River’s Edge (1986)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer 

Metalhead teens are in turmoil as one of their group has killed his girlfriend (very loosely based on a true case). This film has a particularly important place in my heart. However if you’re not sympathetic to outsider metal kids, or at least a big fan of ‘80s drama, or Dennis Hopper, you may want to skip it. Back when I first saw this on a VHS tape rented from the local grocery store, I had already been one of those jean jacket wearing thrash nerds for a while. That and my natural love of dark subject matter quickly made me fall in love with River’s Edge. The soundtrack LP is killer, mostly thanks to early Slayer, but it also features the best song by Hallows Eve, and a fantastically not-metal Wipers song that you can barely hear in the film. I wish someone would have thought to include some of the amazing and hilarious dialogue on the album. If you like this one, check out director Tim Hunter’s previous film Over the Edge. It’s not quite as dark, but has a similar troubled kid angle, and it was mostly filmed in the suburban Colorado city I grew up in. Hunter went on to direct episodes of Breaking Bad and Mad Men (and a ton of other forgettable stuff). All the performances here are perfect, but Crispin Glover steals the show. If you’re a fan of his you already saw this years ago. Also I must admit that the locations used probably planted the seed for me moving to the West Coast. There’s a few houses in my neighborhood in Portland that could pass for ones in the film. A few years ago I went to a River’s Edge screening and Q and A with Daniel Roebuck who played killer teen John / Samson. He told a ton of great stories, shared a slideshow of his own on-set photos, and more. He mentioned that he and other cast members spent a lot of time with co-star Hopper, mostly asking for stories about the filming of Apocalypse Now. When the audience question round came up I asked him for details. The one tidbit I hadn’t ever heard before was that Martin Sheen’s brother was a stand-in on Apocalypse when he had a heart attack. There are probably a couple of moments of the final film where you’re seeing Joe Estevez as Captain Willard. Anyway dude, River’s Edge rules, and is also the only fictional time capsule of what American metal kids were like back then. You might want to look up the short doc Heavy Metal Parking Lot for a more realistic (and hilarious) picture. We weren’t all THAT stupid… but yeah, it’s a mostly accurate representation.

Bonus: Vice did an Oral History of River’s Edge a while back. Don’t read until you’ve seen the film. 

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray is out of print. More info here.

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