It’d be a waste of time and energy for me to sit here and type about how much I detest MTV’s numbifying My Super Sweet 16; how the show broadcasts everything that’s wrong about rich kids, while people defend it as some sort of “aspiring to be” fantasy for middle-to-lower class teens. Pure nonsense, that stance will always be. There’s an audience for the program, clearly, so I’ve learned to accept that it’s there and move on; I just simply never watch. And that’s worked well enough.
The idea of MTV somewhat lampooing the show in a made-for-TV horror film, timed for Halloween, hadn’t seemed like a total whopper of an idea, either. Slightly more optimistic, but not by leaps. Thing is, watching some pissed-off adult or outcast high school student cut his or her way through the cool kids is one-note, and would lose its appeal after the second body drops. And that’s precisely what I was expecting from My Super Psycho Sweet Sixteen, which aired last night. Utterly-hokey title put to the side, MTV’s tailor-made slasher had one other huge strike against it from second one—-the inability to go hard-R, due to the network’s always-gonna-be-there censorship restrictions. I went in thinking, Here comes an even-tamer version of that painful Prom Night remake.
I must say, this is one instance of pie-in-the-face that I’m not mad at; My Super Psycho Sweet Sixteen is, and I’m dead-serious, really good. Well-developed, nicely-acted. Handled with an applaudable appreciation for the horror gods, and intelligent enough to honor the teen-movie standards without succumbing to them. Jacob Gentry, the film’s director, is coming off of 2007’s tiny-budget gem The Signal (of which he was one of three filmmakers), and this one proves the guy’s really got it. The kill sequences push the censors to their limit, hardcore and sans goofy spirit. They’re mean as hell. A nice counter to the self-aware energy palpable whenever the cliche teen stock characters run the show, all familiar types (the weird loner girl; her nerdy guy friend; the bitchy popular girl; the sensitive jock) given clever tweaks to make them all register.
Madison, the school’s ice-queen/future prom queen (played with Rachel-Macadams-in-Mean-Girls quality by Julianna Guill), talks her money-bags father into having her Sweet 16 bash at the abandoned Roller Dome, a local skating rink that was the scene of a gory killing spree 10 years prior. The rink’s demented owner lashed out at the spoiled douchebags that didn’t respect his venue, and his final flatlining-acts were witnessed by not-even-10-year-old daughter, Skyy. Back in Madison’s present, Skyy (Lauren McKnight, in a turn I hope brings her much more work) is the borderline-Goth chick with a heart of gold, and she’s suddenly striking up a romance with Madison’s stud ex, Brigg (notice the stereotypical names “Madison” and “Brigg”). As all of this teenage angst and complexity is underway, so is the reemergence of Skyy’s insane daddy, whose body was never found after a car acciden that prevented his jail-time. So when it’s time to party for Madison’s big night, the corpse tally ticks and tocks.
To say that I’m surprised by how much I dug My Super Psycho Sweet Sixteen is more of an understatement than “Cirque de Freak looks downright boring.” [Continued after the jump]I’ll get this right out of the way, now for a reason I’ll spew in a few: there’s some rather vicious homicide at work here. Out of the eight murders, two in particular jabbed my fancy more than any of those in the countless random/deletable R-rated slashers that’ve come and gone during recent calendars. The first involves a fire extinguisher, a gorgeous blonde in short-blue-shorts (yeah, their characters are all “16,” but the actresses are obviously older, so chill), and a revolving bathroom stall door; it’s no Irreversible, but for a movie made straight for MTV, the scene is pretty furious (and can be seen below).
Death-by-fire-exinguisher would’ve taken the birthday cake if it weren’t for a perversely-brilliant slow-motion kill later on, though; one of the uber-bitch Madison’s drone-like gal pals has just found their other friend dead, and she’s skating her way into the main room to spit the news. It’s the ceremonial “cut the bday cake” part of the night, so everyone’s attention is on Madison; the only one who sees her scared friend is Skyy, but right as Skyy is about to see what’s up, the messenger girl’s head is walloped-off by one of those medieval two-sided ax weapons. Right as her dome is set to fly off the neck, we see the ax pop out in slo-mo from her first-person POV, and we only know that there’s been a decapitation because our/her POV starts doing flipping backward over and over again. Pulled off really damn well.
Scott Alan Thomas and Jed Elinoff, the film’s screenwriters, show off their slasher movie know-how in those parts, but what gives their My Super Psycho Sweet Sixteen its real punch is how the pair develops Skyy’s arch. By treating her like a believably-scarred heroine, they’ve elevated this production beyond the expected “watch the spoiled kids get it” level of fetish-like enjoyment; Thomasand Elinoff have written a wonderfully sympathetic girl. And in McKnight’s control, Skyy is both heart-melting and root-for-her deserving. I found myself growing softer and softer every time she and Brigg flirted, which immediately had me questioning my 27-year-old manhood. Could be because I never “got the girl” back in high school; I wasn’t black nail-polish like Skyy, but the 15-year-old-me could’ve related to her longing for what those around her have.
I know how absurd it sounds that I’m opining over something called My Super Psycho Sweet Sixteen, but, so what? The true WTF of this whole thing is how MTV could produce the best slasher film of at least the last five years? All of these “proud” horror filmmakers out there probably laughed at the idea of a slasher flick based on MTV’s most-grating reality show, yet Gentry saw the potential in the material, and he should be commended for that. I sure as hell didn’t (going into this).