Producer, writer and director Peter Filardi is a name you know by way of his writing and producing the critically-mixed but box-office successful horror, Flatliners (1990), and the better critically-received and even more box-office successful, The Craft (1996). So, after writing a film about the near-death experience and witchcraft-pursuing teenage girls, it made sense that Filardi, for his third feature film, would tap the myth and legend of drugs, satanism, and murder in the upper class town of Northport, Long Island, in 1984 perpetrated by Ricky Kasso. (In the film: we are in the upscale enclave of Harmony.)
The life and ongoing influence of Ricky Kasso, an American teenager who murdered his friend, Gary Lauwers, along the windswept, Long Island Sound shores are examined at length in Jesse P. Pollack soon-to-be-released documentary The Acid King (2021). In the pages of B&S About Movies, we discussed Kasso’s exploits — and the dangers of the media-driven and religious-opporuntistic “Satanic Panic” movement of the ’80s — with our review of River’s Edge (1986). Prior to Filardi’s nonfiction take on the material, Jim Van Bebber (Deadbeat at Dawn) released the short film, My Sweet Satan (1994). The first full-length feature film attempt at bringing Ricky Kasso’s exploits to the big screen was the more fictionalized, Black Circle Boys (1998).
Courtesy of the success of his first two productions, Orion Pictures (ironical releasing the 1978 juvenile delinquency classic, Over the Edge) gave Peter Filardi the opportunity to direct his first feature film: one that garnered two nominations for “Best International Film” at the 2000 Fantasia Film Festival and 2001 Fantasporto Festival — while winning the “Audience Prize” at the Fantasia Festival. It is also to be noted that the cinematographer, here, is three-time Academy Award-nominated Rodrigo Prieto, who received those nods for his work on Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain (2005) and Martin Scorsese’s Silence (2016) and The Irishman (2019). Prieto also lensed Eminem’s 8 Mile (2002) and Scorese’s The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) and is the winner of four Ariels (Mexico’s Oscars).
As with Black Circle Boys: David St. Clair’s since discredited, best-selling paperback, Say You Love Satan (1987), fueled Filardi’s more fact-based tale. Then, the film — appropriately filmed in the geographically-similar St. George, New Brunswick, Canada — vanished. Never commercially released by the studio, outside of a smattering of horror-centric film festival showings, the film went, appropriately enough, underground, and came to find a cult audience as a bootlegged VHS and DVD. (There are rumors that DVD copies (generic or “work print” DVD-r rips, or consumer-grade packaged DVDs?) were given to the cast and crew upon the film’s completion. As of 2017, the film began appearing online through fans’ video-sharing accounts and torrent sites.)
So what went wrong?
Well, the film’s closing disclaimer telling us that “some parts of the film were fictionalized, with many names changed and some characters invented” is disconcerting, but what biographical film — regardless of studio or budget — hasn’t taken those narrative liberties?
One Letterboxd reviewer compares Ricky 6 as the WB’s Dawson’s Creek meets River’s Edge (comparisons to a Katie Holmes TV series isn’t a good sign). Another user compares it as Richard Linklater’s ’70s stoner-comedy classic Dazed and Confused meets Lords of Chaos (never a film so anticipated has so disappointed me).
So what do we have here: just another forgotten, ’90s teen-horror romp or a dark, true crime film? For this reviewer: the latter. If anything, the inferior — and more fictionalized Kasso account in Black Circle Boys — is the tenny-bopper misfire.
Peter Filardi has never publicly spoken about the troubles shrouding his lone directing effort (it is, however, horror message boards-rumored the primary copyright holder on the film currently serves time in a South American prison). Filardi has since backed the modernized remakes and sequels to his two previous films, Flatliners and The Craft, as well as adapting Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot as a 2004, two-part mini-series. At press time, there’s no (online) insights from Filardi himself or the mainstream horror press to discover as to what went wrong on the production. Usually, even when a film fails at finding a theatrical release, it finds itself dumped into paid-cable channel rotation (refer back to the aforementioned Over the Edge, which became an oft-run HBO cult favorite in the early ’80s).
In addition to Orion Pictures, KatzSmith Productions — a shingle that later found solo success with their reboot adaptation of Stephen King’s It (2017), as well as Child’s Play (2019) — along with British Columbia-based Bron Studios — which later found acclaim with the DC franchise entry Joker (2019), as well as the “woke”-rebooted Candyman (2021) — backed the film. Three production companies on one film spells trouble. Then there’s those opening credits of six producers. And that the film was an American-Mexican-Canadian film production (chiefly by Terry G. Jones, Juan-Carlos Zapata, and William Vince, respectively). So, with that many fingers in the creative pie, rest assure: we’re dealing with a legal morass that not even the dark prince himself can escape.
Vincent Kartheiser (who came to star on the WB’s Angel from 2002 to 2004 and Mad Men from 2007 to 2015; he’s now on the channel’s DC entry, Titans) stars as Kasso, aka Ricky Cowen (“Coven”; cows are a “graven image”), our drug-dealing Satan worshiper. Patrick Renna, who the many know as Hamilton “Ham” Porter in The Sandlot, thespin-shines in a dark, mature role as one of Cowen’s co-conspirators (Ollie, aka the real life Albert Quinones who turned state’s witness) who murders Tweasel (a one-and-done Richard M. Stuart), our drug-stealing, ersatz Gary Lauwers. The always spot-on reliable Kevin Gage (all the way back to Dee Snider’s Strangeland; devastating in David DeFalco’s controversial Chaos) is perfect is his small role as Pat Pagan, aka “Pagan Pat” Toussaint, who took a fatherly interest in Ricky — and introduced him to Satanism. (When police began questioning him in the murder — of which he had no part — he committed suicide-by-train. Since the narrative is voice-over driven by the film’s faux-Jimmy Troiano, the narrative never transitions to Pat’s perspective; so we’re “told” of the suicide.)
While the film ignores some historical accuracy for the sake of narrative and takes low-budgetary stabs at depicting our malcontents’ drug trips and Ricky eventually meeting Satan himself (in a fire-stern swamp inside a hollow tree trunk; backed by Disembowelment’s “Your Prophetic Throne of Ivory”), as well as a murder-intent Jesus in a supermarket, Peter Filardi, while not the most visually stunning director, is a serviceable one, nevertheless (most likely discouraged by the film’s legal boondoggling to never direct, again). He captures — unlike the previous Black Circle Boys — Ricky Kasso’s (in hindsight) heartbreaking, downward spiral of parental mental abuses, drug addiction, homelessness, and discovering a misguided solace in the occult.
Unlike Black Circle Boys, and as with River’s Edge: Filardi did right in supporting the discontent by bankrolling an era-appropriate soundtrack featuring “The Number of the Beast” by Iron Maiden, “Screaming in the Night” by Krokus (who also appeared on Mad Foxes), “Rainbow in the Dark” by Dio, “Street of Dreams” by Rainbow, and “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division. Contrary to fan-opinions: “And the Cradle Will Rock” by Van Halen does not appear in the film; that familiar “Eddie” guitar riff is an effective, ersatz copy by Abel Ferrara’s go-to composer Joe Delia (Ms. 45 and Driller Killer). (Too bad there’s no AC/DC, Ricky’s favorite band, and some Metallica and Slayer in the frames. Ah, those licensing rights: which is why our faux-Ricky doesn’t wear any concert shirts. In reality: Ricky Kasso lived in concert tees and jerseys.)
The rest of the capable, strong cast features Sabine Singh: in her feature film debut, you’ve seen her work in the U.S. teen soaps Charmed and Dawson’s Creek. Emmanuelle Chriqui rose through the thespin-ranks to co-star alongside Adam Sandler in You Don’t Mess with Zohan, as well as currently starring as Lana Lang in TV’s Superman & Lois; you’ve also seen her as a cast regular on HBO’s Entourage and the modern horror classic, Wrong Turn (2003). Chad Christ (the tale comes from his POV, so he provides the we-can-do-without narrative voice-over as Tommy Portelance, aka the real life Jimmy Troiano, also arrested in the murder) has since left the business, but is best remembered in the late ’90s alt-rock comedy, Jawbreaker. (Chriqui, in a promotional interview for Wrong Turn, briefly spoke about working on Ricky 6 in an issue (possibly June 2003; #223) of Fangoria.)
I loved The Craft and enjoyed Peter Filardi’s take on Salem’s Lot; let’s face it: adapting-compressing Stephen King isn’t an easy task. So, to my critical end: I enjoyed Filardi’s honesty in not only chronicling Ricky Kasso’s exploits, but speculating as to what was going on inside Kasso’s mind: did he really think he finally met Satan in the flesh? So, yes: I wished it all would have worked out for Peter Filardi, as it surely hurt to have his labor of love — his directing debut, no less — cast into legal limbos for now, 21 years. (The only time any parts of the film were officially seen came result of segments of Ricky 6 recycled as “reenactment” padding in the hour-long, 2000 Australian television documentary, Satan in the Suburbs.)
Now, that’s not to say Ricky 6 is a great film: but it’s not an awful film, either. Again, it’s a film where I appreciate Filardi’s serious take on the material — and his ability to work against a slight budget — when compared against the inferior, more comical, over-the-top acted, first feature-length take on Ricky Kasso’s life with Black Circle Boys. Now, before you hate on me for not raving about the film: As we spoke about in our review of Black Circle Boys: The appreciation of a film — whether it is good or bad, well-made or poorly made — is based in the age of the viewer; for film appreciation is of a time and place. So, if you were in middle school or just starting high school at the time Ricky 6 was released — as I was when the juvenile delinquency drama Over the Edge was released in 1979 — rewatching this film will warm the cockles as your own person “classic” film.
While Ricky 6 does result in one to reflect back on those dramatic, teenage misanthropes from Over the Edge (1978) and River’s Edge (1984), and the comical, retro-’70s counterpart of Dazed and Confused (1993), Filardi’s lone directing effort is not to the standards set by those classics. We certainly don’t want the brutality of say, the aforementioned David DeFalco’s controversial Chaos (2005), but we do want Atom Egoyan’s beautifully acted and production solid (but wholly unnecessary, in light of Joe Berlinger’s acclaimed, three-part Paradise Lost franchise) Devil’s Knot (2013; based on Mara Leveritt’s Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three). In fact, when considering Joe Berlinger — in what I thought was a fine, well-made, first fiction film for the documentarian — gave us the dramatic metafilm, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000), I believe he would bring us a definitive Ricky Kasso narrative film.
It’s also too bad that Joseph Gordon-Levitt has aged-out to play Ricky Kasso; if you’ve seen his work in the Metallica soundtrack-backed Hesher (2010), you know what I mean — but Joe would give us one hell of a Pagan Pat. Thinking about Over the Edge: Again, Vincent Kartheiser is mighty fine (maybe a little too soft, clean n’ cute as some have said), here: but can you see Matt Dillon as Ricky Kasso and Micheal Kramer as Jimmy Troiano, as they, instead of tossing him in the lake: kill the narc drug-dealing Tip? Yeah, Over the Edge with a “Satanic Panic” backstory: that’s the Ricky Kasso theater ticket, right there.
In the end: Ozzy Osbourne didn’t “recruit” Ricky Kasso no more than Judas Priest convinced — via “subliminal messages” — James Vance and Raymond Belknap, nor did Ozzy “brainwash” John McCollum — to commit suicide. Nor did Ozzy’s “Bark at the Moon” brainwash James Jollimore to commit multiple murder.
Ricky Kasso was a powerless, verbally and physically (non-sexual) abused child also bullied in school who found solace in drugs at an early age as an escape. He was on the cosine of metal illness. His “model” parents kicked him out of the house to live as a vagabond in the woods, friend’s houses, garages, and harbored, Long Island boats. No one took responsibility for Ricky: not his parents, teachers, or doctors. They all failed him. Then they blamed “Satan” to cover up their mistakes. Now, that doesn’t justify what Ricky did (and let’s not turn him into a Masonesque-cum-Mafiso, anti-folk hero); however, as with Ronald DeFeo, Jr.’s multiple murder in suburban Amityville, Long Island, New York, in November 1974: DeFeo simply wanted to cover up his theft of a large sum of family money. Ricky was out for revenge on a drug theft. Both incidents — as with the victimization of Judas Priest and Ozzy Osbourne — were blown out of proportion in the pages of the since discredited books Say You Love Satan by David St. Clair and Jay Anson’s “true story,” The Amityville Horror.
Satan, indeed. Eh, Tipper Gore needed something to bide her time to keep her out of Al’s hair. Nancy Reagan had drugs: Tipper had Satan: “Just Say No!”. For kickstarting the “Satanic Panic” craze of the ’80s, Tipper, we thank you. . . .
Meanwhile, on the Pacific Northwest side of the country, existed Ricky Kasso’s doppelganger. The “Devil’s rock ‘n’ roll” also got hold of him: he picked up a guitar instead of knife. And for a brief time, Kurt Cobain, unlike Ricky Kasso, became infamous for his musical talents . . . but just as suddenly and shockingly, both burnt out in similar fashion. . . .
Regardless of my brevity-lacking, critical sidebaring: Ricky 6 is worth your watch as you delve into the twisted mind of Ricky “The Acid King” Kasso — so as to complement your rental stream of the upcoming The Acid King. Hey, after that documentary’s debut, it just may inspire another film on the sad life of Richard Kasso. It’s “never say never” in Hollywood.
If Ricky 6 is your first exposure to Ricky Kasso’s infamy, you can cut through the books and the films with two, well-written, truncated-quick reads of the true events: Emily Thompson of the Morbidology podcast (August 2018) and Gina Dimuro of All That Is Interesting (October 2020). Another definitive read on the true events is Dave Breslin’s timely “Kids in the Dark” published by the Rolling Stone in November 1984. Again, we discuss Ricky Kasso — and the “Satanic Panic” craze of the ’80s — at B&S About Movies in our reviews of River’s Edge, Black Circle Boys, and Deadbeat at Dawn.
— You can watch rips of Ricky 6 on You Tube HERE and HERE and HERE. The caveat is that they’re all muddy rips from those bootlegged DVDs or probably downloaded from torrent sites. Pick which one works best for your viewing pleasure.
— You can also stream a six-part upload of Satan in the Suburbs on You Tube.
— You can enjoy Peter Filardi’s newest horror streaming series, Chapelwaite — based on Stephen King’s short story, “Jerusalem’s Lot” — on EPIX. The 2021 Adrien Brody-starring series was co-created and written by Peter’s brother, screenwriter Jason Filardi (Steve Martin’s Bringing Down the House; the Zac Efron-starring 17 Again).
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 musical journalism explorations and interviews, as well as horror short stories, on Medium.