2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 30: River’s Edge (1986)

Day 30: Bring It on Home: Something filmed in Seattle. (AKA we’re cheating with the Pacific Northwest.)

Okay, so why are we reviewing this dark, teen-crime drama in the middle of an all slasher ‘n horror month at B&S About Movies for October — outside of the fact that Slayer, Hallows Eve, and Fates Warning tear up the soundtrack? What more could possibly be said about a such a well-known, respected and positive-reviewed movie by the likes of us old sods and codgers of B&S About Movies?

Well, this review is all about the context.

During this month of October reviews, we took a look at the metal-influenced horrors of Dead Girls (1989), Snuff Kill (1997), Black Circle Boys (1998), and — by the way of the uber-graphic Deadbeat at Dawn (1988) — we poked a stick at Jim Van Bebber’s unforgettable short film, My Sweet Satan (1994).

But let’s take it back a bit earlier: to the coming-of-age-crime drama Over the Edge (1979), which River’s Edge director Tim Hunter wrote. He based that Jonathan Kaplan-directed (White Line Fever) film on a 1973 San Francisco Examiner article entitled “Mousepacks: Kids on a Crime Spree” about the rampant teen crime and vandalism in an upscale, planned community outside of San Francisco (the film relocated the events to fictitious New Granada, Colorado).

I burnt the cassette back into Scotch Tape and cinnamon roll’d the album — and I taped Iron Maiden’s “Wrathchild” over that Burning Spear crapola. I dug the Wipers and Agent Orange, however; they remained to rock me.

As result of that Tim Hunter association — in conjunction with the film’s similar titles — in many ways, the later River’s Edge serves as a loose sequel/sidequel to the events in the earlier Over the Edge (Van Halen’s film soundtrack debut). True, those Colorado kids of the late ’70s were rocking out to the then burgeoning sounds of Van Halen, Cheap Trick, and the Ramones, while those mid-’80s Pacific Northwest teens were sporting tee-shirts by Motley Crue and Iron Maiden and thrashin’ to the sounds of Slayer, Fates Warning, and Hallows Eve; however, in a weird, metal rip in the space-time continuum and through the phantasmal crystal ball, we can see that while Carl Willat was leading the charge against the establishment at “New Granola,” Samon Tollet was strangling the life out of his girlfriend Jamie and giving guided tours of the body.

All of those aforementioned, metal-influenced horrors, as well as River’s Edge, are each loosely based on the horrifyingly true story about the 1981 California murder of Marcy Renee Conrad at the hands of Anthony Jacques Broussard outside of San Jose, California, and the 1984 New York murder of Gary Lauwers at the hands of Ricky Kasso. Occurring later and not directly contributing to the development of River’s Edge, but to all of the other metal-influenced films in this review, was the 1994 West Memphis 3 case in which Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, Jr., and Jason Balwin, three non-conformist boys, were wrongfully convicted as murderous “Satanists”; their guilt: a shared interest in rock music, horror films, and unconventional art and books. And while there’s no denying the guilt in the 1999 Columbine massacre — the malignant of the music of — and the career damage of Marilyn Manson and the industrial/goth bands KMFDM and Rammstein — as an “underlying cause” of the tragedy — was unconscionable.

The legal atrocities of the West Memphis 3 case were, of course, foretold by the 1986 “subliminal message” trial in which British metal band Judas Priest was held responsible for the shotgun suicides of Nevada teens James Vance and Raymond Belknap. Then there’s the parents who sued the “Prince of Darkness” between 1985 and 1990, claiming the song “Suicide Solution” from Ozzy Osbourne’s 1980 debut album, Blizzard of Oz, encouraged their young sons to commit suicide; the best known of those was California teenager John McCollum who perished in 1984. Then there was Canadian, Nova Scotian teen James Jollimore — who killed a woman and her two sons on the “direction” of Osbourne’s then hit song, “Bark at the Moon.”

Sometimes, the reality of our world, when put to film, is more frightening than anything Stephen King, Wes Craven, or James Wan can dream and we stream in this post-A24 and Blumhouse world.

And there’s a reason why numerous mainstream critics classify River’s Edge a contemporary-day horror film. It’s real and it’s bone chilling. And you can stream it on Amazon Prime, while scene clips abound on You Tube.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publishes on Medium.


Jay Wexler, you rocketh for re-creating the River’s Edge Soundtrack on You Tube. We bow before ye as we rocketh through the actor sidebars.

The Six Degrees of John Carpenter, aka Speaking of Sequels and Sidequels, Sidebar: Three of the cast members from River’s Edge appeared in the Halloween film franchise: The great Leo Rossi (Maniac Cop II) who played the boyfriend of Keanu Reeves’s mom, was Budd the paramedic in Halloween II (1981); Joshua Miller, who played Reeves’s little brother Tim, was one of Tom Atkins’s kids in Halloween III: Season of the Witch; and we’ll-watch-him-in-anything Daniel Roebuck appeared as Lou Martini, the owner of the Rabbitt In Red Lounge in Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007) and Halloween II (2009).

The Rob Zombie Connection, aka, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace My Inner Hellbilly, Sidebar: And, to keep with the all-horror theme for this month, Roebuck also appeared in Rob Zombie’s 31 (Pastor Victor), The Lords of Salem (2012), and 3 From Hell (Morris Green) — as well as Don Coscarelli’s John Dies at the End (2012) and Phantasm: Ravager (2016).

The Crispin Is an Acting God, aka How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace that Fact that Crispin Is an Acting God, Sidebar: How can we forget Crispin Glover — incredible here as the loyal, but troubled Layne — starting his career as Jimmy Mortimer in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984). We nostalgically wax over Crispin’s films Bartleby, Ed and Rubin, and Twister in our review of Steve Buscemi’s Ed and his Dead Mother. (Yes, Steve, ye are an acting god as well, so proclaimed; we even reviewed the majesty that is Trees Lounge.)

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