In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Friday, July 10, 2015

VHS Fridays!

Before I take off to Montreal, I wanted to get a new feature rolling here at THS. As you would expect, I have amassed a sizable collection of VHS tapes over the past few decades, and a good many of them still remain unwatched. I find that sometimes I buy titles based on the cover box (much like we did back during the home video boom) and then they go straight onto the shelf. Well, it's time to rectify that...

Every few Fridays, I'll dust off a VHS in my collection, give it a whirl and then report my findings. In truth, this is probably something I should've been doing from the very beginning, but better late than never! For this inaugural edition, I checked out Jim Sotos' 1983 thriller Sweet Sixteen.

Just days before her Sweet Sixteen party, Melissa (Aleisa Shirley) seems to be leaving a trail of bodies in her wake, as everyone who takes an interest in her quickly ends up dead.

I have to say that I found the title of this movie a little perplexing. The advertising portray Sweet Sixteen as a slasher – intentionally I'm sure as it did come out at the tail end of the boom – so I was expecting something more along the lines of Happy Birthday To Me or Alice Sweet Alice, but it's almost more of a procedural crime thriller, closer in pedigree to 1976's The Town That Dreaded Sundown – minus the narration and keystone cops of course.

The title does play into the film, though it's somewhat of a stretch, as actress Aleisa Shirley was a bit beyond fifteen years old. I mean, I didn't even realize that she was the title character in question until her father tells a perspective suitor her age. “What?” I said aloud. Likely more disturbing was after having establishing that, Soto makes sure to be as lascivious with the camera as possible. Although, considering his debut was 1975's Forced Entry, this was downright tame by comparison.

Aleisa Shirley as Melissa in Sweet Sixteen.

Despite that lechery, Sweet Sixteen does have something to say. Being that the town is inhabited by both rednecks and Native Americans, it did not take long for them to butt heads. I'd like to say that this subject matter dates the film, but it is sadly just as poignant now, thirty-some years on, as it was then. Most importantly, Sweet Sixteen pulled together a handful of veteran actors to add real weight to the proceedings. Bo Hopkins is great as the small town sheriff, as are Susan Strasberg and Patrick Macnee (apparently a last minute replacement for Leslie Nielsen) as Melissa's parents.

I was also very happy to see Dana Kimmell in this. It's funny that she made this around the same time as Friday the 13th Part 3, considering both her characters were likely almost a decade apart in age. She spends most of the movie playing Nancy Drew, riding on her sheriff father's coat tails trying to solve the case. It added just the right amount of levity to the movie I thought.

Dana Kimmell, making a career out of finding dead bodies.

There wasn't much gore to speak of, but it was hard to tell on my darkened VHS copy. I also don't know if the Vestron release was cut in any capacity. Regardless, I thought this was a solid movie overall, even if not particularly flashy. I would imagine that's why it's rarely spoken of in genre circles. I guarantee every horror fan who frequented video stores back in the day remembers that cover though.

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