An archaeologist (Patrick Macnee, The Howling) arrives in a small Texas town with wife (Susan Strasberg, The Manitou) and daughter (newcomer Aleisa Shirley) in tow. Melissa, the archaeologist’s troubled offspring, has problems adapting to the new environment so she rebels against her parents and any kind of authority figure. Melissa’s life really gets iffy when someone begins murdering her acquaintances. Local Sheriff, Dan Burke (Bo Hopkins, American Graffiti), is initially baffled by the brutal crimes, but he 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, written by Erwin Goldman, begins with gorgeous 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 film is, unfortunately, not so much of a looker. Sotos’s work lacks panache, and Goldman’s original screenplay has problems. The climax deflates rather than excites the viewer.
Sweet Sixteen is the not best of its kind, but it does 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 song “Melissa” is another curious addition to the slasher canon.
The film has a strong cast (for this type of movie). In addition to Hoskins, Strasberg and Macnee, you get to see Sharon Farrell (Fat City), Don Stroud (The Amityville Horror), Steve Antin (The Last American Virgin) and Don Shanks (Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers) in key supporting roles. And in his last film role, Henry Wilcoxon (Cecil B. DeMille alumnus) appears as a Native American.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Sweet Sixteen is not great, but it’s an entertaining, sometimes interesting ’80s slasher. 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.