My Super Psycho Sweet 16 (2009)
COMPANY: POP Films/MTV
RUNTIME: 87 mins
FORMAT: MoD DVD
PLOT: Madison Penrose, spoiled throughout her life, convinces her rich parents to re-open a nearby rollerdome for her Sweet 16 birthday party. The rollerdome once closed because a series of brutal murders took place at the locale, and, of course, the killer returns to wreak havoc during her party.
REVIEW: I was always interested in checking out this little made-for-TV Super Psycho Sweet 16 horror trilogy, because despite being made by MTV of all channels, I've heard mostly nothing but good things about these movies from the usually-harsh horror community. Of course with my luck, these movies ended up being really hard to get a hold of – they're not available in stores at all, and they're only on Itunes in the U.S. (I live in Canada, so that made me shit out of luck). I'm not ashamed to admit that I even got desperate enough to resort to looking on less-then-legal sites, but still came up with nothing. Luckily Amazon.com pulled through and one day ended up putting them on their site as Manufacture-on-Demand titles, which means they make a copy of the movie when one gets ordered kind of thing. Not usually my cup of tea because I know through previous experience that the video quality on those kinds of titles tends to be a bit weaksauce, but I was willing to make an exception for these since there was literally no other way to get my hands on them and they were listed for a reasonably-cheap price.
This first movie in the Super Psycho Sweet 16 trilogy starts off 10 years in the past, with a man who runs a very popular roller blade rink, Charlie Rotter, who is a bit on the weird side due to a slight mental disorder, and he kind of does some age-inappropriate things such as dressing up as the mascot of the building – a Medieval King mask and costume, complete with old-style speech - to bring a dinky birthday cake to an older teenager who's there with his friends to celebrate his birthday – certainly something that a five year old might find enjoyable (as his young daughter does while watching this take place), but a sixteen year old? As you can imagine, this leads to the teenagers mocking him and teasing him and the confrontation gets a bit physical, all amounting to something snapping inside the man's head, to the point where when two of these teenagers sneak back in for some 'fun' after hours, Charlie Rotter goes on a murderous rampage while still wearing the medieval garb, and takes them out in gory fashion...all in front of the eyes of his little daughter, Skye. It's not long (literally, like 10 seconds) before the cops show up, discover six more dead bodies in the basement, and haul him away to a mental institution, which shortly after he supposedly dies during a car crash while being transferred from one facility to another.
Cut ahead 10 years and Skye Rotter is now a growing teenager herself and lives with her aunt who adopted her, while at school she's a social outcast with only one actual friend (another social outcast and all around quirky dweeb), and she herself gets picked on and teased by the popular kids of the school. One of these rich, spoiled, popular girls, Madison, manages to talk her daddy into getting the roller dome re-opened (which had been closed after the murders 10 years prior) for her upcoming big Sweet 16 birthday bash. When Madison's ex-boyfriend, Brigg, starts taking a notice in Skye and begins to develop feelings for her, well, Madison clearly can't have that and begins to play really nasty pranks on Skye as revenge. This leads Skye and her one and only friend, Derek, to sneak into Madison's big birthday bash at the dome, purely to piss her off, which leads to Madison and her vicious gang of girls to take matters into their own hands in making sure Skye and Derek realize they're not wanted around. It's not long after that when someone once again dons the old medieval mask and costume, grabs an arsenal of medieval weapons, and starts going to town on the party guests in brutal gory fashion (a javelin is used in one scene, a mace in another, a battle axe in a third, a sword soon after that, ect). Is it Skye, having finally snapped just like her father had? Is it her father, somehow back from the dead? Is it Skye's friend Derek who seemingly disappears during every scene that someone is murdered? Or is it someone else entirely, using this situation to capitalize on a sick fantasy?
Well despite the movie trying pretty hard to make the identity be a surprise reveal, thanks to the back of the DVD case for coming right out and naming who the killer is, it ends up not being much of a surprise at all. Although really, based off how the killer looks (i.e. tall man with a wild unkempt beard), even without the back of the DVD case spoiling it, it's extremely obvious early-on that the killer is neither Skye nor any of the other school students it occasionally tries to use as a red herring, and thus there really is only one person it can be – Skye's father, Charlie Rotter, having faked his death years earlier, now back once more to (in his eyes) get revenge on the spoiled rich kids of the area who bully his daughter. I have to hand it to them though – while the identity of the killer may have been 2009's worst-kept secret, the costume he wears is really quite awesome, and very creepy in most of the scenes of him wearing it while stalking (and eventually killing) each of his victims. One scene in particular stands out, where he's terrorizing a girl in the bathroom of the Roller Dome while wearing said costume. It was given a whole new layer of creepy atmosphere, due to the way the scene was lighted and framed as he repeatedly bashed her head in – it provided an uber-creepy visual that won't soon be forgotten. Actually, for a made-for-TV movie aimed largely at tween girls, especially from MTV at that, this one is filled with all sorts of violent death scenes like that one, and was overall surprisingly quite gory.
Of course, in order to sell those death scenes really successfully, they would have had to have really good actors playing the parts...and thankfully they do. All the actors in this movie - from the main characters down to the smaller roles that may only have a couple scenes - all of them did a far better acting job then I would have expected. And not to take away from everyone else, but the main actress Lauren McKnight (Skye Rotter) easily steals the show and continuously impressed me more and more as the movie went on – why she's not a bigger name and in more stuff is beyond me, because she totally deserves to be. Even in the earlier scenes, her comedic timing with delivering various funny lines and reactions was spot-on. Likewise, Julianna Guill was almost just as perfect in her role of playing the spoiled stuck-up self-centered bitch of a rich brat, Madison. This girl knows how to play 'snobby' and come across as believable, with her truly shining moment being this one scene towards the end where she's excited over this gigantic super-expensive cake being rolled out, and this comes right after one of the characters finds a dead body and starts rollerblading out to warn everyone but along the way she gets decapitated and her headless body (while spurting out blood) continues rolling and slams right into the cake, destroying it. While everyone's screaming and running, Julianna Guill plays her character as utterly mortified...but not at the sight of the headless body of her friend, oh no, she's utterly mortified at the fact that her cake is ruined and nothing more, and she sells the delivery of that reaction hilariously well.
In point of fact, despite that the title is poking fun at the groan-inducing hit show on MTV, My Super Sweet 16, the movie itself is played mostly straight with only a few funny moments sprinkled in here and there (mostly at the expense of the spoiled rich girls). When I first heard of this movie, I was actually expecting a full-on spoof of My Super Sweet 16, and ended up being pleasantly surprised when what we got in the end was something far more intelligent and enjoyable then what that would have been. Actually, if anything, it takes a bit too long for things to really get going as the first half of the movie (after the opening flashback) is a tad bit on the slow side before things really start heating up. Though thankfully it uses most of that time to really establish the characters well and let us get to know them before their bodies start piling up (or, well, some of their bodies). One character in particular I was a bit saddened to see bite it when their time came, which is due to the director using that slow build to help build that character, among others, to one that we can care about.
Of course, with Skye being the 'Sidney Prescott' of the movie, she got the most development, and it was hers that I found to be most interesting, and not just because of the fact that she looks and sounds eerily like Ellen Page, but I really loved how it hinted at Skye possibly developing mental issues of her own, and maybe starting to go down the same road that her father had, by showing her having continuous nightmares about her father and seemingly developing anger and rage issues over the course of the movie. Could this maybe be a hint of what's to come down the road in the other movies – Like father, Like Daughter, perhaps? I'm really interested in finding out, and I'm really glad I waited until I had all three of the movies so I can just go ahead and jump into the next one to find out, as opposed to waiting a couple years like those who initially watched this on TV had to.
I of course can't write a review on this movie without at least mentioning that amazingly mind-blowing twist at the end in regards to Skye. I won't go into specifics because it is well worth your while to stay spoiler-free on this one aspect of the movie, but I will say that despite how obvious the 'secret' of who the killer turned out to be was, I honestly did not see this twist coming, and it's not something you usually see filmmakers do in regards to a heroine of a teen slasher, so mucho props to the writers for throwing that curveball into the party mix. Like the other aspects of Skye's character that I mentioned above, how this one specific scene plays out also makes me really excited to see where she goes, characterization-wise, in the following movies.
This little made-for-MTV slasher flick is an infinite amount better then it had any right to be, and was more enjoyable then the majority of drivel that Hollywood has been putting out in recent years and calling horror. If the following two movies in this series are just as good as this one, then even though the budget is immensely smaller, this series just might get put up there right next to the Scream franchise as being among my top favorite teen slasher series'. I can't possibly understand why MTV continuously refuses to give this series a proper DVD release, especially considering that the ratings for these when they aired were excellent, but in my opinion they are really missing out by not making this more readily available, and in much better quality then what's offered on an MoD release.