When D.C.’s Minor Threat released their seminal song “Straight Edge” in 1981, lyricist/singer Ian MacKaye’s effectively launched a shot across the bow of the overarching ethos of the punk scene that deemed that the only way to have a good time was to get wasted. “I’ve got better things to do. Than sit around and fuck my head…Snort white shit up my nose. Pass out at the shows. I’ve got the straight edge!,” he roared. For many of us growing up in the hardcore scene at the time, this was a powerful message sorely needed in the lockstep, cocaine-fueled ‘80s.
Unfortunately, as with many elements of youth culture, some idiots took MacKaye’s message too far — twisting this revolutionary idea into an excuse to claim the holier-than-thou high ground and beat the crap out of kids having a drink or a smoke at the local show. Jason Zink’s new indie flick Straight Edge Kegger, takes this premise to its extreme conclusion with a gang of straight edge mouthbreathers raining murder and mayhem down upon those around them. While obviously influenced by the superb and genuinely terrifying Green Room, Zink’s flick is a one-note, tedious affair that reaches for the shivers but ends pissing all over the audience.
“…takes this premise to its extreme conclusion with a gang of straight edge mouthbreathers raining murder and mayhem down upon those around them…”
The flick starts off at all-ages club where a band is raging through its set while James and his gang of droog-like straight-edge followers — including Brad, Manners, Tricky, and Boomer — hang menacingly on the periphery of the stage. During a brief pause, James warns the singer not play a tune extolling the virtues of partying. In a defiant fashion, the band breaks into the song anyway and James and the gang begin doling out a little ultra-violence to the band and surrounding the crowd. At some point point, the melancholy Brad breaks out and leaves through the club’s back door where he encounters the film’s merry prankster, Sean. Portly, with huge plugs in his ears and a drink in hand, the ever observational Sean remarks that Brad and his friends don’t seem to be having too much fun. He engages in a little lackluster debate with Sean about the virtues/bummers of being straight edge. Brad eventually bails but it’s clear that the fire that animated his adherence to the movement is dimming.
Soon enough, Brad is backsliding on the straight edge lifestyle. He begins blowing off James and his crew, spends more time with Sean, and (shocker) starts drinking and going to parties. At one point, Brad’s sorta girlfriend Maybe (perhaps a reference to Alia Shawkat’s character in Arrested Development) asks him what made him “break edge.” This was one of the better points in the film as it reminded me of Brandon Routh’s vegan boyfriend in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World who breaks “vegan edge” and is subsequently drained of all his veganic powers. But I digress.
“…an ugly little flick — driven home by a cruel coda at the film’s end…”
In its third act, the film slips into horror territory when a furious James decides it’s time to take it to the next level. Donning Halloween masks armed with an arsenal of stabby things, his gand attacks a party at a local punk squat and begin cross-bowing, bludgeoning, slicing and dicing the partiers in horrible fashion. It’s then up to Brad, Maybe, and Sean to fight back James and save the day from these straight-edgers-turned-homicidal-maniacs.
While there is a nugget of a good idea about how noble philosophies can twisted into something horrible, Straight Edge Kegger ultimately is a downer that has little new or profound to say. It’s an ugly little flick— driven home by a cruel coda at the film’s end — handicapped by its fractured narrative, hamfisted performances, and uneven pacing. I’m all for D.I.Y./indie films about America’s seemingly limitless musical subcultures but Straight Edge Kegger isn’t worth the price of admission (if that’s your cup of tea, check out DOA, The Decline of Western Civilization, or if you’re of strong constitution, Hated: GG Allin & The Murder Junkies). In retrospect, the music by a slew of hardcore bands including UGLYBoNES, Noose, Televised Suicide, Shannon and the Clams, Sluts, etc. was the best part of the flick. A documentary about the scene that spawned them would be something that I’d wait in line for.
Straight Edge Kegger (2019) Written and Directed by Jason Zink. Starring Cory Kays, Julio Alexander, Evey Reidy, Sean Jones, Warren Aitken, Travis Manners, and Jason Zink.
3 out of 10 stars