An archaeologist (Patrick Macnee, The Howling) arrives in a small town with wife (Susan Strasberg, Picnic) and daughter (Aleisa Shirley, Spacehunter) in tow. Melissa, the archaeologist’s troubled offspring, has problems adapting to the new environment. Melissa’s life really gets iffy when someone begins murdering her acquaintances. Local Sheriff Dan Burke (Bo Hopkins, American Graffiti) soon realizes that there is a link between the killings and Melissa’s upcoming 16th birthday.
Reaction & Thoughts:
Okay, director Jim Sotos (Forced Entry) knows how to start a film — I’ll give him that. Sweet Sixteen begins with gorgeous Aleisa Shirley taking a shower. Meaningless? Yes. Exploitative? Absolutely. I can’t say I was complaining, though (interestingly, the theatrical version begins with a silly dream sequence).
The rest of the film is, unfortunately, not so much of a looker. The murky, drab-looking cinematography, courtesy of James L. Carter (One False Move), isn’t very appealing. Director Sotos’s work lacks panache and imagination and Erwin Goldman’s script has problems. And the climax deflates rather than excites.
Sweet Sixteen did introduce some small innovations into the slasher subgenre. The subplot about racism adds meat to the bony storyline. I also liked the idea of the Sheriff’s daughter, played by Dana Kimmell (Friday the 13th Part III), obsessing over the murder investigation — she’s like a young Miss Marple! The film also contains a weird tune, “Melissa,” which is another curious addition to the slasher canon. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another slasher with a theme song!
Sweet Sixteen does have a surprisingly strong cast (for this type of movie). Bo Hopkins is fine as Sheriff Dan Burke. Susan Strasberg and Patrick Macnee are also good as Aleisa Shirley’s distraught parents.
The cast also includes many familiar faces: Sharon Farrell (Lone Wolf McQuade), Don Stroud (The Amityville Horror), Steve Antin (The Last American Virgin) and Don Shanks (Revenge of the Ninja) as Jason Longshadow. Veteran actor Henry Wilcoxon (Cecil B. DeMille’s Samson and Delilah and The Ten Commandments), in his very last role, appears as a Native American.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Sweet Sixteen is not great, but it’s an entertaining, sometimes interesting ’80s slasher. While far from perfect, I appreciated the fact that it tried to do something different. P.S. The Code Red DVD contains both versions of the movie, the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical version. Color, 90 minutes, Rated R.