Let it be known that I, Bernadette, can tend to be a harsh critic. I don’t go into films actively ready to tear them down, and I always give them a fair shot, but if you listen to the Story Screen family, I’m less inclined to give films a pass. Recently, however, my heart has begun to soften. About a month ago, my 21 year old sister moved in with me and my husband (Heath), and she’s the type to ALWAYS have something running on the television in the background. One evening she was shocked to find out that I hadn’t seen a classic movie from her childhood, 2004’s Sleepover, which she was delighted to find on Hulu. A goofy teen comedy about four friends transitioning from junior high to high school (starring Alexa Vega, Jane Lynch, Jeff Garlin, and a pre-Michael-Scott Steve Carell), I found it to be, uhhhhhhhhhhh, not good. But that’s the thing; it is good. It was one of the movies my sister would watch when she and her friends would get together for sleepovers, and for that moment in her life, Sleepover was exactly the type of movie she wanted to watch.
This entire experience made me reminisce on the sleepover movies of my childhood. Born in 1989, there are eight years separating me and my youngest sister, and while there are some films that overlap between the two of us (we did grow up in the same household, after all), my sleepover films differ greatly from hers. Considering there are countless movies that were played in heavy enough rotation in my house that the physical VHS tapes became, pardon my French, shot to shit, I just can’t talk about all of my favorite sleepover movies. So for the sake of brevity, I’ve narrowed it down to three of the films that came to the forefront of my mind: 1993’s Son in Law, 1997’s I Know What You Did Last Summer, and 1995’s Now and Then.
Who can forget the Pauly Shore/Carla Gugino banger that is Son in Law? I have a lot of love in my heart for Pauly Shore, and this movie is no exception. When South Dakotan, farm-born-and-raised Rebecca (Gugino) moves out to California to begin her freshman year at UCLA, she doesn’t feel like she belongs until she bonds with her RA, Crawl (Shore). And by the time Thanksgiving Break rolls around, she doesn’t want to return home alone, fearing she’s going to receive a proposal she may not want from her hometown beau, Travis (Dan Gauthier, but that’s not important). Crawl comes to the rescue when, much to Becca’s farm family’s dismay, he claims that she can’t accept a proposal from Travis because they are already engaged to be married. Of course this leads to a series of trials on the farm during which Crawl slowly begins to win over Becca’s family and, unintentionally, Becca’s heart. Now, is this a high-brow film? Absolutely not. But it is immensely fun and a complete laugh riot.
Son in Law (and by association, the masterpiece that is known as Bio-Dome) was a big-time player in the Gorman household. I grew up in a small, southeastern Indiana town where tractors were driven to school and everyone knew everything about absolutely anything to do with “private” business. I wouldn’t say that I strived to follow Becca’s trajectory, but that sort of intent wasn’t far from the mark. Son in Law is a classic fish out of water story that happens to mirror itself within the actual plot, which I think is actually far more clever than people give it credit for. And while this particular film might not be for everyone, it does teach a very important lesson: true acceptance of oneself and others will bring happiness to everyone involved. You should strive to understand different walks of life than your own, and by doing so, you’re more than likely to learn a thing or two about yourself. Can you believe a Pauly Shore movie can teach that lesson? Well, you can bet your “Steven Tyler PJs” that it does!
I Know What You Did Last Summer, on the other hand, is one of the most ludicrous movies I’ve ever seen. Four recent high school graduates (teen heartthrobs Jennifer Love Hewitt, Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Ryan Phillippe) celebrate one more pre-college 4th of July by getting drunk and joyriding on the backroads of their seaside North Carolina town. But in the process, they sort-of-kind-of-maybe kill someone. Well...they hit him, and then dump his body off the docks, all the while discussing what to do about their current, gruesome situation. They reluctantly decide to not tell a soul, despite there being a witness (a pre-Bang Johnny Galecki) and their initial consternation to reach out for help. They’re gonna take this secret to the grave! But after a year, the core four begin to receive written threats claiming, “I know what you did last summer!”
I was eight years old when I Know What You Did Last Summer came out, and boy oh boy did I feel soooooo cool watching this movie. I’ve seen 98’s I Still Know What You Did Last Summer a good handful of times as well, but I had fallen off the Summer bandwagon by the time 06’s I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer was released. I suppose, that by that point I was too concerned with my own college plans to watch a completely new cast outrun the likes of the “Fisherman Killer.” But that doesn’t mean I hadn’t been hooked for life by the original. (Eeeeehhhh, did you read what I did there?) Two years after IKWYDLS came out, a young M. Night Shyamalan released a little picture called The Sixth Sense and a group of film students tried to escape a woodland witch in The Blair Witch Project. And by 2002, it only took seven days for the horror realm to become obsessed with the foreboding imagery in The Ring. All three of these films took up some serious rotation in my ever-evolving sleepover repertoire, but I’ll always remember my first pulp-horror love. I’ll never forget what they did that summer.
This last sleepover movie may not be one that got as much play as the other two, but it’s probably the one I related to most while growing up. Now and Then opens with four childhood best friends reuniting to celebrate the birth of a child. All four friends are played by two different actresses in two different time periods (present day ‘95, for all intents and purposes, and an adolescent summer in 1970). The casting choices are ridiculous at worst and entertaining at best, with Christina Ricci and Rosie O’Donnell sharing the role of Roberta, Thora Birch and Melanie Griffith playing Teeny, Gaby Hoffmann and a bespectacled Demi Moore portraying Samantha, and Ashleigh Aston Moore and Rita Wilson breathing life into (in the later era) a very pregnant Chrissy. As adults, they reminisce about the events of ‘70, sometimes it seems, in order to distract Chrissy from labor pains.
Watching it now, with a more refined understanding of cinema and story, you have to wonder if the events of ‘70 actually happened the way the characters remember them happening. But that’s how reminiscing works. I most heavily related to Teeny, the boy-crazy runt of the group who just wants boys to like her and fills her bra with pudding-filled balloons, but there’s a little bit of each character that resonates with me. And as I was six when this movie came out, it gave a young girl hope that if she was an awkward pre-teen, there was always a chance she would grow up to be Demi Moore. But most of all, Now and Then speaks to the power of young, female friendship and unity and I think those themes are always of the utmost importance. Now and Then is my OG Sleepover. And at the end of the day, if I had to choose one of these three films to show a future daughter of mine, Now and Then would be it. But then, of course, she’d ask to watch the other two. I mean, she’d be my daughter, after all.
I guess at the end of the day, my Sleepover awakening made me remember that every film serves a purpose. With the current state of film, it seems nearly impossible to keep up with every trailblazing new release. We’re incredibly privileged to live during a time where creativity seems infinite and a new, inspiring, auteur is discovered every year. But I constantly have to remind myself that there is already a well of beloved movies at my disposal, and all I need to do is look to the past to find them. I consider myself lucky to be a part of the Story Screen family, where we look to newly-released films and films of the past to quench our entertainment thirst. And while employed at the newly-opened Story Screen Beacon Theater in Beacon, NY, I also get to see old and new fans alike enjoy films of yesteryear. Because that’s the thing, movies bring people joy. There’s a time and a place for every film, even if it doesn’t speak to you personally. So, if you’re feeling nostalgic, come visit me and “munch on some grindage.” You’ll be reminiscing for years to come.
Bernadette graduated from DePauw University in 2011 with a Film Studies degree she’s not currently using. She constantly consumes television, film, and all things pop culture and will never be full. She doesn’t tweet much, but give her a follow @BeaGorman and see if that changes.