River's Edge
January 23, 2015 7:59 PM   Subscribe

 
It is pretty damned dark...
posted by Windopaene at 8:12 PM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Tim Hunter, who directed River's Edge, also co-wrote that other Edge film, Over the Edge, which (climax aside) is pretty much the most accurate representation of teenage suburban ennui ever.

It's actually pretty weird that both these movies aren't way more popular.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:13 PM on January 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


I don't know why I was allowed to see it when it came out - I was 12 - but I did, and it gave me nightmares.
posted by desjardins at 8:18 PM on January 23, 2015


"Grab your nunchucks and your dad's car, I know where we can get a gun"
posted by stifford at 8:24 PM on January 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


I was the age as desjardins (still am) but didn't see it then. I do remember Ebert and Siskel championing it quite a bit on their show and it seeming, like many of the movies they were passionate about, the coolest thing in the world.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:34 PM on January 23, 2015


Dark doesn't even really cover it. Made me realize one should keep an eye on Crispin Glover. "You think this car runs on God's own methane?"
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:36 PM on January 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


For the award of darkest teen movie of all time, I submit the final 20 minutes of The Last American Virgin.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:47 PM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, Cool Papa Bell, but River's Edge makes Last American Virgin look like an Afterschool Special...
posted by genehack at 8:52 PM on January 23, 2015


I have always loved this movie. Because it is so dark. But not that dark. It kind of leaves the apparent indifference over seeing Jamie's corpse lying out there, like an open wound everyone is freaking out over. Like everyone's afraid of something, but they don't know what it is - parents, cops, other authority figures? Are we going to be in more trouble because we said something versus just not saying something and hoping someone in the adult world will eventually figure out what to do?

Everyone is freaking out on the inside, but trying to front some semblance of "OK, I know what we should do..." to their friends.

That's why I think Ebert was completely wrong here:

The difference is that the film feels a horror that the teenagers apparently did not.

What I got from the the movie is that they WERE horrified, but felt, rightly or wrongly, so failed by an adult world that they didn't know what the hell to do with the information they now had.

Made me realize one should keep an eye on Crispin Glover.

But yeah, Keanu Reeve's adequate but wooden acting throws into sharp relief the extent to which Crispin Glover got a little too into his character. Not that it needed emphasis, but it helps.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:53 PM on January 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


Goddamn, this was a great movie. So many quotable lines. Crispin Glover's purposeful overacting was perfect.
posted by extramundane at 8:53 PM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Tim Hunter, who directed River's Edge, also co-wrote that other Edge film, Over the Edge , which (climax aside) is pretty much the most accurate representation of teenage suburban ennui ever.

Just remember: a kid who tells on another kid is a dead kid. Now who's down for picking up some Feckweed later tonight?
posted by item at 8:53 PM on January 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


(I seriously wore copies of both those films out when I was in high school)
posted by item at 8:55 PM on January 23, 2015


Goddamn why did I bother looking Hunter up just now? It's not like I expected his career to have recovered since the last time I looked from the nose-dive it took into hackville.
posted by item at 9:00 PM on January 23, 2015


When I saw this movie I freaked out, because I was living in the neighborhood where it was shot. (Other things shot in the area include Memento, the original Teen Wolf and Sons of Anarchy.) The river has long since dried up, but the house made of cobblestones is still on the corner. The neighborhood seems even more dead-end and hopeless now in real life than it did in the movie.

I also freaked out because in junior high and high school I hung out with kids who would have fit right into the film. And there was a river right across the street from my house.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:01 PM on January 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


I just checked and this is not on Netflix but it is on Amazon Prime.
posted by desjardins at 9:05 PM on January 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


Loved that movie when it came out. I saw it in the theatre first, then it became one of those videos I rented once a year or so. Yeah, the characters wanted to do the right thing but had no idea what that was or how to go about it. I knew people like them, too.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:14 PM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Goddamn, this was a great movie. So many quotable lines.

Sort of.

Never saw the movie, but I remember seeing a very young Keanu Reeves on some talk show promoting this - and for some reason the host mentioned how great the writing was. And Keanu went to quote one of his lines, but then stopped - "wait, I can't say that on television." He started another line, then stopped again - "oh, wait, I can't say that either!" I think he went through another couple false starts before ascertaining that the only line he could quote on talk shows was "poke her with a stick!"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:39 PM on January 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


So many quotable lines.

"Why are you two such delinquents?"
"Because of our fucked up childhoods."

That's always the first thing that comes to mind when someone, with a straight face, refers to some young person as a delinquent. Which speaks to River's Edge in general. It's not as if it's revealing any deep dark secrets about anything. It's just not bothering to bullshit about what's actually going down out there in the shadows of suburbia.

It occurs to me I'm using the present tense. Has anything really changed?

The river has long since dried up, but the house made of cobblestones is still on the corner. The neighborhood seems even more dead-end and hopeless now in real life than it did in the movie.

only for the worse apparently.
posted by philip-random at 10:39 PM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I saw this on first release in the UK, very powerful. This was and is a terrific film, with great performances, beginning with Glover's, and including Josh Miller (Tim). And I was surprised that it disappeared off the radar as much as it did. Good to see that it is being re-released.
posted by carter at 11:02 PM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I really, really need to re-watch it. It came out when I was a sophomore, we all saw it and liked it, but did not understand at all what the controversy was. Or why the adults thought it was so dark. I just remember thinking, yeah, that was pretty realistic for a teen movie. It didn't even see that dark or shocking.

I wonder what my adult self will think.
posted by kanewai at 12:17 AM on January 24, 2015


Follow-up: bodies from Detroit were occasionally dumped in the corn fields in our town. Not a lot, maybe once every three or four years. They wouldn't be found until the snow melted. And I never saw one, but I know that I would have if one of my friends had called up and said, let's go. And the kids who did find the bodies were always heroes for a moment.
posted by kanewai at 12:27 AM on January 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


not like I expected his career to have recovered

He's directing a lot of TV, so ... that's not really a bad thing right now, is it? He's directed at least one episode of numerous shows that are fairly well worshipped in these parts. Considering that people like Soderbergh are quitting film in order to do television (!) this seems like an odd assessment. Current work is on Wayward Pines, which seems to have a crackling cast -- one Oscar winner, three Oscar nominees, and a BAFTA nominee. Maybe not turning in their best work (I guess it premieres soonish) but not exactly nowheresville (despite the show's setting being nowheresville).
posted by dhartung at 12:44 AM on January 24, 2015


I don't know, maybe I would've agreed with y'all with how good this movie is had I seen it at an impressionable age, but from the description it sound just like your usual Hollywood nihilism completed with fridged woman as macguffin to drive the plot and that sort of thing now sours me completely on any story.

It seems sensastionalist, rather than dark, a distraction of what actually made the eighties shitty: not this guff about a soulless new generation, or satanism or serial killing, but the deliberate hollowing out of industry all through the western world, the surpression of unions and th dismantling of the welfare state. Not to mention the dirty wars fought in freedom's name in Central America of course.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:29 AM on January 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't know, maybe I would've agreed with y'all with how good this movie is had I seen it at an impressionable age, but from the description it sound just like your usual Hollywood nihilism completed with fridged woman as macguffin to drive the plot and that sort of thing now sours me completely on any story.

frigid woman = dead girl? The "darkness" and moral panic angles are way overblown; it's basically a teen melodrama. It's flattering to teens because it shows them doing adult things and, you know, drama happens. But it has a lot of nice performances by an ensemble of character actors set in the sort of US working class milieu which isn't usually put on screen. It manages a kind of artlessness that comes off as genuine and also manages to add nuance to a lot of cliches while portraying things like teen sex in a surprisingly gentle way.

it's really not your usual Hollywood nihilism; all things considered, it's the kind of small film that will probably never get made again.

also it has one of the great lines of keanu's career: "Mother fucker, food eater"
posted by ennui.bz at 3:40 AM on January 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


"The things I do for my fucking friends!"

I was shown this film by some older friends when I was a sophomore or freshman in high school. We were obsessed with it and watched it more times than I can count. I found the first viewing very upsetting, but as with many films (Pulp Fiction was like this for me, too) subsequent viewings eliminated the horror and brought on the comedy. We'd quote the movie all day long. At one point we all knew every single line, I'm sure. These same friends had a dog they named Feck.
Every line in that movie was quotable for us.

Crispin Glover and Dennis Hopper are certainly highlights. I smoked a lot of pot at that age. OK, still smoke a lot--but back then it was a much more important part of my life. It was like the end all be all. Now it just takes the edge off a stressful day.

I DO think much of the film is about kids trying to make sense of their lives and their role in this tragedy in a world where all of the authority figures have their heads up their asses and no grasp of what it is that younger generation is going through.

Interestingly, the Dennis Hopper character, Feck, illustrates why his brand of crazy violence is different, more...substantive? than "Tullet=Toilet=John's". Feck is crazy, but at lest in his mind he has a reason for his actions, but John was looking for a rush--nothing more.

Feck: I put my gun to the back of her head, blew her brains right out the front. I was in love.
John:I strangled mine.
Feck: Did you love her?
John: She was OK.

When I listened to the Serial podcast about a high school girl's murder, allegedly at the hands of her high school boyfriend, I couldn't help but think of the River's Edge.

Your weed-buddy shows up at your house with the body of your friend in the trunk and you say, "OK, I'll get some shovels..." It seems surreal, but it is all too real. These things do happen, and young people on the cusp of adulthood really don't have the equipment to handle such things. They're smoking weed, drinking, having sex--so much of their lives are secret from the adults they know. Why would this be any different?

For me, it's telling that Feck (an adult, but very different from the other adults in their lives) is the moral equalizer at the end of story. He kills John because he feels like it has to be done. He can't relate to John, his motivation, his lack of empathy. "He didn't love her."
posted by apis mellifera at 4:16 AM on January 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


God I loved this movie, I've seen it probably 50 times, since it was on heavy rotation on one of the movie channels we had when I lived at home. I haven't seen it in years because I am scared it won't hold up to the masterpiece I remember it being.

"I remember thinking, there's my leg, I wonder if there's any beer in that can? And then the ambulance came along and ran right over it! Wasted that leg!"
posted by biscotti at 4:21 AM on January 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


When Counting Crows hit big in 1993, I spent several weeks convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that Adam Duritz was the kid who played Keanu's little brother.

(Historical note: This was before we all had phones with tiny computers in them where we could look stuff up in, like, four seconds.)
posted by Sweetie Darling at 6:29 AM on January 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


google is not returning the lat and lon where the murder occurred in Milpitas. There are no rivers in Milpitas. The only running water closed to Milpitas is Berryessa Creek which isn't actually on the map inside the city limits and it doesn't even look like it has any water in it 365 days a year.

Does anybody know the location where the body was discovered?
posted by bukvich at 6:42 AM on January 24, 2015


I watched this about 25 years years ago, and literally all I remember is being annoyed by Crispin Glover's acting. I'll have to give it another shot.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:07 AM on January 24, 2015


River's Edge could have been the direct inspiration for Twin Peaks. There's too many similarities to be ignored; the entry point of a dead girl on the boundary between water and land, a subculture of teenage criminality that has to skirt around dominant yet ignorant adults, a veneer of normalcy that conceals supernatural levels of insanity.

Even more interesting to consider is how directly Twin Peaks inspired the X-Files, the latter which directly appropriated the character of Agent Cooper, and had more than a few episodes featuring alienated teens who inhabit a radically different reality than their parents.

So this little throwaway indy flick was possibly responsible for a massive cultural shift in American entertainment, an influence that has lasted for decades.
posted by Operation Afterglow at 7:20 AM on January 24, 2015 [9 favorites]


It is a hell of a good film. Also a big thing for me as an angsty teenager. I think Dennis Hopper's performance really cements the film, he's such a creepy and weird character. I think of this as his only good film from this decade, being mostly impossible to work with for being such a fuckup. But then I look and see Blue Velvet is the exact same year. And a nice twin to Rivers Edge as movies go.
posted by Nelson at 8:19 AM on January 24, 2015


> (I seriously wore copies of both those films out when I was in high school)

Add in Spheeris' Suburbia and you have the triumvirate of my adolescence.
posted by davelog at 8:26 AM on January 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


But then I look and see Blue Velvet is the exact same year. And a nice twin to Rivers Edge as movies go.

strangely enough, they appear to share the same cinematographer...

if you like, you can sort of see it as a prequel to My Own Private Idaho. Although it was shot in California, it could stand in for the hinterlands of the pacific northwest.
posted by ennui.bz at 8:29 AM on January 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Does anybody know the location where the body was discovered?

I was about 12 at the time and was living in Milpitas. A lot of my friends had siblings at Milpitas High and the teen stoner with fuck-up parents down street from me was rumored to have seen the body. I wasn't allowed to go (and was too scared to go) near that house so I don't know for sure. Anyway, the body was dumped in the foothills somewhere near Ed Levin Park as I recall.

Obviously, there was a fair amount of horror in the community when this happened, but by the time my parents moved and pulled me out, I was in junior high and the violence and moral emptiness of teenage suburbia was already directly affecting me, and of course my parents had no idea. Just that my grades were slipping, I had a bad attitude, and came home smelling like cigarettes. Their conclusion: move to the country and send me away to Catholic school. Ironically, this worked. Waking up closer to the beauty of nature instead of tract housing, and then commuting to a school downtown where there was culture and diversity and adults who were more interesting and interested than the ones who'd raised me was exactly the thing.

In summary, Rush's Subdivisions was a big hit at that moment in time among 12-16 year old boys and it was right on the money.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:51 AM on January 24, 2015 [8 favorites]


"Mother fucker! Food eater!"
posted by Legomancer at 9:07 AM on January 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


Bully
posted by Zerowensboring at 9:27 AM on January 24, 2015


Tim Hunter, who directed River's Edge, also co-wrote that other Edge film, Over the Edge , which (climax aside) is pretty much the most accurate representation of teenage suburban ennui ever.

Just remember: a kid who tells on another kid is a dead kid.


Wow. Despite being a big Nation of Ulysses fan I had no idea that that was what this song was referring to. Now I really need to see both of these "Edge" films.
posted by mcmile at 9:29 AM on January 24, 2015


Sentencing a 16-year-old 25 years to life (and he has been locked up for 34 years) is not usual. I wonder what the guy's parole hearings are like.
posted by bukvich at 9:40 AM on January 24, 2015


If this movie is actually good, then I'd say the Slate author did it a disservice. I would never voluntarily watch what he was describing, it sounds boring as shit.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 11:27 AM on January 24, 2015


River's Edge could have been the direct inspiration for Twin Peaks. There's too many similarities to be ignored; the entry point of a dead girl on the boundary between water and land, a subculture of teenage criminality that has to skirt around dominant yet ignorant adults, a veneer of normalcy that conceals supernatural levels of insanity.

in other words, the reality of 1980s suburbia ... at least as I noted it at the time. I mean, there were even two cases of kids being killed and lots of other kids knowing about it, and making a point of going to see the bodies. And yeah, one of the bodies was eventually found right next to a river.

Also, Stand By Me.*

* which I would have to rate as maybe one-tenth of the movie that River's Edge is, getting profoundly lost as it does in irredeemable nostalgia and sentimentality. Steven King's novella (The Body) is magnitudes better.
posted by philip-random at 12:14 PM on January 24, 2015


I never saw River's Edge, but damn I could relate to the feelings of teen emptiness in the early/mid 80s. At the time, nuclear war with the Soviet Union seemed all but inevitable. With the specter of Mutually Assured Destruction hanging over our heads, nothing else really seemed to matter. And I'll second Slarty Bartfast's assertion that Rush's Subdivisions perfectly captured the sense of suburban teen alienation.
posted by oozy rat in a sanitary zoo at 2:25 PM on January 24, 2015


I saw River's Edge as a double feature with Blue Velvet at the local art house. It disturbed me way more. I remember being completely underwhelmed by the acting, and overwhelmed by the message.
posted by Xoc at 4:59 PM on January 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Does anybody know the location where the body was discovered?

bukvich, I actually used to know the guy on whom one of the characters in the movie was based. (He said, unsurprisingly, that the movie changed quite a lot of the details.) If you're really interested, I could probably find out.
posted by asterix at 6:59 PM on January 24, 2015


(Actually, "used to know" probably oversells it. He and I were in the same relatively small online community and we have a bunch of friends in common.)
posted by asterix at 7:00 PM on January 24, 2015


"cats have claws!"
posted by any major dude at 12:54 PM on January 25, 2015


Watched this last night after reading this thread. It was bizarre and awesome. I knew Tim mostly from his role in Teen Witch (a great film due to being a terrible film) so it was difficult to see him as a kid with a fucked-up childhood who would shoot someone. But yay, thanks for the intro, metafilter!
posted by holyrood at 5:44 PM on January 25, 2015


MartinWisse: " completed with fridged woman as macguffin to drive the plot "

ennui.bz: "frigid woman = dead girl?"

"Fridged", not "frigid". From "woman in a refrigerator": "...the use of the death or injury of a female comic book character as a plot device in a story starring a male comic book character."
posted by Bugbread at 5:49 PM on January 25, 2015


I watched this film at least once a month as a teenager - my friend Ken and I loved it, especially if we were high. I grew up in a rural, isolated community in Northeast Texas, and the kids in the film could have been my best friends. I think that's why we liked it - these kids acted just like us. I never killed anyone, or anything like that. Not really. But I don't remember us thinking it was "dark" or "scary." We saw it as familiar territory, and loved it because of that.
posted by bradth27 at 5:25 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


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