Sweet Sixteen

11/23/2018 07:16

Film: Sweet Sixteen

Year: 1983

Director: Jim Sotos

Writer: Erwin Goldman

Starring: Bo Hopkins, Susan Strasberg and Patrick Macnee



This was a film that I really knew nothing about when I came in to see it. It was part of a double feature that Bloody Disgusting was doing as part of their Retro Nightmares. The only thing I knew was that this was a slasher film. I’ve also given it a second watch as part of my Traverse Through the Threes as well, as I didn’t remember a lot about this one.

Synopsis: teenager Melissa (Aleisa Shirley) moves into a small town filled with racial prejudice and bullying and each time she meets up with one of the boys in town, they end up murdered, but who is the killer?

We kick off with an odd scene with Marci Burke (Dana Kimmell). She is reading a murder mystery novel and there is a knock at the door. She answers it to a crazy looking man and she screams. It turns out to be a nightmare. I will admit, I’m not sure what the purpose of this scene was aside from getting the audience an early scare. The problem though was that it wasn’t that scary.

It then shifts to a bar. A man enters and he is already acting belligerent. His name is Billy Franklin (Don Stroud). He meets up with his buddy Jimmy (Logan Clarke). They turn their attention to an old Native American who sits at the bar, Greyfeather (Henry Wilcoxon). They start to mess with him, but that comes to an end when Jason Longshadow (Don Shanks) enters. They get into it and it ends up with Jason pulling out a knife while Billy breaks a bottle. The two Native Americans leave. It is also at this point that Billy’s younger brother Johnny (Glenn Withrow) tells him he’s going to leave for a bit but will be back later.

Jason runs into a young woman outside, Melissa. She comes on to him and he tells her to go home. She then turns her attention to Johnny. The two of them head to a place on the nearby reservation. Johnny is hoping to get lucky, but Melissa gets spooked. He takes her home where he ends up meeting her dad, Dr. John Morgan (Patrick Macnee). He threatens the boy and he takes off. His truck runs out of gas and he is then brutally murdered by someone wielding a knife.

Marci’s dad is the local sheriff, Dan (Bo Hopkins). He has breakfast with her and her brother Hank (Steven Antin). He was at the bar with his buddy Johnny the previous night. Word of the missing boy gets to him and they see if they can find him. This starts a string of deaths in the area. This also increases hatred of the Native Americans in the area, with Jason being the prime suspect.

That is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. I do have to say that I liked the story. That normally isn’t the case for slasher films. It had me guessing all the way up to the climax. This film does a great job at using red herrings and making you try to find out who the killer is. It is interesting that they are mostly following Melissa. It makes it more interesting that she is a bit wild and flirty. I think a lot of this is that her family moves around a lot, so she doesn’t waste a lot of time. She also makes questionable decisions. I’ll credit Shirley for this performance as she embodies the character.

Something else that I wanted to touch on was the racism in this film. It is interesting that this is something we are still dealing with today, 40+ years after this film came out. This is taking place in Texas. The hate is toward Native Americans, but we still see this all over our country and even the world. It is toward minorities. It is sad and I like that Dan is trying to defuse it before it gets crazy. Billy and Jimmy are quite despicable human beings for sure. We see the disastrous results toward Greyfeather and Jason.

There is another bit here I want to point out I thought it was odd that Hank and Johnny are hanging out in a bar as they’re high school students. This is an extremely small town so I get that part of it. Where else can they go? A boy later, Tommy Jackson (Tony Perfit), wants to meet Melissa behind the place and she’s going there in the beginning. I found that a little odd. Adding on to this, we have the creepiness of Billy and Jimmy making lewd comments toward Melissa. She is 15 and her sweet sixteen party is the climax. Again, small towns so I can believe this.

I’ll then take this to the acting. I’ve always said that having good characters is one element for a slasher to work for me. Hopkins was good as the sheriff. He gives off a hard, but fair type attitude. His children like him and he is just a good guy. He fits the hero role we need. Susan Strasberg appears as Joanne Morgan. She doesn’t get a lot of screen time, but I thought she was good at what was needed. Macnee was solid. Stroud was a horrible human being, but I thought his portrayal of this was good and needed. Same goes for Clarke. Kimmell was super cute and I thought she was interesting that was into true crime. She badly wants to help her father, who does humor her a bit. Shirley was gorgeous and we saw her completely nude a couple of times. I thought the rest of the cast were fine for what was needed.

All that is left is filmmaking. The effects were good. They were done practically, which if you know me then you know I’m a big fan of that. This film strategically cuts away so it isn’t all that graphic. I thought the blood looked good. They don’t do a lot with the kills, but the other part of a slasher that I look for is this. There are talks about Native American knives which are found a nearby dig site. I’m not sure if they are used in any of the murders, but that would have been a good twist. We do see one at the very end. I’ll say that I liked the cinematography here. We get point of view of the killer, a staple of the genre. We also have a solid soundtrack to go with this.

In conclusion, I thought this was a solid one and done slasher film. I came into seeing this blind about this one and was pleasantly surprised by it. I like the mystery of this young woman turning 16 soon and going on dates, only to have each boy murdered. It helps build the mystery of who could be doing it. There is interesting undertones of racism that is still relevant today. I’d also say that the filmmaking was good. We have interesting characters, solid kills and the soundtrack worked for what was needed. I’m not always the biggest fan of this sub-genre, but this is one the lesser talked about stand-outs for me. We are also still early on and using another ‘holiday’ of sorts. If you’re a slasher fan, check this out.


My Rating: 8 out of 10