STRAIGHT EDGE KEGGER
Evolving from a short of the same name, “Straight Edge Kegger” is the debut stand alone Horror/Thriller feature length film from Writer/Director, Jason Zink (Night Terrors) and Weird On Top Pictures. SEK is set in the niche landscape of the independent punk rock music scene, where Brad, a young straight-edger (played by Cory Kays) looks to breakaway from his likeminded group of friends, headed by controlling James (Julio Alexander). His attempt to part ways with the militant group is ultimately met with a certain level of hostility as tensions eventually reach breaking point at a suburban house party where all hell breaks loose. The film also stars Evey Reidy, Sean Jones, Warren Aitken, Travis Manners, and Joe Bachan.
Straight Edge Kegger initially jumped out at me for a couple of reasons – the most obvious being its catchy title. Although more chiefly it was because I, myself, was a straight edge kid (for lack of a better term) all through my teen’s and 20’s. Truth be told, in my day (not all that long ago) it was pretty much just a label used to identify those who didn’t drink or do drugs. For me personally, it wasn’t ever about any kind of statement. It was just simply that I didn’t like the taste of alcohol (and still don’t haha), nor did I have any interest in experimenting with drugs. Now I know there was a whole genre movement based around “straight edge” and all that it supposedly entails, but to me it basically meant you preferred clean living – that was about the extent of it. As luck would have it, Straight Edge Kegger takes place in the world of that movement and touches on the lifestyle of those immersed in it.
After delving into the behind the scenes featurette on the DVD, I could clearly Zink had a very hands on approach to what was ultimately a DIY, low-budget project. SEK is a mostly self-funded film where in which a vast majority of it was filmed in and around Jason’s house in Indiana. Even some of the casts respective wardrobe came from his own closet, so you’ve got to admire that level of dedication toward something you know you’re unlikely to get any kind of monetary return on. The film’s opening credits are interestingly presented and cleverly dispersed among footage at a club during a live punk show from thrash band, “Uglybones”. It’s a bit of a manic introduction but one that seems befitting of the overall tone of the film. The duo of DP’s credited with the cinematography present us with a mostly handheld guerilla style of filmmaking, which in the case works fairly well. In addition, the 70’s inspired color grade makes for a nice touch. The audio track is quite solid, other than the odd bout of what was probably accidental background noise (I can certainly relate to the battle with sound whilst on set). The injection of some escalating synthesizer and guitar in the score helps complement the layer of distrust that builds between Brad and James in the first act. The collection of performances are serviceable and there is a sizeable chunk of action in the latter part of the second act and into the third. I commend Jason on building a surprisingly large body count, it’s just a bit of a shame that we don’t get to see a whole lot of it. Aside from a few quick kills, most all of the violence takes place off-screen.
One of the issues I have with Straight Edge Kegger rests with with both the music itself, and how it fit in the overall audio mix. Keep in mind that I’ve been a punk rock fan since way back when. But with that said, both the live music and soundtrack in this film just weren’t for me. I was hoping for bands or songs more along the lines of those from “Anti-Flag” or “NOFX”, or any other number of those types of artists. The music is always going to be a personal preference but here it was more of a chore to get through than I would’ve liked. For a majority of the 78 minute run-time the music sits too loud in the mix, even drowning out some of what is being said. I also noticed a high pitch screech throughout an external scene in which James belittles a fellow bar patron. There’s other distracting inconsistencies, such as a random section of what sounded like jazz music, and by the time the end comes around the score virtually spazzes out into white noise – problematic considering this is a film in which music is a focal point. Over the course of the second and third acts I felt as if there was quite a lack of urgency from the party-goers given the fashion in which the situation escalates. You can probably put some of that down to an inexperienced cast as well as perhaps some absent nuance from Zink’s script. On the fx front, there is some practical blood spray in a few of the action sequences but I was sort of left wanting for a larger part of it. Coming to understand Jason’s intentions for the film, I can understand why less of an emphasis was placed on the blood and guts of it all though.
I also take a bit of an issue with the idea of conformity or not conforming being depicted as a joke in one way or the other. After coming to realize his current station in life, and with the guidance of a friend (if you want to call it guidance), Brad looks to do a complete backflip and abandon all those things he’d previously once held true. The problem is that it’s depicted in such a black and white fashion in SEK. A way in which it implies that he was somehow missing out on so much that life had to offer before finally embracing the change that is drinking (as opposed to not drinking). Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if by being a non-drinker I necessarily take offence to that particular specific, but what I will say is that the choice to consume or not consume liquid in a glass bottle doesn’t automatically define who you are or diminish any of the attributes that make someone who they are.
Straight Edge Kegger is an interesting little indie film from a passionate and seemingly down to earth Writer/Director in Jason Zink. I never saw the original short film so I have no comparison to make, but I had no reservations with doing my bit to support local and independent film by picking up a DVD copy of this energetic punk rock film, and I think you should do the same. Despite the roughness of its edges, consisting of some fx that don’t quite fully come together, a less than stellar set of music selections, and a poor mix to boot, there’s still enough TLC shown to the thriller aspect and the movie making itself to ensure it’s worthy of 80 minutes of your time. I think the pacing works, the technical elements are solid, and the actors do more than enough with the material, and that’s all you can really ask for when you’re making independent films. If you’re interested in checking this one out, there’s a link below to the official trailer. The film is now available online and through various streaming platforms.
Straight Edge Kegger – 5.5/10