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Sweet Sixteen/Review

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

< Sweet Sixteen

You like 1980s slashers? The poster sells it clearly - teenage female skinny dipping in dark water as reflections form a dramatic blade, possibly foreshadowing the dangers of female sexuality? Oh, yeah. Let's do this! Sexy and fiery Melissa (Aleisa Shirley) is new in town and super horny, but all of her male suitors keep ending up dead. Suspects are many for such a small town and the danger doesn't stop until the mystery is finally revealed at Melissa's sweet sixteen birthday party!

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Although a slasher fan is bound to enjoy this little number, the film is an unusual entry into the genre in that it doesn't quite play to the tropes. SWEET SIXTEEN was made early enough in the genre (like THE FINAL TERROR or THE TOOLBOX MURDERS) so that audience expectations hadn't really fed into the narrative yet. The result is a slasher free of cliches, ultimately making a more unpredictable thriller. For instance, the movie opens as gothic horror: a nightgown-clad woman with candle, searches a dark mansion during a thunderstorm. This sequence is soon dismissed as a dream, but nevertheless doesn't reinforce the plot or build character. It comes out of nowhere and isn't referenced again. True, this character Marci (Friday The 13th Pt 3's Dana Kimmell) is obsessed with murder mystery novels but that hardly warrants such a cold open.

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The movie's actual setting is a small contemporary western town in the desert (with real red-blooded American Indians no less) which is probably the farthest thing from gothic horror. Furthermore, all-American Melissa's father is played by British actor Patrick Macnee (television's THE AVENGERS). Maybe he picked up the accent on a different archaeological dig? Who knows with this fun movie. It is unpredictable and I love it.

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A pair of 1970s cowboy heavies are both featured - Bo Hopkins (Sam Peckinpah's THE WILD BUNCH and THE GETAWAY) plays the local Sheriff trying to solve the string of murders and Don Stroud (television's THE VIRGINIAN) is the town's local hick troublemaker. 1980's child actor Steve Antin (THE GOONIES), who would grow up to be a producer/director himself, play's Marci's brother and one of Melissa's many suitors. And Don Shanks (Michael Myers from HALLOWEEN 5) rounds out the cast as our red herring, pun intended.

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Great cast, great locations, great unpredictable movie. There's also a thinly-veiled, and completely unmotivated 70's style theme song for Melissa which scores bonus points for the film. No gore here for horror fans, but an excellent final shot. Nowhere near the shock ending of SLEEPAWAY CAMP, released the same year, but strange enough to satisfy a final freeze frame ending.

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Josh Stephenson was born in Florida, schooled in Chicago, and lives in New Orleans. His mother went into labor while his father and brother were attending a theatrical double feature of EXCALIBUR and BLOOD BEACH. A youth spent in the VHS rental heyday led to a lifelong addiction to movies. He holds a BS in Television Journalism from the University of Florida and a BA in Film Editing from Columbia College Chicago. He continues to work in the Louisiana film industry despite a government-issued tax cap.
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