D. Peter Filardi
This fairly serious attempt to make a dramatic film out of the true crime book “Say You Love Satan” is actually pretty good. It is the fourth attempt to tell the story of suburban Satanist killer Ricky Kasso falling behind Tommy Turner's 1987 WHERE EVIL DWELLS (which was never properly finished due to the drug addictions of many people involved), 1994's MY SWEET SATAN by Underground auteur Jim VanBebber which is heavily fictionalized but still the best of the bunch (and I worked on extensively as a crew person and can be seen in if you look quickly) and the 1998 film BLACK CIRCLE BOYS which is not too bad either but nose dives in the third act with a completely bogus resolution.
But for what it is worth this film seems to the the closest to the facts by all accounts. I personally have not read the book, nor am I up on the real case outside of seeing the pretty lame documentary SATAN IN THE SUBURBS so I can't comment too much on how much it keeps to reality. I can say that the feel of the film is a naturalistic one, with acting that is not over the top, and an eye toward realistic location work. The film is set in 1983 small town where there is nothing to do but get high and listen to rock music. This is where we meet our lead characters (names changed from the real ones) Ricky Cowen (Vincent Kartheiser) a high school kid with heavy emotional problems. He is being dropped off to the local teen group for drug users and troubled kids. Here he meets Tommy Portelance (Chad Christ). They don't make friends right away, but bond later at school over the fact they both like to smoke pot and both find the girl in group attractive. Soon they both are friends and sneaking off to get high. One day Ricky sneaks off to check out the girl of his dreams in the library while fucked up on angel dust and ends up spending the entire day reading witchcraft books instead and it bends his mind to Satanism. He meets the local loony Pat Pagan (an over acting Kevin Gage) in the local occult shop and soon he is dabbling in black magic, trying to raise demons and getting his friends involved in the occult. He is also pounding harder and harder drugs along the way. Soon Ricky and Tommy have decided they are full fledged satanists, with Ricky in particular buying into the life. During a bad acid trip he sees demons and then Jesus and attempts to kill himself. He claims Jesus found out he saw the light in Satan and tried to kill him. Tommy and Ricky decide to flee to California to meet Tommy's real father since he is adopted. To raise the money to start selling mescaline at inflated prices. A friend of theirs rips them off in a deal which sets the scene for the murder they end up being famous for.
For the most part the film is anything but a horror film, it is more a dark slice of teenage life with the trappings of occultism surrounding it. Anyone who grew up in the 80's will recognize the music, hair styles and jean jackets. That general malaise of being an outcast teenager in the 80's where you didn't fit in and the music of Judas Priest could easily be telling you to pick up a gun and waste some motherfuckers. But of course smoking all that angel dust could have a LOT to do with that too. RICKY 6 goes a long way to getting those details right. An early scene where Ricky is playing catch with his step father is one such scene. His Step Dad purposefully hits him with the ball and Ricky tries to run off, but the man grabs him and wrestles him to the ground yelling at him about how he wont throw a temper tantrum about every little thing. It is a power play in front of the whole family and you can easily imagine the dick doing this often. It is a scene that went down in suburbia all the time. The kind of thing that drove teens into drugs, fights and violence all their own. Still does every day. On the contrary the movie has several fantasy sequences that work in varying amounts. The first two that deal with Ricky's early paranoia and introduction to Satanism don't really work and come off forced. The meeting Jesus scene and later an effects heavy hallucination of his parents dead and demons in his home is completely off putting. But much later right after the murder he hallucinates he is walking through hell and comes up to Satan sitting up on a huge stump. This bit of fantasy is truly stunning and one of the most effective moments in the entire film. For one, the devil they have created is one of the most simple yet frightening creations I have seen in a movie. The whole scene works psychologically and as just simple scary imagery. Later there is one more hallucination where he imagines a party scene where the demons are asking him to kill himself that works well too.
But the movie is not without some major faults. The first big one is the casing of lead actor Vincent Kartheiser. His performance is actually pretty good. It is certainly shaded well, and he goes along way to make Ricky sympathetic. But the problem is that I never bought him as the kind of kid that the other kids would follow, which is what happens. He is too goofy, too wholesome. He is just the wrong guy in the part. He would have been good in the Tweasel role, the kid they ultimately kill. In fact when the movie starts I thought that was who he was supposed to be. Chad Christ as Tommy is very good and I believed him, the lead role needed someone more edgy like him in the lead. There is also some love interest that takes up the mid section of the film that is just dead weight, it goes nowhere and fills very little purpose. Finally the biggest problem is the final murder scene. It simply isn't vicious enough. Granted I am not the right person to give an unbiased review of this as I worked on another film of this story and the murder scene we worked on is widely considered among the most violent ever shot. I don't know what the real life details were but even if they are somewhere in the middle of the two films, this movie pulls back by taking the point of view of the side lined characters who are on drugs, thus being able to play it out in a surreal manner. It soft peddles the scene, confuses it at times and robs it of the final narrative punch.
For the most part RICKY 6 is a fine film with a lot to offer. It really is too bad it isn't available to the general public. Though I can't imagine how audiences in 2000 would have reacted in the post Columbine panic. I have heard that is part of why the distributor pulled its release though I cannot find any actual proof of that. I have also read on several internet boards that the producer is in Jail for some sort of money scheme and that is why the movie is unreleased. Once again I have no hard proof of that as well, so who knows if that is fact. Third unfounded reason is that I have heard there were music rights issues as this is filled to the brim with 80's hair metal such as DIO and IRON MAIDEN and lots of others and there has been talk that not all of that music got properly cleared at some point. But that seems silly as it could have simply been replaced. None of it is integral to the film. The movie is all over torrents and grey market sites and even You tube in a really crappy version (but you kids love watching movies on the you tube anyway!) so check it out. It is worth the effort to track down.
Review © Andrew Copp
Here is Tommy Turner's Unfinished version of the same story
WHERE EVIL DWELLS