STRAIGHT EDGE KEGGER (2019)
Directed & written by Jason Zink
Starring Cory Kays, Evey Reidy, Julio Alexander, Sean Jones, Warren Aitken, Travis Manners, Joe Bachan, Jason Zink, Lev Er, Keaton Bresnahan, Emily Barry, Billy Graham, Kendal Romero, Miranda Howard, Sid Mullendore
Find out more about this film here!
I snoozed on STRAIGHT EDGE KEGGER as it was released last year, but it’s definitely worth mentioning, now that I did take the time to catch up with it. Those who don’t know about the straight edge culture, basically, they are folks who follow the punk and metal scene in music, but instead of following the sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll mantra, they’ve decided to not do drugs or alcohol. This is all fine and dandy and worth supporting. While I myself am a huge fan of alcohol of all kinds and have partaken in my fair share of drugs, I respect those who choose to live the life of the straight and narrow. The problem is that not only do the straight edgers choose not to drink or do drugs, but they feel the need to bully, attack, and beat up anyone who thinks differently than them. And that’s…something I really can’t get behind. These extremists really exist. If you find yourself beating your message into someone, no matter what your choice of beliefs, you’ve crossed a line and what might have started out as a virtuous crusade has quickly become a villainous path.
That’s the overall theme of STRAIGHT EDGE KEGGER which follows the story of Brad (Cory Kays), an avid music fan who has chosen to be a member of a straight edge gang. But the longer he spends with this group, lead by aggro knuckle-dragger James (Julio Alexander) who is shown at the beginning attacking a singer on stage when he plays a song with references to alcohol, the less he feels like he’s picked the right side. After witnessing James bully a kid behind a show who has obviously drunken too much, Brad seems to have finally had enough with the straight edge lifestyle which seems to have become as fascist and regulated as the society it is rebelling against. Brad begins palling around with good time guy and heavy drinker Sean (Sean Jones) and spending less with his bully straight edge friends. He even begins drinking and actually letting loose and having a good time for a change instead of setting up military-like operations to take on drinkers at the next punk show. Brad even meets a nice girl named Maybe (Evey Reidy). But James and the rest of the straight edgelords don’t take kindly to those who ditch their gang and plan to go out and actually choose to think a bit individually. So the gang shows up wearing masks and brandishing weapons to a big party thrown by Maybe and ruthlessly killing anyone with booze on their breath.
Now, I have straight edge friends and have had interesting conversations with them about the lifestyle and some of the more extreme factions of it, all the while whilst sipping a whiskey. I’ve been known to be somewhat of a mediator between the extremes. In school, I was buds with the nerds, the jocks, the stoners, the preps, and the outcasts. And while I know some of the straight edgers, this film made me wonder how this film is taken in the straight edge community. Writer/director Jason Zink seems to have done his homework and knows the lifestyle pretty well. Nothing seems to be exaggerated apart from the mass slaughter that occurs late in the movie. This seems like a dangerous type of film to make in this day and age when everyone retreats to their corners whenever any belief or thought process is challenged. So even before I offer up one bit of criticism, I do admire the balls Zink possesses to make a film of this sort and hope he hasn’t been cancelled or doxed or faced some kind of backlash for making STRAIGHT EDGE KEGGER.
The film is more of an immersive deep dive into the punk and straight edge culture than anything else. It takes its sweet time to get to the gory and violent stuff, choosing to really make the viewer understand where Brad is coming from and the methodology behind straight edge culture. No one seems to be acting and while that might make the film feel low budget, it also lends a strong sense of authenticity to the whole thing. Because of that, STRAIGHT EDGE KEGGER fits perfectly in with such Punksploitation classics as 1983’s SUBURBIA, the original REPO-MAN, DEAD-END DRIVE-IN, THE CLASS OF 1984, and even more recently THE GREEN ROOM and UNCLE PECKERHEAD. These films really feel like the director, the cast, and the crew live and breathe the lifestyle and more importantly, respect it. So as an in depth view of a specific punk culture, STRAIGHT EDGE KEGGER works masterfully. This is a low fi film and while all of the acting is not amazing, it worked well enough to emotionally guide me, someone who isn’t into the New York straight edge culture, along into the world they live in and understand both extremes of the argument. That’s a testament to Zink’s storytelling ability as it offers up an unflinching look at the lifestyle, warts and all.
The gore and mayhem do eventually show up and while I was wrapped up in Brad’s story, I did wonder internally when the hell this was going to turn into a horror movie. When it does, it actually kind of creeps up on you and though low budget, some really gnarly effects are used as the straight edgers descend upon the party. It’s ground-level grungy action that reminded me of some of the best Walter Hill films of the seventies and eighties and really works to rev this film up to a fever pitch.
This is a fantastic little film with a brave and bold message that is pretty uncommon in most cinema today. I recommend STRAIGHT EDGE KEGGER to free thinkers everywhere. It’s also got an amazing score by some rock solid punk bands like xRepresentx, Noose, Shannon & the Clams, and UGLYBoNES. If you’re a fan of punk music and interested in open minded conversations about culture and the extremes it sometimes devolves to STRAIGHT EDGE KEGGER is definitely a film worth seeking out!