Well, last week’s Bloody Disgusting’s Retro Nightmares double feature of Amityville sequels was canceled, which sent me into a deep week-long depression. Luckily for me, their screening of Sweet Sixteen and The Convent didn’t suffer the same fate. As I learned from their showing of The House on Sorority Row, you should never turn down an opportunity to see a slasher from 1983 on the big screen, especially one that stars Bo (Time Served) Hopkins!
SWEET SIXTEEN (1983) ** ½
Sweet Sixteen has an incredible cast for this kind of thing. In addition to Hopkins, who plays (what else?) a sheriff, we have Dana Kimmell, who played one of the greatest Final Girls in screen history the year before in Friday the 13th Part 3-D as his mystery-solving daughter, as well as Steve (“Andy… You… GOONIE!”) Antin as her tagalong brother. There’s also Patrick (The Howling) Macnee as an archeologist, Video Vacuum favorite Michael (Halloween 4) Pataki as the sleazy town elder, Don (Licence to Kill) Stroud as a racist redneck, Don (Halloween 5) Shanks as a Native American, and Susan (The Manitou) Strasberg in a part so small that she must figure into the twist ending because why else would they give Susan Strasberg such a seemingly small throwaway part if they weren’t going to somehow give her a doozy of a scene in the last five minutes?
The movie really belongs to Aleisa Shirley who is excellent (and gets naked a lot) as Melissa, the girl who’s sixteenth birthday is just around the corner. It seems that every boy she flirts with winds up stabbed to death. When she casts suspicion onto some of the local Native Americans, it stirs up a lot of bad blood within the town.
Despite the great cast, they’re all sort of wasted. There’s also a lot of plot stuff that gets set up that never has a proper payoff. I mean why hype Kimmell’s character up as the amateur sleuth if all you’re going to allow her to do in the finale is run around and scream her head off? Speaking of which, the final scene requires a ton of last-minute exposition, most of which is overexplained to the point where it starts to get annoying.
I guess there was an okay mystery movie lurking somewhere within the confines of Sweet Sixteen, but the producers decided to retool it to fit within the slasher formula. The subplot about racism towards the Native American population is noble I guess. However, the Native’s involvement is more of a strung-along red herring than an earnest attempt at racial harmony.
Still, the cast makes up for a lot (though not all) of the film’s shortcomings. I mean, how am I not going to see a movie in which Bo Hopkins plays a sheriff?
Oh, what's this? Just me and Bo Hopkins!
Kimmell gets the best line of the movie when she tells Antin, “You heard what dad said! There’s a killer on the loose! I don’t want to be turned into cole slaw!”
THE CONVENT (2000) ***
Throughout much of The Convent, you can hear director Mike Mendez screaming, “Hey, look at me! I’m the next Sam Raimi!” You can certainly do that if you have the chops to pull it off. Done the wrong way, The Convent could’ve been an embarrassing Troma horror-comedy. Mendez however has a knack for combining gross-out humor, badass action, and over the top gore and making it a damn good time.
A crazy orphan named Christine (Oakley Stevenson) apparently kicked down the doors to the titular nunnery and killed several nuns. Forty years later, some college kids break into the convent as part of a Rush Week prank. Little do they know some half-assed amateur devil worshippers want to revive the undead nuns. Once the nuns possess the teenagers, they set out to hold a virgin sacrifice to bring about the Antichrist. It’s then up to the lone survivor (Joanna Canton) to enlist the help of the now-grown Christine (Adrienne Barbeau) to send the nuns back to Hell.
The plot is a little on the funky side. Sometimes it feels like it’s making up the “rules” as it goes along. Other times, it feels like there might’ve been a reel is missing. The ending is also rushed, abrupt, and very cheap looking. (It looks like they ran out of money.) However, it’s hard not to love a movie in which Adrienne Barbeau rides a motorcycle like The Terminator and blows away zombie demon nuns.
The Convent doesn’t always work and is crude in places, but the gusto Mendez puts into the film is admirable and the results are often a lot of fun. I mean it’s hard not to like any movie that starts with nuns being beaten with a baseball bat, set on fire, and then shotgunned to death. The make-up is reminiscent of Night of the Demons, but with Day-Glo effects and the slimy gore effects, though inconsistent, will leave you with a big stupid grin on your face.
Barbeau is a lot of fun as the ass-kicking Christine. It’s a shame she doesn’t show up until the last act. It’s also fun seeing Coolio and Bill Moseley being teamed together as cops who confiscate “marijuana substance” from the teens. It’s Megahn Perry though who gives the best performance as the sexy goth virgin who knows all about the convent’s sordid history.