By DEIRDRE CRIMMINS
STRAIGHT EDGE KEGGER
Starring Cory Kays, Evey Reidy, Julio Alexander
Written and Directed by Jason Zink
Aside from GREEN ROOM, few films get punk sensibility and sense of community right. Perhaps more critical to the genre potential in these circles is the reality that punk is not a monolithic scene, and in-fighting between factions is ripe for cinematic exploitation. Rather than looking at the skinheads versus decent humans, STRAIGHT EDGE KEGGER shows the tension between straight edge punks and punks who enjoy their drinks and drugs, with deadly consequences.
Starting at an UGLYBoNES show, STRAIGHT EDGE KEGGER shows some excellent concert footage before stage diving into the story. James (Julio Alexander) doesn’t want the band playing their more booze-focused songs and takes one kid out of the show for wearing a pro-Trump shirt. It is clear that James thinks he calls the shots around here. His good friend Brad (Cory Kays) reluctantly backs up his friend, though he is clearly kinder about the people on the receiving end of their hard lines. James and Brad are straight edge and proud of it.
As James’s bad attitude and power hunger drives a wedge between him and Brad, a friendship emerges between Brad and mustachioed fun guy Sean (Sean Jones). Sean is vocally not straight edge, and his relationship with Brad angers James in more ways than one. When Brad finds himself at a house party with Sean and a pretty lady (Evey Reidy) one night, James is not interested in playing nice.
Taking on elements of YOU”RE NEXT and just about every other home invasion film STRAIGHT EDGE KEGGER tries its best to balance lost of blood with a little humor. There are some fun moments of mayhem amidst the assault on the house, along with some creepy masked figures on men who take themselves way too seriously.
Ultimately, the strengths in STRAIGHT EDGE KEGGER lead to its weaknesses. The DIY aesthetic and attitude make it easy to get to know the characters early in the film. We get to spend time with James and Brad as they hang out and plan shows. Seeing their dynamic both together and separate really help us get to know them organically. As their friendship changes it makes sense that James is upset because we feel like we know him, and we understand his history and his pain. When he then turns this pain into the will to destroy Brad and dozens of others it is a huge leap beyond what he seems capable of. This surprise makes the shift in personality questionable.
Mechanically, there are some issues in STRAIGHT EDGE KEGGER that are not directly related to the microbudget. The house in the final showdown is never formally laid out on camera. You know that typical tracking shot the follows the main character when they enter a party? That serves to give the audience their bearings so that when things turn sour later, we know where the rooms are and where the bad guys are coming from. We never really get to have a solid grasp on what room is where, which makes it difficult to understand how the invasion is going down. As the victims are hunted we have no way to know which room is next to which, and this just makes the final showdown confusing rather than terrifying.
But in the end, just like seeing a band at a house party, you forgive the technical issues and you just let yourself have fun. STRAIGHT EDGE KEGGER certainly has fun with the music and the mayhem.