Horror

‘Orphan’ Prequel Star Isabelle Fuhrman Details the ‘First Kill’ De-Aging Process

It’s easy to forget just how revolutionary MTV was back when it first went on the air, with the channel quickly becoming a staple of youth culture during the 80s and 90s. Of course, interests change over time, and the music-focused giant was eventually forced to make a few concessions in order to compete with rival channels. This led to MTV investing heavily in reality programming during the 2000s, which many claim to be the beginning of the end when it comes to their original brand.

One of these reality shows happened to be 2005’s My Super Sweet 16, which dove into the drama-filled world of extravagant teenage birthday parties. While I was only tangentially aware of the show back in the day, it was actually a massive hit and even garnered its own feature film spin-off in 2007. However, this peculiar little program would also become the basis for MTV’s My Super Psycho Sweet 16, a bizarre slasher franchise satirizing the original show’s petty conflicts and themes.

It’s now been a decade since the premiere of the third and final entry in the series, and while these made-for-TV flicks didn’t exactly have a lasting impact (especially since they’ve become rather hard to acquire), I’d like to take this opportunity to look back on MTV’s first attempt at their very own horror franchise.

Strangely enough, it was the network itself that originally approached director Jacob Gentry with their idea for a horror-centric adaptation of their popular show. The director had already been featured on MTV in the past, with the channel airing his Terminator 3 fan film when he was just fifteen years old, but he also had experience in the horror genre after co-directing 2007’s underrated The Signal. The only problem was that Gentry was clearly not a fan of reality TV, openly admitting that he considered it one of the lowest forms of entertainment.

My Super Psycho Sweet 16 mtv

What’s scarier than teen drama?

In a bizarre turn of events, this actually worked out for the best, as the director ended up realizing that the absurd situations and characters depicted in the show were already the perfect setup for a traditional slasher flick. Partnering with writers Scott Thomas and Jed Elinoff, Gentry soon had a weirdly entertaining mish-mash of teen drama and horror tropes on his hands, which could appeal to both fans of the original property and horror junkies alike.

Airing during the Halloween season of 2009 after a promotional theatrical release, My Super Psycho Sweet 16 stars Lauren McKnight as Skye Rotter, a teenage outcast whose father was responsible for a horrific mass murder at the local roller-skating rink. Unfortunately, the spoiled high-schooler Madison Penrose (Julianna Guill) insists on having her sixteenth birthday party at that very same Roller Dome, eventually leading to the unexpected return of Skye’s murderous dad during an unforgettable Sweet 16.

An uncomplicated teen horror flick, My Super Psycho Sweet 16 doesn’t reinvent the slasher wheel, but it doesn’t really have to. The birthday setting and appropriately dramatic teenage characters are interesting enough, with McKnight standing out as a memorable final girl and Guill turning in a respectable performance as a spoiled brat. The “Lord of the Rink” killer is also pretty cool, sporting a medieval motif as he takes down partygoers with swords and axes. I’d argue that the only real flaw here is the overall lack of brutality, as even the unrated version feels a bit tame.

Either way, the movie was a big hit for MTV, receiving mostly positive reviews and impressive ratings. That’s why it’s no surprise that a sequel was greenlit almost immediately, with Gentry and his team coming back for more the following year. Featuring a larger budget and more ambitious kills, the follow-up was bigger and meaner than the original without losing any of the teen soap-opera charm.

My Super Psycho Sweet 16 slasher

Family is forever. Wait, wrong slasher movie…

Once again starring McKnight as Skye Rotter, the sequel sees our traumatized protagonist move in with her estranged mother after fleeing the scene at the end of the first film. While it initially appears that Skye has earned a fresh start, her inevitable 16th birthday party ends up attracting unwanted attention, with old friends and psychotic enemies returning for yet another Sweet 16 murder spree.

Airing in October of 2010, My Super Psycho Sweet 16: Part 2 is a surprisingly solid follow-up to an already entertaining movie. It still feels like 90210 meets I Know What You Did Last Summer, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Skye remains a memorably edgy protagonist and her teenage worries are compelling enough to make you not root for the killer, who remains appropriately threatening (though a little less over-the-top with his medieval antics).

This one was another hit for MTV, but judging by what happened to the third film, it’s likely that it wasn’t quite as popular as the original. The network still ended up commissioning another sequel, but the film suffered a few delays and it appears that budgets got slashed somewhere along the way. This resulted in a final entry that doesn’t quite live up to the standard of its predecessors.

In 2012’s My Super Psycho Sweet 16: Part 3, Skye is invited to her estranged half-sister’s 16th birthday party before heading off to college. Things obviously don’t go according to plan, as it appears that the birthday curse lives on. With bodies beginning to pile, Skye once again has to face off against old enemies during yet another blood-soaked celebration.

My Super Psycho Sweet 16 horror

‘Lord of the Rink’ is one of the all-time best Slasher villain names.

Part 3 is still somewhat entertaining in its own right, but it lacks some of the charm present in previous entries. This is mostly due to the less-intimidating killer and the isolated country house setting, which is arguably the least interesting of the bunch. It also doesn’t help that the titular Sweet 16 is attended by a mere handful of characters, limiting the thrills in both quantity and quality. It may bring a satisfying conclusion to Skye’s story, but I often skip this one when re-watching the franchise.

These made-for-TV movies obviously aren’t for everyone, as the schlocky writing and teenage sensibilities may get on some viewers’ nerves, but I see this trilogy as a fun prototype for future teen-oriented horror shows like Scream and American Horror Story. While I think you’d probably get more out of the experience if you were a teenager yourself when you first watched the trilogy, there’s still a lot to love about these cheesy birthday massacres.

The peculiar mix of soap-opera styled drama and classic horror tropes makes My Super Psycho Sweet 16 surprisingly memorable, and I particularly enjoy how McKnight’s protagonist becomes more complex as the films go on. The MTV-approved soundtracks also serve as a musical time capsule of the late-2000s to early-2010s that’s sure to entertain the more nostalgic horror hounds out there.

Before the horror renaissance of the mid-2010s, TV horrors were few and far in between. That’s why I believe the My Super Psycho Sweet 16 trilogy stands out as a fun introduction to the horror genre for an audience that might never have seen a Slasher flick before. These movies may have suffered from watered-down kills and budgetary constraints due to their made-for-TV origins, but I think they’re still worth revisiting for their soap opera thrills and festive kills. At the very least, I’d say that they’re a hell of a lot more fun than the original My Super Sweet 16 show.

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