As a child I was afraid of everything, unable to watch horror movies without crying and running upstairs for fear of catching an accidental glimpse of something frightful. As age-appropriate panic subsided, two films became my introduction to the genre: Wes Craven’s widely acclaimed Scream, which introduced me (like many) to the mechanics of the genre, and Jacob Gentry’s My Super Psycho Sweet Sixteen. Scream helped me fall in love with horror, but it was the made-for-MTV My Super Psycho Sweet 16 that excited and overjoyed me like no other experience at that time.
What initially seems like a forgettable parody of the popular television show My Super Sweet 16 instead utilizes classic slasher tropes to its advantage and develops a formidable and intriguing final girl. The film follows Skye Rotter (Lauren McKnight), who we first see as a child when she witnesses her father Charlie Rotter’s (Alex Van) brutal murder of two teenagers. Skye, having been the one to call the cops on her dad, is still dealing with the trauma of Charlie’s actions ten years later as a teenager.
The current-day action kicks off at Madison Penrose’s (Julianna Guill) sweet sixteen. Madison demands it be held at the Roller Dome, Charlie’s old place of work where he was known as “Lord Of The Rink.” Tensions rise among our teens when Skye crashes the party to see Brigg (Chris Zylka), Madison’s ex-boyfriend and Skye’s crush.
Super Psycho leaves no question who the killer is as we see Charlie pop up—in a well-earned and tension-filled jump scare—to murder the drunk and skeezy party planner who hit on underage Madison. It’s a well-deserved and mildly brutal kill for an MTV film, and sets up the audience’s bloody expectations. With Charlie officially back, anxiety grows as we wait for the inevitable confrontation between slasher-father and daughter.
The main reason I connected with this movie when it first came out—and why I still defend it today—is the character of Skye. While some of the supporting characters are one-dimensional, slasher-fodder tropes, Skye is defined by her sense of style, snarky comments, and even the art in her room. Skye and Charlie’s connection sets MTV’s teen-driven slasher apart from other similar subgenre comparisons. Though it’s in no way the first horror film to examine a parent/child relationship, Super Psycho successfully explores the idea of nature versus nurture. Throughout the film we are shown subtle indications of the similarities between Skye and her father, setting up the final showdown where Charlie instructs daughter Skye to kill Madison.
This decision Skye faces helps to explore her psyche and how she wants to emerge from this trauma, an experience that we see with other popular final girls in the genre. Similar to Erin in You’re Next, who kills her whiny ex Crispain because “Why the fuck not?” or Sidney controlling her own narrative by killing Billy in Scream, Skye shows no mercy to the bully Madison and leaves her for dead.
My Super Psycho Sweet Sixteen has no right to be as enjoyable as it is considering the conceit is based on a throwaway reality show about spoiled teenagers. However, the film earns its place in the slasher pantheon due to Skye and Charlie’s relationship, well-filmed and creative chase/death scenes, and a self-awareness that leads to a level of creative outrageousness desired in slashers. This absurdity comes to a head (literally) with the decapitation of Olivia (Maia Osman), who continues headlessly rolling on her skates in front of the unsuspecting party-goers before finally crashing into Madison’s cake. As much as Super Psycho should be praised for its unique characterization and fun plot, it should also be remembered for this scene alone. It’s pure slasher camp.
This self-aware tone is much needed for Super Psycho to be successful. Though the filmmakers and actors are giving their all, the film never treats its plot too seriously. The characters and relationships also benefit from lighter tones, specifically Skye and Brigg, who have a sweet and awkward chemistry that remains believable. Many slashers—especially ‘80s era slashers—don’t focus on the characters before killing them off, while Super Psycho surprisingly succeeds in this area. Though we still have generic and one-note characters like alcoholic Lilly (Leandra Terrazzano) or douchey jock Kevin (Joey Nappo), our core crew of Skye, Charlie, Derek, Madison, and Brigg share interesting and layered bonds.
The film sends us off with one of my favorite musical stings in horror, Skye leaving Madison for dead while AFI’s “Miss Murder” plays. We then get to our finale outro, a dream sequence scare reminiscent of classic slashers like Friday the 13th or A Nightmare on Elm Street. In it, Brigg wakes up in the hospital before getting stabbed over and over by Skye—a scene that goes on long enough to feel surprisingly brutal. After waking up, Brigg sees a drawing done by Skye that she left for him, a touching gesture after Skye’s ruthless decision of leaving Madison. Such an exit feels like the perfect culmination that summarizes how Super Psycho succeeds as a slasher narrative by focusing on the charming Brigg/Skye dynamic, exploring the nature vs nurture argument, and giving us one last violent scare.
Like most slashers that came out post-Scream, Super Psycho seems to have taken inspiration from Craven’s meta-masterpiece as many of the high points of the film are the same elements that helped Scream become a success. A sympathetic and strong lead with past trauma, difficult parent/child relationships, a nerdy friend who is in love with the final girl, and a dose of humor in between the murder. This also proves true with the two Super Psycho sequels, which mirror the horror trilogy tropes of the original Scream series. The third film was even released only a few months after Scream 4 (and here’s to hoping for a similar sequel ten years later).
My Super Psycho Sweet 16 provides solid kills, a remarkable final girl, and interesting family dynamics, which is impressive for a movie made to profit off a popular reality TV series. Skye’s trauma is handled in a layered and sympathetic way that makes her a relatable and capable survivor. Though never perfect, and something that very much lives in the 2000s—hello body glitter and popped collars—Super Psycho is a noteworthy entry into the slasher subgenre that is unfairly ignored for all the wrong reasons.