer in a small Texas town while her archaeologist father directs a dig at a nearby Indian burial ground. The jealous girls of the town have left her out of their activities. The young, handsome Indian spurns her company. So, Melissa is left with a single recourse- all the young men who would love to join her for some summer fun. There's only one problem: all of Melissa's boyfriends seem to end up dead! First there was Johnny Franklin, the younger brother of the bigoted local hell raiser. Then came Melissa's next boyfriend- and the sheriff must find the murderer before the town accuses the local Indians and erupts in race riots. The tale reaches it's terrifying conclusion at Melissa's SWEET SIXTEEN- where death is the uninvited guest! A masterful mystery with a surprise twist ending!"
...(courtesy of Kit Lively)
Hey! I think I’ve just had my first cheesegasm!- it may not be very pleasant, and it may ultimately be a hollow experience, but by gum was it fun whilst it lasted! And this object of my berserk dairy delirium is none other than Jim Sotos’ cheerfully sleazy 1982 cinematic abomination SWEET 16. A film so impressively bad that if it got any riper you’d run the risk of catching listeria from watching it!...
Melissa, a fifteen year old wild child, moves to a small Texas town with her parents (the suitably embarrassed looking Patrick Macnee and Susan Strasberg), whilst Macnee completes work on a dig up at an ol’ Indian burial ground- Uh Huh, that old chestnut! Melissa soon becomes a hit with the local boys, who swoon in her wake- quite literally. Their adulation is quickly cut short by the appearance of a mysterious knife wielding maniac who cuts to ribbons any boy that takes a shine to dear Melissa- an inconvenience that initially merits barely a pout from her. The local Sheriff (Bo Hopkins- who it seems was typecast to the point of absurdity in the early 80’s) and his two kids Hank and Marci (the talently challenged Dana Kimmel), set out to discover the identity of the mad slasher- in a desperate race against time, as the local teenage boys start dropping like flies. And time is running out! It is fast approaching Melissa’s sixteenth birthday; and the party being thrown for her by her Mother ( to cheer up the locals after all those icky murders), increasingly looks like it will provide the back drop for the petit guginol finale. The question on everyone’s lips: Will Melissa be cutting more than her cake?
SWEET 16 brazenly starts as it means to go on; in dementedly lurid fashion- a tarot card spelling death cuts to Melissa (Aleisa Shirley) lovingly lathering up her arse -in a surprisingly gratuitous, and lengthy, shower and steam session; and then on, with nary a nod to rhyme nor reason, to bar room brawl where a local red Indian beat seven shades of crap out of two racist rednecks..... SWEET 16 is just a catalogue of jaw droppingly bad moments; a veritable box of cheesy bon bons; an embarrassment of cheesy riches no less! The majority of the cast look thoroughly mortified throughout the movie; mortified that is that they agreed to take part that is! Their horror as they wave goodbye to their careers, skidding out of control in front of their very eyes, is translated into a bunch of awkward,stilted performances (bar Hopkins- who seems to be having a little bit of fun) that couldn’t possibly get any more wooden.
Practically every teen slasher cliché is hammered into submission in SWEET 16. The only ways it really stands out from the rest of the pack is the fact that the victims at the end of the killer’s knife are all male; the murders themselves are pretty bland- quick, badly handled and almost impossible to see as they take place at night and, let’s just say, the lighting man on this probably didn’t expect a call from the Academy that year. It is pretty sleazy- an aspect of early 80’s teen slasherdom the nouveaux slashers chose to ignore when the subgenre was ‘reinvented’; it’s hard to imagine a scene where Neve Campbell or Jennifer Love Hewitt would allow themselves to be seen completely in the buff, solely for the purpose of titillating the audience. The film is a mess- incoherent, predictable (the killer might as well have a neon sign flashing above their head saying "IT’S ME! I DID IT! I KILLED THEM ALL!!!"; the killers identity is given away via sledge hammer clues so clumsy even the writers of SCOOBY DOO would probably balk!) and dreadfully inept..... Yeah, so it’s a terrible mess- but it’s a thoroughly enjoyable mess. I still find myself chuckling, days after I saw the film, as I recall little snippets of dialogue- ("Why can’t anything exciting happen around here?"- "What, like a mad gardener stalking his victims with a rake?"). And one scene, out of so many, really stands out as the apex of cheese; it is one scene I just can’t forget- no matter how hard I try.... A gaggle of girls (lead by a bug eyed Dana Kimmell), sit in the school yard discussing the latest murder- "The killer could be sitting right next to you!", Dana informs the group with a theatrical stage whisper. Mellisa comes into the yard and sits, on her own, under a tree. "That’s Melissa, she was the last person to see Johnny alive..." Kimmell tells the group, transfixed on the skimpily clad girl munching on down on a juicy apple. "She might as well take her clothes off!" bitches another girl. "She’s beautiful", gushes Kimmell.... And then it happens.... In almost every truly bad slasher movie there is a song, so dreadful it could make grown men cry, and SWEET 16 is no exception. As Kimmell ogles Melissa and, in turn, Melissa ogles the poodle haired captain of the football team this abomination begins:
...it thankfully fades there, but if you have the stamina a longer version drones over the end credits. It was a contender for my favourite bad thing in the movie, but something else just pipped it to the post....
(hold onto your hats- here comes a rant!)...that ‘thing’ has to be Dana Kimmell’s touching performance as Marci the dorky Nancy Drew wannabe (ha!- the only thing it touched (and how!) was my funny bone).... Kimmell gives what must be the worst (takes some doing!), and perversely, the most entertaining turn in the whole movie. I’ll take to my grave the her reaction shot as she discovers the first body- it was priceless. As was the line she muttered to her Daddy as she pontificated on the cause of death: "What do you think it was?... A bear?!". In fact Kimmel has most of the movie’s best (and by that, naturally, I mean ‘worst’) lines; the scriptwriter must have been maintaining some kind of psychotic grudge to make her utter such drivel. Really, when she’s on screen there is nary a straight face in the house. Musing on why the other girls hate Melissa, Kimmel empathises thus: "So she’s got fancier clothes and she knows how to wear makeup. Big deal!... She’s still a sensitive girl". And pleading with her brother not to go out whilst the killer is loose she valiantly reasons: "What if the killer is watching us? We could be coleslaw... just like that!"..... Trouble is these howlers seem kinda flat when confined to the printed word, what you really need is to witness Ms. Kimmel’s histrionics for yourself; believe me the woman could probably beat Roger Moore to a bloody pulp in an eyebrow raising competition.... I would probably be more charitable with her performance if it were not for one thing- her patronising real life distaste for the horror genre. Back in 1989 she, begrudgingly, gave an interview to Fangoria as part of their ‘The women of Crystal Lake’ (Kimmel played Chris of "He can’t be alive! fame, the final girl in FRIDAY 3). Admittedly she didn’t even undo a single button on her Laura Ashley blouse in SWEET 16, let alone run through the woods doing star jumps buck naked; but in the interview she comes across as irritatingly holier than thou. "I’m not a big fan of R-rated movies," she whines. "I believe movies should be doing a better job of standing up for good values and morals. I’m also not too fond of onscreen sex." ...All this from a woman who made a start doing exploitation movies... She also reveals how she got the FRIDAY gig: "Somebody involved with the FRIDAY film saw [SWEET 16] and loved my performance. I was called in, did one interview and got the role"; ‘loved’ her performance (!?), its perverse but I suppose it must be true! But, the thing is, her dislike of the genre doesn’t just stop at viewing it as something to be scraped off the bottom of her shoe, she also actively set out to emasculate FRIDAY 3! ... "When I got the script, there were some things I was not wild about, I was not to thrilled with the gore and the sexual stuff , so I talked to [producer] Frank Mancuso Jr. And a lot of those elements were curbed or eliminated. I still had some inner struggles as to whether I should do the film. Because of the way I felt about FRIDAY THE 13TH films in general, I felt funny the whole time I was making the movie"- Jesus woman, you were making a t&a teenie-kill flick not the sequel to the frigging SOUND OF MUSIC! .....However, in the end I doubt she made much difference to the final cut; I expect the censors did more damage. But I suppose it makes me chuckle a fair bit to imagine her silently mouthing ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ in a vain attempt to block out all the icky sleaze around her! And finally, with a delicious sense of irony, the woman who could make an Olympic sport out of self-righteousness and bowed out of the interview with the words, "...I’m looking for better roles in better films. I think audiences should, too.", went on to do very little indeed; that old adage, 'Never bite the hand that feeds you', has never sounded truer. Never mind Dana, for your thespian efforts alone, you’ll always have a fan in me!
And so ends my longest, most incoherent review to date- if you’ve had the stamina to read this far then I reckon you’d have the mettle to sit through this beauty. SWEET 16- they sure as hell don’t make ‘em like this anymore!
BODYCOUNT 6 female:1 / male:5
1) Male teen stabbed to death
2) Male teen stabbed to death
3) Male is found hung
4) Male stabbed to death
5) Male stabbed in back
6) Female stabbed in gut