…Or Sweet 16 – as IMDb & Legacy of Blood dub it – tells the tale of a murderer who has the habit of offing every male that tries to lay his hands on young Melissa, the new city girl in town. Meanwhile, racial tensions rise in the hunt for the killer. No. 33 in 88 Films’ Slasher Classics Collection.
One of the scariest things about this movie is Melissa’s theme song, imaginatively titled ‘Melissa’s Theme’. The lyrics are both simply horrid and horridly simple. The tune as a whole belongs in the 70s. I don’t think I’ve cringed like this since ‘I Don’t Need Words’ from Madman (1981). By all means, enjoy it when it pops up with the Main Menu.
Pickiness aside, what I found best about Sweet Sixteen is what makes it different from most slasher movies of its time. The adults have a stronger presence with better performances and more screen-time than the teenagers. The story is underscored with social unrest and a racial divide spurred on by the more ignorant population of the townsfolk.
Some have the opinion that Sweet Sixteen is lacking in gore. This is mostly true where the second half is concerned aside from the odd horrific discovery. However, within the first 20 minutes of viewing this little movie I witness the fast and effectively nasty edit of the first murder sequence, which turns out to be more violent and bloody than all the murders in The House on Sorority Row (1983) put together. And that movie featured the odd decapitation and one or two impalements! Don’t get me wrong. We’re hardly dealing with Intruder (1989) or The Burning (1981) here. Not by a long shot!
If anything, I would’ve preferred that Melissa had more screen-time, whilst showing a much darker side. Wanting to drink beer and smoke pot are slasher movie survival No No’s, but they hardly say, ‘killer’. A better actress for the role wouldn’t be too unwelcome either.
A pot with as many strong ingredients as this can, and often does lead to disaster. But I feel that the story-telling and film-making were competent enough to avoid this altogether. The right amount of social conscience rescues the results from being spoiled by the silliness that a slasher plot can descend into.
Jim Harper breaks the movie down for us in his Birthday Bloodshed interview, from the acting to the filmmaking to Sweet Sixteen’s inspiration on later, more successful slashers. There is also a review of this movie in his book Legacy of Blood, which happens to be my slasher movie bible. And if you don’t have a copy of Harper’s Comprehensive Guide to Slasher Movies, then I suggest you get one a.s.a.p.!