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1 review, 2 user ratings

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Sweet 16 (1983)
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by Dr. Isaksson

"What's a Greyfeather?"
3 stars

Ever like a film just because of the cast involved and the overall set up, no matter how ridiculous? This is my love/hate relationship with 1982's Sweet 16. I am a fan of the underground actor (who has been in a few aboveground movies) Steve Antin, (Jonathan Antin's much more endearing and talented brother). And good lord, I cannot express or explain how much I fancy the slasher ingenue Dana Kimmell. It was the beautiful brunette's co-starring role in this horror film that became the catalyst for her being cast by director Steve Miner for the epic 3D installment of the Jason cut em ups, Friday the 13th part III. One look at Ms. Kimmell and he knew he had his replacement for Amy Steel. So certainly it comes as no shocker that in Sweet 16 Dana shows off some serious screaming ability and for this film, it was a handy talent. Now, all this being stated, I am not hinting that these above mentioned horror films are really anything more than pure drivel but damn, what a nice looking spot of drool it is.

Right from the get go we get introduced to Marci Burke, a teenage highschooler who has a fascination for horror novels that seem to give her nightmares which play out like a bewitching Stevie Nicks video. There are many candles lit in various corners, wind blowing curtains in a sensual way and white lace doilies draped over playerless pianos. Yeah it's got that 80s 'glam slash' vibe down pat, only this film has no budget so the imagery isn't very effective. Marci's father Dan Burke is the town's Sheriff (a brooding Bo Hopkins in an extremely deadpan yet campy performance). He is raising her and her spunky brother Hank (Steve Antin) alone in a cosy house out in the Texas plains. No mention of where their Mom is, I wonder what they did to the woman?

The Burke's boring little lives are disrupted however when a new girl named Melissa, (played with a very adult turn by Aleisa Shirley) slinks into town with her father Dr. John Morgan (Patrick Macnee) who has come on an excavating exhibition and her quiet and polite mother Joanne Morgan (Susan Strasberg). Melissa quickly becomes the talk of the area with her dark beauty and smooth talking ways. Needless to say, Hank and Marci take a intense interest in her mysterious persona. For Hank it is all about the way Melissa looks and the way the others talk about her that catches his attention. For Marci it's all about the chilling fact that every time Melissa meets a new guy at school they end up missing or dead. What could it be about this newcomer Melissa that has all the guys wanting her? Can the Burke siblings help their lusty new friend Melissa before her reputation as a man killer be confirmed as a TRUE statement? What is she after and is she as innocent as she claims to be and why is everyone 'literally' dying to meet her? Something has stirred up the dusty plains and it's a torrent of murder, paranoia and death!

That sounds pretty good doesn't it? Well.. It SHOULD be a good film but ehhhhhhh. Let me just say that it is both shitty and immaculate. Shitty in it's writing, filming, most of the performances, the big set up and final pay off. Immaculate in it's casting of Marci, Hank and Melissa as the teen leads. Dana Kimmel and Steve Antin are just a joy to watch as two bickering and nosey siblings trying to figure out the enigma that is Melissa and the events that have surrounded her and the town. Imagine a sort of Nancy Drew mystery meets a softcore porn. This is the brilliance and crappy combination of Sweet 16. It takes itself dead serious with it's who-dun-it plot but then gets campy with how much of a vixen this minx Melissa can be. Lil Miss Sweet Sixteen is by far the most exposed (figuratively and physically) as we the viewer get to watch her shower and dress with an almost slow-motion sensuality. Aside from the frothy soaping scenes, director Jim Santos doesn't do anything interesing visually and aside from being unintentionally funny, his final sequence with the big reveal of the true murderer behind all the kilings is lackluster in it's quality and flair which leaves little impact stylistically. All this being said, I loved the ending because of what the actors brought to it. They added a camp value that puts this one right in the Friday the 13th league of slashers.

Sweet 16 is sort of an unknown film that seems to have a little cult following. The movie is out of print from what I can tell and I am quite sure it hasn't made it to DVD yet. So that's why no one has really heard of it Mr. Carden. I think it's just up to a few of us 80s slasher fans to get the notice out. Something tells me that the film will someday be on the shelves of a dollar store next to DVDs of The Lucy Show and horror double features like The Fangs of the Undead and Creepers. At least I hope this is the case because I want a copy. Now don't even get me started at how awesome it would be to get this on DVD. And oh, there would be complete joy if I could get an audio commentary track with Kimmell and Antin thrown in!!! OMG that to me is a cinematic dream.. Am I exposing my somewhat low standards? Yes. It seems to be hovering along the gutter of film fantasy. And I know.. I know.. This is just a dream but still.. What is life without some dreams? Even if it's a simple and pretty much impossible one.

PS My favorite line.. Marci grabbing her brother and saying "Oh this could be the big one!" as a car pulls over to offer them a lift as they are talking a late night walk.
PPS Send me an e-mail Steve and Dana!

I am torn on this one because despite being dreadful in many aspects Sweet 16 has this dream cast that just thrills me. I adore half of what this film is and I see the other half a cheap, messy, slasher/who-dun-it. Needless to say, that's not so bad either. So let me slice (forgive the pun) this down the middle and give it *** 3 stars.

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originally posted: 02/25/08 17:18:26
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User Comments

8/05/18 Matthew Campbell Brilliant film. I recommend that fans of Dana Kimmell watch it. 5 stars
11/28/01 Andrew Carden I Cannot Believe That Anyone Doesn't Know About This Horror Classic! 5 stars
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  02-Sep-1983 (R)



Directed by
  Jim Sotos

Written by
  Erwin Goldman

  Steve Antin
  Logan Clarke
  Sharon Farrell
  Bo Hopkins
  Dana Kimmell

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