River’s Edge!

Check’s in the mail!

RIVER’S EDGE (1986)

Samson ‘John’ Tollet is a big gumpy teen (played to chilling perfection by Daniel Roebuck) who one day randomly decides to choke his girlfriend Jamie to death…because “she was talking shit.” Without anything resembling remorse, John leaves her naked corpse in plain sight in a semi-secluded spot by a local river where his fellow teenage dirtbags gather to get wasted. The only witness to the murder is a budding juvenile delinquent with serious emotional issues named Tim (the one and only Joshua John Miller, best known for his memorable appearance in “Near Dark“). Tim later catches up with John at the local convenience store and wins him over with a couple of cans of stolen Coors. John in return treats him to a little Hallow’s Eve and a ride to score some dope.

Afterwards, John staggers off to school. He casually tells his incredibly annoying speed freak friend Layne (Crispin Glover!) that he “killed her,” and soon afterwards a bunch of kids, including Tim’s pothead fuckbrain brother Matt (Keanu Reeves – whoa!) are going to the river’s edge to get a first-hand look at death. What’s strange is that even after multiple trips to see the body, no one except for Layne seems to be really effected or concerned by any of this, including the dead girl’s friends Clarissa (Ione Skye) and Maggie (Roxana Zal) or even her killer. Layne then takes it upon himself to personally handle the situation. “This is like some fuckin’ movie. Friends since second grade, fuckin’ like THIS and then one of us gets himself in potentially BIG trouble, and now we’ve gotta deal with it; we’ve got to test our loyalty against ALL odds. It’s kind of… exciting. I feel like… Chuck Norris, y’know? “

Jamie’s body is finally discovered by police after they are tipped off by an anonymous phone call. In desperation, Layne decides to stash John away at the home of their crazy old pot dealer – Feck (the late, great Dennis Hopper!). Feck is a gun toting lunatic and demented former biker (Yeah, years ago. Oh, man. I ate so much pussy in those days, my beard looked like a glazed doughnut.) who lost one of his legs and most of his sanity in an accident years before. “My leg was right out in the middle of the street. I remember lying in the gutter and bleeding and shit, staring at my leg, right next to a beer can. And I remember thinking, that’s my leg… I wonder if there’s any beer in that can.” Feck is also an outlaw fugitive, wanted for the murder of the woman he loved. He put the gun the back of her head and blew her brains out the front because he was in love. John and Feck immediately bond over weed and murder, and along with Feck’s trusty blow up doll Ellie, eventually decide to split and go grab some beers.

Meanwhile, Layne wages war against the circuits inside. “The people that own this place have them all reconnected caused they know that if I ever learned this machine I’d take control of the fucking universe!” He tries in vain to score some money from his broke ass friend Tony (who also plays guitar) and his best girl Clarissa so that John can leave town. “I’m sorry Clarissa, but you’ve got to understand that in a time like this where every fucking second counts, a man can’t waste his time choosing words.” Disgruntled Clarissa winds up falling for (and pretty much raping) pothead fuckbrain Matt, who himself had just gotten into a nasty fight with his little brother Tim, and a verbal showdown with the MOTHERFUCKER and FOODEATER who was trying to sleep upstairs.

Tim holds a deadly grudge against his pothead fuckbrain brother and decides it’s time to get your nunchuks and your dad’s car. He knows where we can get a gun. The next morning, there is another dead body at the river’s edge. “You understand, don’t you? Sure you do. I don’t like killing people.But sometimes it’s necessary. That’s enough for now. I, I’d like you all to leave now. Very tired. Sort of depressed. I lost a good friend today, y’know…”

Director Tim Hunter’s 1986 film RIVER’S EDGE is the rare PICK FROM THE CRYPT that is NOT a horror or exploitation movie, but the soundtrack is primarily SLAYER, and this flick is a fucking must see! The disturbing storyline, which was written by Neal Jimenez, was inspired by a real life murder that took place in California in 1981. A teen named Marcy Renee Conrad was raped and strangled by her boyfriend Anthony Jacques Broussard, and Broussard later showed as many as 13 different people her corpse before someone finally reported the crime. This story became the basis of the film, but “River’s Edge” is hardly a generic “true crime” pot boiler, there is a lot more going on.

Kids are falling in and out of love (sort of), brothers are torn apart and brought back together, cute little girls mourn the loss of their beloved playthings, single mothers decide it’s really not worth all the effort, aged hippy teachers express their outrage at the bad taste of the whole disgusting spectacle…lots and lots of thoroughly wretched and all too believable teenage drama. What’s amazing is how profoundly moving, disturbing, AND hilarious this low budget film manages to be. (Aw, fuck off, Kevin. Wasting pigs is radical, man.) There are a lot of fantastic scenes worth mentioning, but my favorite is the epic conversation between Daniel Roebuck & Dennis Hopper where they discuss what it’s like to kill and why they did it. “She was ok.” The final moments we spend with Daniel, Dennis, and Ellie at the river’s edge are genuinely sad and chilling.

But even with those tremendous performances on hand, Crispin Glover still manages to pretty much steal the whole fucking movie. (as usual!) His performance here is so hilariously over the top and on EDGE that you have to wonder how much of it is acting. He also scores most of the film’s most memorable lines, including the legendary “HURRY YOUR ASS!” I also love the fact that “Show No Mercy” never seems to leave his tape deck. Then of course, there’s the incredible soundtrack. Pure SPEED METAL with the likes of “Captor Of Sin,” “Tormentor,” “Evil Has No Boundaries,” and “Die By The Sword” by Slayer, the haunting “Kyrie Eleison” by Fates Warning, and the head crushing “Lethal Tendencies” from underrated thrashers Hallow’s Eve. There’s also some rad punk rock from Agent Orange & The Wipers, along with some “chill” tracks from Burning Spear and Hank Ballard. It’s an absolutely killer soundtrack that perfectly captures the grimy speeded out intensity of fast living, misspent youth.     

The hilariously misleading trailers for this one proclaimed it to be “the Rebel Without A Cause of the 80’s,” but I prefer to think of it as the “Suburbia” of heavy metal. It’s a superior drama (River’s Edge was awarded Best Picture at the 1986 Independent Spirit Awards) with the type of greasy, long haired degenerate youth that you could only find back in the day. It’s also one of the rare films that gets better with repeat viewings, and trust me – I’ve sat through quite a few over the years. RIVER’S EDGE is currently available on a bare bones DVD from MGM, and can also be found in a nifty Dennis Hopper “Collection” that also includes the David Lynch clas-sick “Blue Velvet!” Either way, there’s no excuse for not having this one in your collection. It’s people like you that are sending this country down the tubes. No sense of pride. No sense of loyalty. No sense of NOTHING, man!

HAIL CRISPIN GLOVER!!! KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

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