“Now you listen to me, every one of ya, you listen damn close. Because if anybody in this town decides to take the law into their own hands, I’ll be on your ass like junebug on shit. I hope I make myself understood and pardon me ladies.”
SWEET SIXTEEN is a low budget 1983 slasher mystery shot in Texas. It seems promising at first because it has a certain level of filmmaking competence, an enjoyably corny theme balled called “Melissa,” sung by Frank Sparks, and a cool logo with a knife for a T.
That is not to say that it ever seems good. The aforementioned Melissa (Aleisa Shirley, SPACEHUNTER: ADVENTURES IN THE FORBIDDEN ZONE) is first seen during a long, sensuous, narratively (though not hygenically) gratuitous shower. From there we cut to a bunch of drunk rednecks (including Don Stroud) at a bar, play fighting and hugging their buddies until an elderly Native American man named Greyfeather (the final role of Henry Wilcoxon, CLEOPATRA, SAMSON AND DELILAH, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS) walks in. They immediately start racisting the shit out of him until young Native tough Jason Longshadow (Don Shanks, Michael Myers in HALLOWEEN 5) comes in to protect him with a knife.
Melissa, being the new girl in town, walks up to Longshadow in the parking lot and asks if he wants to “ditch the old man and go party.” As he bluntly rejects her a couple of the racists yell at him that he’s “into little girls.” He starts walking in their direction and they run away like they’re being chased by a bear.
Then, as soon as he leaves one of them named Johnny (Glenn Withrow, RUMBLEFISH, BEVERLY HILLS COP II) drives Melissa out to an Indian burial ground to almost get a blowjob in the back of his pickup. When he later drops her off at home and her snobby archaeologist dad (Patrick Macnee from The Avengers!) says she’s only 15 he doesn’t seem shocked or bothered by it at all. To be fair, the actor does not appear to be significantly older than her, if at all, but she’s supposed to be a blossoming teen and he’s supposed to be a grown up.
Anyway that dude never makes it home, the victim of an unseen killer with a tomahawk. The story ends up being about his friend Hank (Steve Antin, THE LAST AMERICAN VIGIN, THE GOONIES, PENITENTIARY III)’s dad, Sheriff Burke (Bo Hopkins, AMERICAN GRAFFITI, UNCLE SAM). Also Hank’s sister Marci (Dana Kimmell, FRIDAY THE 13TH 3D, LONE WOLF MCQUADE) reads murder mysteries, and therefore keeps butting into the investigation.
Of course the locals try to pin it on one of the Native guys, which dumbass Melissa helps out with.
Jeez, there’s a surprising number of name actors in this one. I left off Susan Strasberg (BLOODY BIRTHDAY, THE DELTA FORCE) as Melissa’s mom and Sharon Farrell (MARLOWE, THE REIVERS, THE STUN TMAN) as a law enforcement colleague who has the hots for the sheriff and flirtatiously invites him over to see her guns. And also Larry Storch and Michael Pataki. Wait a minute, this is a real movie, isn’t it?
There’s a curly haired jock named Tommy (Tony Perfit) who sees Melissa eating an apple by a tree at school, so he blatantly throws his ball at her as a smooth way to introduce himself.
“You must be the new girl.”
“You must be the captain of the football team.”
They agree to smoke “herb” (“you mean grass?”) together tonight at 8. It is possible that that guy also will not survive the night.
I guess it’s different from what we’ve come to expect in a slasher, because Melissa is promiscuous, but she doesn’t get killed for it. It’s the dudes she sleeps with who keep getting killed. Suckers.
For a little bit it’s funny that the sheriff’s kids are such dorks and almost everybody else in the movie is a piece of shit. The local white dudes do nothing but drink beer and try to have sex with underage girls and yet they feel they can denigrate an entire race of people. The movie is obviously against racism and against white teens using an Indian burial ground as a place to park and drink Oly, but it doesn’t really make anything interesting out of it. Melissa seems sympathetic at times but then she does shit like lie and say that Jason tried to kiss her.
Marci kinda goes Jessica Fletcher on that ass. When Melissa falsely implicates Greyfeather and the rednecks lynch him for it, Marci aggressively confronts her.
“You know Melissa, you like to make up stories, don’t you?” she asks. “You like the attention that they get you. Well this time your little story killed someone. You know, you might as well have put the rope around his neck yourself, you stupid little bitch!”
When Melissa absorbs it and then walks away sad, Marci says “Melissa, wait!” and then turns nice and they become friends.
There is a birthday party, but no birthday themed killings. It’s no HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME, that’s for sure. Unfortunately there’s not much excitement or even cool gore in this one. I guess it’s kinda cool when Jason escapes from a jail cell, because later he plays “The Man in Black” in HALLOWEEN 5 who busts Michael Myers (also played by him) out of jail. So it was a practice run.
It ends not with an action showdown but a long scene of the survivors crouched on the ground, the sheriff gently trying to talk the deluded killer into putting down the knife. It might be an impressive change of pace if I wasn’t so bored of the movie way, way before it got to this point.
Director Jim Sotos had already done the 1975 serial rapist movie FORCED ENTRY and the 1976 martial arts documentary THE SUPER WEAPON with Ron Van Clief and Charles Bonet. He followed this up with HOT MOVES, the 1984 sex comedy with kind of the same plot as AMERICAN PIE.
This is gonna make the movie seem more worth watching than it actually is, but I must share with you the sappy theme song:
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.