Sweet Sixteen

What terrors are unleashed when a girl turns…Sweet Sixteen?

More like Sweet Twenty-Seven. Horror starlets are  like Mexican prizefighters…it’s hard to get an accurate birth-date.

There’s a new girl arrival in some hole-in-the-wall hick town. She meets a couple of guys in a sh*t-kicker bar with fluorescent Bud signs and leaves with one of ’em. The guy says, “I’m Johnny. And this is my truck” as if the vehicle was going to engage them in conversation. Talk about effortless charm. Eat your heart out Cary Grant.

They go to the town’s equivalent of make-out point and she gets spooked before either of them can get their pants off at this, the site of an ancient Indian burial ground. They puff a little weed and think about what they’ll tell the folks about how they spent the evening (the girl suggests they were at “the library” but this burg don’t have one. Which explains a lot). After they part ways, Johnny is stabbed to death repeatedly in the chest by an unseen assailant, and absolutely nobody misses him (oh wait, that’s an editorial comment).

The town sheriff, Burke, is summoned. He’s played by South Carolina genre legend Bo Hopkins (The Wild Bunch/American Graffiti) He pokes around, and gets some assistance from his dilettante teen daughter about the finer points of police work (she’s eminently qualified being into mystery novels all. Slasher fans will know her as Dana Kimmell who plays Chris Higgins in Friday the 13th Part III, who splits open Jason’s head with in axe).

Some of the bigoted townies (including Don Stroud, Search and Destroy/House by the Lake) pin the blame on a couple of er, “red”-herring Native Americans.

Tepid stuff.

Sweet Sixteen is a pretty procedural snore-fest and not the under-seen gem the reviewer had hoped. And playing “hey, isn’t that_________?” wears thin pretty quick.

**1/2 (out of 5)

Halloween H20: Revisited

John Carpenter priced himself out of the production, so it was up to Friday the 13th Part II and III director Steve Miner to fill his shoes for Halloween H20.

But can anyone really fill Carpenter’s shoes?

In this update (terrible title, my god) we meet Laurie Strode again, 20 years after the Haddonfield massacre and living under an assumed name. And she’s moved to California, which is rather hilarious as there were a few unintended palm trees as well as a mountain range popping up in the supposed “Illinois town” of the first film.

Strode is still being tormented by visions of The Shape, creepy masked killer Michael Myers.

Gotta hand it to Myers. Maybe he had a private investigator? Or maybe he’s telekinetically connected to his sis. Who knows? Either way, he managed to find her and make the 2,000-mile trek out west.

Rarely can horror films be accused of being blessed with acting talent. But…There’s an embarrassment of riches here. There’s Jamie Lee Curtis (a given), but also Michelle Williams, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Josh Hartnett, Adam Arkin, and LL Cool J as well. So with a running head-start, how does this one fare?

Upon revisiting…not so well.

First off, the Hogwarts-type setting where Strode is headmistress doesn’t do it any favors.

Sense of place can make a world of difference in horror. The very best horrors have exceptional, memorable settings. Think The Texas Chain Saw Massacre or the grimy streets of Ed Koch-era New York in Maniac.

This is a humdrum stucco prep school. Dull-as-dirt.

And there are two ways to go with antagonists: either they’re the focus and you go inside their heads like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, or there’s the less-is-more mystery…what we’ve come to expect from Michael Myers. Here, he “insists himself upon you,” to paraphrase Peter Griffin’s take-down of The Godfather.

By the admittedly low standards of reboots, H20 isn’t even close to being the worst. That being said, it occupies space alongside Zombie’s Halloween as thoroughly unnecessary.

** (out of 5)

[Check out our podcast discussion of Halloween H20!]