“You respect an adult? I need to get stoned.”
The kids aren’t alright. The 1986 film River’s Edge demonstrates a complex murderous scenario that exaggerates all parent’s fears about their children. A band of outcast high school students have serious problems after one of their friends kills his girlfriend and tells the rest of them about it. Most are disturbed about the killing, some want to turn him in and one is determined help the killer cover up the case.
While not discussing most of the kid’s lives, viewers get a real sense that all of the teens feel some sort of security in the group that is constantly smoking weed, ditching class and teasing each other. The tendency of kids in high school to pursue these activities is not uncommon by any means, but from the start of the film, the feeling is pushed that the relationship they don’t talk about actually holds some meaning to all of them. Their decision to not tell about the murder comes from Crispin Glover’s character who continues to say that they can’t turn their backs on the circle.
The roots of teenage film trace back to the the fifties when high schoolers were depicted as troubled menaces and unreachable by adults. Once the filmmakers started targeting the age group they were portraying, the depiction of how these teens acted changed as well. River’s Edge get back to playing on the adult fear that the kids cannot be controlled and will act without reasoning.
A scene that resurfaces throughout the film is the emotions of the teenagers. As demonstrated before in countless movies about youths growing up, River’s Edge shows how kids can be so indifferent or passionate about particular life circumstances. The young star studded cast is developed well with quick scenes showing them in a natural flashes.
The strongest scene in the film really pounds into the viewer how actually crazy teens can act. It contrasts two of them having sex in a park close to where their friend was murdered while the murder is talking and reliving the killing. From switching between the moment of lust and moment of terror, the movie demonstrates how emotion can swing in a drastic flurry so quickly.
By deconstructing the teen fantasy of a family of friends, we can see how the characters in River’s Edge act the way they did. Instead of immediately running to the police, they all felt some sense of responsibility and moral confusion. Most people have not been in similar situations but everyone has felt some obligation to a group, person or organization that at times, might have challenged their morals. Based on true events, the story takes the crazy teenage troupe to an infinite power and manages to once again scare the shit out of parents.