Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: Death Machines (1976)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Herbert P. Caine is the pseudonym of a frustrated academic and genre movie fan in Pennsylvania.

Before beginning this review, I should warn readers: Nothing that happens in the film Death Machines is remotely as cool as the film’s poster, which features an ominous metal pyramid with evil-looking faces glaring out of it. The poster suggests an epic science-fiction / action film. While Death Machines is a lot of fun, it nowhere near that memorable.

The film revolves around a multi-racial team of martial artists who have been drugged/brainwashed into becoming nigh-invincible assassins. (The film never makes it entirely clear how this process took place, or why it renders them all but immune to bullets.) The evil Madame Lee, played by Japanese actress Mari Honjo even though Lee is usually a Chinese or Korean name, uses her dangerous slaves to take over the underworld. The result is lots of gangsters dying in at times creative ways.

Death Machines’ biggest selling point is its frequent action scenes, which keep the viewer’s interest through an often-predictable plot. In one particular standout, the Death Machines take on an entire karate school, massacring the hapless students with fists, feet, swords, and electrocution. Other killings have an amusing element, particularly as the gangsters they target seem oblivious to their obviously impending dooms. Not one, but two mafiosos fail to notice vehicles rushing towards them, even as other people scramble out of the way. The film could easily have been subtitled “A Parable on Situational Awareness.”

The movie suffers from very basic filmmaking flaws, some of which suggest a troubled production. For example, in the film’s prologue, a bearded man is introduced as the creator and true controller of the Death Machines, with the implication that he may clash with Madame Lee. He never appears again. Furthermore, the film never settles on a protagonist. Some might carp that this is a silly consideration for a genre film, but to really get invested in a story, you need to care about at least one character. First, it looks like it will be the paperwork-averse police detective investigating the killings, but he fades into the background two-thirds of the way through the film, with the focus shifting to the sole survivor of the karate school massacre, who want revenge for the Death Machines amputating his hand. The Death Machines themselves might be considered villain protagonists, but they have so little characterization that IMDB lists them by their race. (They even dress alike through most of the film.) The constant shifting of focus and outright vanishing of certain characters lead one to wonder whether the production ran out of funds to pay actors. 

The acting is passable, with Ron Ackerman, who plays the detective, being the most charismatic. However, Mari Honjo gives a weak performance hampered by her strong accent and apparent poor knowledge of English. At some points, her dialogue is difficult to follow, and at times she even seems to be working out her lines phonetically. This immediately takes you out of the story.

Even so, Death Machines is an effective time-waster for a boring Saturday afternoon. The action sequences come often enough to keep your attention, and there’s enough unintentional humor for a few chuckles. It’s not worth going out and buying, but can easily be found on Tubi and YouTube. The YouTube version is a higher quality print, but has been slightly edited for violence and nudity.

Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: Future Hunters (1986)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Eric Wrazen is a Technical Director and Sound Designer for live theatre, specializing in the genre of horror, and is the Technical Director the Festival de la Bête Noire – a horror theatre festival held every February in Montreal, Canada. You can see Eric as occasional host and performer on Bête Noire’s Screaming Sunday Variety Hour on Facebook live. An avid movie and music fanatic since an early age, this is Eric’s first foray into movie reviewing.

Preamble: Senti-Metal Movie Reviews believes that some things just belong together, like seafood and fine wine, pizza and beer, and of course… questionable B-movies and face-melting heavy metal! 

 A movie might have zero budget, bad acting, and terrible plotting, but just add a pounding metal soundtrack, and it magically becomes an instant party movie masterpiece! 

Exhibit A:

Future Hunters (1986)

Senti-Metal Soundtrack: Manilla Road – “The Deluge” (1986)

From the description: “A man from a post-apocalyptic future travels back in time to prevent the coming nuclear holocaust and enlists the help of a young couple.”

Upon waiting the first few minutes of Future Hunters, I was convinced that I was about to see a post-apocalyptic Terminator knock-off from Italy. About 40 minutes later, I realized that I was, in fact, watching a Raiders of the Lost Ark knock-off from the Philippines. Wait, what?

I guess the title threw me off, and rightfully so, considering the bulk of this movie has nothing to do with the future, let alone any hunters from said future. 

OK, well there is one guy who comes from the future, and he’s pretty awesome, too. Our “hero” kicks off this adventure with an epic car chase-shootout-battle with a gang of typical post-nuclear apocalypse thugs. 

Note: the soundtrack during all this is bad 80s synth-rock…. Now is a good time to queue up our Heavy Metal pairing of the day…. The Deluge by Manilla Road.

I think Manilla Road is a perfect band for this movie because, they have the Philippine city in their name, and they are from Wichita, Kansas, which is pretty much as close to post-apocalyptic hellscape you can find! Go ahead and drop the needle on of The Deluge, track 1 during the whole opening sequence. Trust me – its an improvement.

 Around 10 minutes into the Mad Max-style mayhem of Future Hunters, our hunky hero is suddenly whisked away via mystical means to…. a dumpy stucco building some where outside of LA, in 1986, where he proceeds to save a lady archeologist and her milk-toasty boyfriend from a bunch of asshole bikers…and then (spoiler alert) he drops dead! Are you kidding me? What the hell just happened here?

It’s at this point that you’ll start to realize that this movie is not about Future Hunters at all, and is actually about the archeologist, Michelle (played by Linda Carol) and her boyfriend, none other than Robert Patrick… a few years before his rise to fame as the shape-shifting bad cop in Terminator 2

Patrick plays “Slade” an Air Force mechanic with a penchant for losing fights with every baddie who graces the screen and frequently insisting to Michelle that he doesn’t want to be involved in any of this crazy adventure. Which is a shame, because as it turns out, our boy Slade is a martial arts expert who can fly planes and helicopters while speaking multiple Asian dialects. 

And all of those skills come in handy because the bulk of Future Hunters takes place in Hong Kong and some south pacific island locations where Slade and Michelle encounter, in no particular order: Nazis, Pigmies, Albino body-builders, Kung-fu masters, Amazons and Mongols (none of whom come from the future, by the way). 

Without giving you a play-by-paly of the entire movie, I can attest that while some movies do their best to “check all the boxes” for their genre, Future Hunters checks all the action adventure boxes, and then adds some boxes from a few other genres and then checks those too.

Does it make any sense? No. 

Does that even matter? No. 

Future Hunters is not a great movie, but it absolutely never gets boring, and cranking up the metal gives it the extra juice needed to make it a really fun ride.  There are plenty of action scenes that go great with the kind of raucous power metal that Manilla Road dishes out, so any time you here that crappy synth music start in the movie, just kick in the next track on “The Deluge” album and enjoy the insanity.

Note: Both the movie and the Senti-Metal Soundtrack can be found on Youtube:

Future Hunters:

Manilla Road – “The Deluge”:

 

 

 

2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge recap

It’s both a happy and somewhat sad feeling to have completed the third Scarecrow Challenge. It’s always intimidating to start the month, but by the end, we’ve discovered some movies we would’ve never seen otherwise and maybe even found a few new favorites. We hope you’ve done the same.

You can check out our Letterboxd lists for 2018, 2019 and 2020 are all posted — and you should totally support Scarecrow Video, the largest independently owned video store in the United Staes. Watch our visit to the store right here!

DAY 1. FAMILY TIME: Tired of seeing the same faces every day? Look at a movie instead! Rated PG or less. Ease in to it!

Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure

DAY 2. SLUMBER PARTY: Watch one with a sleepover in it.

The Last Slumber Party

DAY 3. STOCKED UP: When you’re in it for the long haul, you’re gonna need supplies. Watch something with a supply run in it.

Dawn of the Dead

DAY 4: HUNKERED DOWN: One with recluses, shut-in or people locked inside their home.

Evil in the Woods

#Alive

DAY 5. GOING POSTAL: Something involving the postal service or shipping or getting a delivery. #savetheups

Postal

DAY 6: POLL PLOT: One that involves elections and/or voting. *government not required.

The Park Is Mine

The Campaign

DAY 7. THEY’RE OUT TO GET YOU: One with heavy paranoid (real or imagined). 

Black Circle Boys

Scarab

DAY 8. EQUAL SLICE: One where women get top billing.

Antebellum

DAY 9. OG NETWORK: See something made after 2010 with no visible cell phones. No texting while watching this one!

Big Money Rustlas

DAY 10. PLASTIQUE VIVANT: Mannequins are creepy enough standing still but what happens when they come to life?

The Devil’s Passenger

Window Dressing

Mannequin Two: Mannequin on the Move

DAY 11: ¿QUE ES UN MURO FRONTERIZO?: Watch anything from Mexico, Central or South America.

El Macho Bionico

DAY 12. THE FIRST WAVE: One by an indigenous filmmaker or indigenous cast members. 

These Walls

DAY 13. OPEN SOAR: This should focus on flying or aviation somehow.

Exorcism at 60,000 Feet

The Concorde Affaire

DAY 14. THE MONSTER MILE: One about cars or racing.

Safari 3000

Car Crash

DAY 15. HELL ON FOUR WHEELS: Must involve characters in wheelchairs.

Wired to Kill

Mr. No Legs

DAY 16. MASKS ARE REQUIRED: You guessed it, at least one character has to wear a mask for the entire movie.

Frank

DAY 17. VIDEO STORE DAY: (10th anniversary!!) This is the big one. Watch something physically rented or bought from an actual video store. If you don’t have access to one of these sacred archival treasures then watch a movie with a video store scene in at least. #vivaphysicalmedia

Scare Package

DAY 18. RESURRECTIONISTS: Watch something that came out on one of the many reissue labels that we love like Arrow, Criterion, Bleeding Skull, Scream Factory, Indicator, Vinegar Syndrome, AGFA etc.

Witchhammer

Date with a Kidnapper/Kidnapped Coed

Island of Blood

Warning from Space

Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things

Deadline

DAY 19. BEYOND THE DARKNESS: Watch one with a love story in it. There’s more than one way to get mushy!

Deadbeat at Dawn

The Honeymoon Killers

DAY. 20: HINDSIGHT IS 20/20: This one’s gotta have flashbacks in it (since looking ahead doesn’t seem to be working amirite?).

Don’t Look Now

DAY 21: MURDER SHE ROACH: One about pesky varmints, pests or creepy crawlies.

Empire of the Ants

DAY 22. MURKIN: Something underwater or ocean related. It sure is dark down there, what was that?

Jaws 3D

DAY 23. A REST IN THE PIECE IS ANOTHER WAT OF SAYING DRAMATIC PAUSE: Morricone soundtracks only.

The Antichrist

DAY 24: AT THE GIG: Something with live scenes.

Devil Girl

The Alien Factor

DAY 25. HEY BABY, CAN YOU DANCE TO IT?: This one has to have one substantial dancing scene in it.

The Rosebud Beach Hotel

Playing for Keeps

Etoile

DAY 26. DON’T MESS WITH TEXAS: What to get? Watch one set, clap clap clap clap, deep in the heart of Texas.

Nail Gun Massacre

DAY 27. ALKEBULAN: Watch something from the second largest continent.

666: Beware the End is At Hand

DAY 28. OREGON TRAIL: A road tripper where people get picked off one by one. Kind of like this challenge, eh?

The Hitcher

DAY 29. ONE NIGHT IN APE CANYON: Watch a Bigfoot story.

Shriek of the Mutilated

DAY 30. BRING IT ON HOME: Something filmed in Seattle.

River’s Edge

Scorchy

Shredder Orpheus

Dark Dungeons

31. I REMEMBER HALLOWEEN: Something from the Halloween franchise or anything with trick or treating in it. You did it! Another successful challenge achieved. Now you can stuff yourself with candy and listen to The Misfits.

Happy Halloween A Michael Meyers Fan Film

Halloween Revenge of the Sandman

Halloween

We can’t wait to do this all again next year!

2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 31: Halloween (1978)

31. I REMEMBER HALLOWEEN: Something from the Halloween franchise or anything with trick or treating in it. You did it! Another successful challenge achieved. Now you can stuff yourself with candy and listen to The Misfits.

Last night, Becca and I headed out to the Riverside Drive-In to see a double feature of The Thing and the original Halloween. While it’s impossible to see it as if you’re seeing the movie for the first time — it’s so pervasive in nearly every facet of my life — I wanted to watch it and wonder, “Why does it continue to work so well?”

For me, the biggest reason why it works is that we actually care about the girls. Beyond just Laurie Strode, Annie Brackett and Lynda Van Der Klok feel like people we actually know. When the moments that The Shape menaces them occurs, we’re been with them for the good part of an hour. The film doesn’t rush into the murder and even takes its time — despite a spartan running time of 91 minutes that feels way shorter — to get there, doing everything in its power to tell us that whomever Michael Myers once was, now he has become an inhuman killing machine that everyone should fear.

Credit for that is due to not just Carpenter and Deborah Hill’s script, but for getting Donald Pleasence on board as Dr. Loomis. When he becomes frightened of the killer, speaking in hushed tones of “the blackest eyes; the devil’s eyes” we know that there’s not going to be any stopping this killing machine.

The moments that have become tropes today, like Michael sitting back up when he should be dead, the ending that isn’t really an ending, the teens getting slaughtered by a killing machine — they weren’t necessarily invented here. But they were perfected and commercialized by this film. I’d site films like A Bay of BloodPeeping TomPsycho and Black Christmas* as proto-slashers** that set up the form. But this is where every studio in Hollywood — and around the world — saw that you can take a concept, throw some effects at it and make a lot of money. The results vary, of course.

Not many of them have the mind and soundtrack wizardry of Carpenter on hand, nor the eye of Dean Cundy guiding the camera.

The little moments of this movie are why I love it so much. The moments where a hedge of bushes holds more menace than every horror movie that will come out for the next five years. The usage of “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” which is in itself a strange song, one of the few pop songs that I can think of that outwardly worships death. The casual way that Annie smokes a joint versus the difficulty Laurie has with it. The perfect ending, as the body of The Shape is gone but his presence hangs upon every street of Haddonfield. And the knowledge that every time leaves blow across the screen, Carpenter and his crew had to gather them up in plastic bags, not wanting to waste the rare fall foliage that they’d brought to make this midwestern movie in the middle of California.

Watching this again for what has to be a hundredth or more time on a drive-in screen under a full moon, the night before Halloween itself, it just felt right. How odd that a grubby little movie that was untraditionally released would find itself a tradition, something that people like me turn to for comfort in uncertain times? Halloween has gone from a movie I feared — it kept my father awake all night it unsettled him so much — to a film my wife uses to chill out and relax to.

* Indeed, in a 2005 interview, Black Christmas director Bob Clark stated that Carpenter had asked, “Well what would you do if you did do a sequel?” Clarks’s answer? “I said it would be the next year and the guy would have actually been caught, escape from a mental institution, go back to the house and they would start all over again. And I would call it Halloween. The truth is John didn’t copy Black Christmas, he wrote a script, directed the script, did the casting. Halloween is his movie and besides, the script came to him already titled anyway. He liked Black Christmas and may have been influenced by it, but in no way did John Carpenter copy the idea. Fifteen other people at that time had thought to do a movie called Halloween but the script came to John with that title on it.”

**I realize that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre also pre-dates this film, but that thing is a force of nature all its own. Nobody can even come close to making a movie like it, not even Tobe Hooper. It was lightning in a bottle, shot in an abattior smelling shack in the dead heat of the Texas sun, as close to a perfect horror film as you can find.

2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 31: Halloween Revenge of the Sandman (2012)

31. I REMEMBER HALLOWEEN: Something from the Halloween franchise or anything with trick or treating in it. You did it! Another successful challenge achieved. Now you can stuff yourself with candy and listen to The Misfits.

We’ve watched every Halloween movie in this house so many times that sometimes, I just play the soundtrack album from the second and Becca does the dialogue while I chase her around and scream things like, “An hour ago I fired six bullets into him and he just walked away. I am talking about the real possibility that he is still out there!”

Anyone who has spent more than ten minutes with me knows how I feel about the series (one great, two both better and worse yet more giallo, three should have had a different title but still great, four has a good opening, five has some interesting idea, six is lovable for how it takes the series in an occult direction, then you can just stop watching), so when this challenge came up, I decided to take a look at a fan film of the series.

Fan films are interesting to me. I remember when I first started watching them at Star Trek conventions in my youth and they looked amateurish, shot on video and filled with hammy acting and bad effects. However, today’s iPhones and free editing tools — not to mention consumer-available tech — enable anyone to make a movie that looks as good or better than the genre films streaming online.

Written and directed by Ron McLellen, who also made 2009’s The Return of the Sandman and 2013’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The New Blood, this is a polished reimagining of the Michael Myers mythos. The film begins with exactly what happened when the young Michael was taken to the emergency room by cops, then wisely takes a riff on the autumn farmland opening visuals of the fourth film before settling in to tell another side of the story.

Adding more authenticity to the film is the location. Shot at The Myers House NC, a life-size replica of the infamous house, located in rural Hillsborough, North Carolina. Several other films have been made there, including  Judith: The Night She Stayed HomeScarecrow at Midnight and Honeyspider.

I remember someone once saying of comic books, “Everybody is somebody’s favorite character, so writers should be careful with them.” That’s how I feel about this movie. There are numerous people who only enjoy the first film in this series, while others pick and choose favorites and folks like Becca love each and every one of them. It also all depends on when you were born, as for many, the fourth through six entries may have been the first ones they could experience first-hand. This movie feels like it was made for those that really came in the series in that era, but want to see more of side characters like Ben Tramer and Brady Brackett.

Your enjoyment of fan films will depend on how much you tie the characters into the actor’s playing them. Obviously, no one is ever going to be better than Donald Pleasance. But if you can get past that — and have sixty minutes or so of free time and have seen all the other movies inthis series — you can at least have a few new Halloween films to watch this year while waiting for the pandemic to end and Halloween Kills to be released.

You can watch this on YouTube and learn more at the official Facebook page.

2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 31: Happy Halloween A Michael Meyers Fan Film (2020)

31. I REMEMBER HALLOWEEN: Something from the Halloween franchise or anything with trick or treating in it. You did it! Another successful challenge achieved. Now you can stuff yourself with candy and listen to The Misfits.

Set within the main story of Halloween (2018), this fan-made film was released on the same weekend that Halloween Kills was due in theaters before COVID-19 made theaters an unsafe place to be.

This was written and directed by Courtlan Gordon and Jimmy Champane, with Never Hike Alone/Never Hike in the Snow filmmaker Vincenti DiSanti as The Shape. I really dug how the circular nature of this tale showed just how destructive Myers is and it definitely fits into the new film.

It’s short and sweet, filled with plenty of gore and other than some issues with audio mixing — it’s incredibly hot in some parts — it’s a really professional looking affair that has better stalk and slash moments than the real article.

So — if you’re missing the chance your chance to see something new in Haddonfield this year, this is a great chance to take a quick jaunt.

You can watch this on YouTube.

2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 30: Dark Dungeons (2014)

DAY 30. BRING IT ON HOME: Something filmed in Seattle.

I love Jack Chick.

Completely and utterly love everything he ever put out.

Dark Dungeons is one of his best tracts.

I went to a high school that had decided that Dungeons & Dragons was a gateway to Satan and banned it from being played. Imagine my surprise when I learned that RPGs were mostly arguing about rules, not getting laid and doing way too much math.

Did Jack Chick lie to me? I was hoping for an awesome underworld of murder and Satan and suicide and heavy metal and hot raven tressed Dungeon Mistresses ordering me around and I got a bunch of dudes drinking Mountain Dew and talking about Gelatinous Cubes.

Writer J. R. Ralls came up with the idea of filming an adaptation of this influential comic but didn’t follow through until he won $1,000 in a lottery. He asked Chick for permission and surprisingly got it and made the movie after a successful Kickstarter.

Made in Seattle, this is an incredibly faithful adaption of the comic that plays it completely straight, which is perfect. Trust me, I have read this so many times that I know it by heart. They even got the font right on Marcie’s suicide note!

Marilyn Manson, who knows quite a bit about the lure of Satan for 80’s teens, once stated, “If every cigarette you smoke takes seven minutes off of your life, every game of Dungeons & Dragons you play delays the loss of your virginity by seven hours.” Seeing as how I didn’t get laid until I was 24, you can only guess how many times I made Charisma rolls and battled Kobolds.

You can watch this on The Fantasy Network and learn more on the official site.

2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 30: Shredder Orpheus (1990)

DAY 30. BRING IT ON HOME: Something filmed in Seattle.

As we near the close of the Scarecrow Video Psychotronic Challenge, finding a movie shot in Seattle was a real, well, challenge. I didn’t want to do something easy, like Practical Magic, which isn’t really a psychotronic film either. And I’d already posted about FearThe ChangelingClass of 1999Ghost Dad and The Night Strangler, so I really wanted to find something left of center.

Enter Shredder Orpheus.

Made more than thirty years ago about a future that has never happened, this is a group of skaters and musicians that created something that has never been created before or since, a skate-rock opera.

Skateboarder/guitarist/revolutionary Orpheus and his gang of skaters must go from the Gray Zone into, well, Hell itself to save the world and his girl from the threat of television. Beyond showing a snapshot of Seattle’s counterculture — which would be its culture, right? — of the past, this movie also features a soundtrack created by Roland Barker (Ministry, Revolting Cocks), Bill Rieflin (Ministry, King Crimson), poet/performance artist Steven Jesse Bernstein, guitarist Dennis Rea and multi-instrumentalist Amy Denio. Robert McGinley was the auteur behind this movie, writing, producing, directing and starring in it. He’s still making cyberpunk films, as he put out Danger Diva in 2017.

How many post-apocalyptic skater industrial takes on the story of Orpheus and Eurydice are you going to find? Probably, well, exactly one. I’m sure that if you live in Seattle and don’t have a copy that Scarecrow probably has more than one available for rent.

To learn more and see it for yourself, check out the official site.

2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 30: Scorchy (1976)

DAY 30: BRING IT ON HOME: Something filmed in Seattle.

“She’s killed a man, been shot at, and made love twice already this evening…and the evening isn’t over yet!”

I mean, how am I not going to watch this movie after all that?

Man, American-International kept putting out awesome movies late into the 1970’s, with this Howard Avedis written, produced and directed caper (made back when he was still Hikmet Avedis). If you’re looking for more Avedis goodness (Goovedis?), I’d recommend The TeacherDr. MinxThe Fifth Floor, They’re Playing With Fire and the awesome Mortuary.

Jackie Parker (Connie Stevens!) is a cop by day and a drug smuggler by night, when she isn’t hooking up with Greg Evigan. She’s after drug dealer Philip Bianco (Ceaser Danova) and has to deal with the awesome William Smith as Carl, one of the henchmen, who leads her on a chase through the streets of Seattle that involves a dune buggy, a vehicle which seems quite out of place in the City of Flowers.

At some point in the 1980’s when this was released on VHS, the original Igor Kantor-supervised soundtrack was replaced with a Miami Vice inspired score, which is completely out of this world great.

Stevens had a clean image before this movie, so it must have been shocking to see her bed guys and suggest that her elder boss get some fellatio to improve his mood. It’s like this movie has the dialogue of an adult film without any of the actual penetration!

Actually, the only penetration is when Carl attacks Scorchy while she’s scoring with a guy, entering her Lake City home to shoot the guy in the ass cheek with a harpoon as if this was an Emerald City version of A Bay of Blood.

Man, I live in Pittsburgh and the movies that the world knows my hometown for all involve zombies, which is certainly an awesome thing, but if I were from Seattle, I would be quite honestly inordinately proud of having Scorchy made there. It’s a near-perfect drive-in movie and ends James Bond style with a barrage of cops descending on the drug dealer’s house and people being shotgun blasted left and right.

I wish Avendis made twenty sequels to this movie.

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.)