The 80's was definitely an era in cinema famous for its teen films. Not that that particular genre was the only one used during that era, but we can all agree about its dominance of the time. It seemed like every year there'd be another John Hughes flick that everybody would flock to and love. But for every happy and cheerful or poignant teen movie of that decade, there are at least a few disturbingly dark ones that come to mind. Heathers, a brilliant black comedy that definitely could be used as way to gauge people's sense of humor. River's Edge is another.
The movie starts out with a 12 year old delinquent throwing a doll off a bridge into a river. Then he hears somebody shouting. He looks over and sees a slacker named John standing by the bank screaming in the morning air. The kid hops on his bike and rides off. It's at this point we discover that John is standing over the naked corpse of his girlfriend. Her eyes are open, staring blankly at the sky. Her neck is purple and puffy. It's quite a disturbing sight. As the film progresses we're introduced to John's clique of friends. It's a group of five or six stoner burn-outs led by the brilliant Cripsin Glover and a surprisingly decent Keanu Reeves. John shows up at school and tells everybody that he killed his girlfriend. They all pretty much shrug it off as a joke until John takes them out to the river bed and shows them her body. The group responds pretty much to her death with complete apathy. They all make a vow not to tell anybody. But the guilt starts to tear away at a few of them. Then Crispin Glover goes into overdrive trying to help John cover up what he did. Add a messed up home life for Keanu Reeve's character and a fantastic performance from Dennis Hopper as a local drug dealer who supplies the burn-outs with their weed and you have what makes for one hell of a great little teen drama.
Obviously there is a lot going on in this one. And it's played out beautifully. There are some amazing performances from the young cast in this one. Like aforementioned Crispin Glover was beyond amazing. He plays a burned-out speed freak who goes to extreme lengths trying to help his friend cover up his unspeakable crime. Keanu Reeves turns in another Keanu Reeves performance, but this time it makes sense because he playing a burned-out stoner trying to come to terms with what his friend has done. Dennis Hopper turns in a vintage Hopper performance. But when the guy is on, like he is in this one, he's gold. Daniel Roebuck plays the murderous John and he plays a convincing cold-blooded psychopath. The guy really has some talent. Too bad it's been wasted on bit parts in movies like Final Destination.
I had seen this movie years ago, and I remember my parents talking about it when it came out back in '87. I noticed it on IFC the other night and decided to record it. I'm very glad that I did, because I had forgotten how truly amazing this flick is. I would HIGHLY recommend it to anybody out there willing to give a late 80's independent teen movie a chance. This is worth your time and it has definitely made its way into my top 20 favorite films of all-time.