Saturday, August 20, 2011

My Sweet Satan (1994)

He served and died for his master...or so he thinks

The first time I saw this 19 minute short prior to finding it on DVD was around the early 2000s in a heavily bootlegged VHS tape through a fellow metalhead due to the soundtrack having a few extreme metal bands. At the time I thought it was just a low-budget exploitation piece but little did I know that it was based on the real life case of a 17 year old kid from New York named Ricky Kasso. In the film he's known as Ricky Kasslin and lives in Dayton, Ohio. Jim Van Bebber, who would go on to do "The Manson Family," would not only direct and write this but also step in as the main performer with drawn-on tattoos and a wild haircut--that looks in the way of Anthony Kiedis in "Point Break"--to show for his efforts at portraying this fractured individual who left a small stain on this Earth.

What works about this film is that it takes the perspective of multiple sides as to who was involved. There's enough room that a viewer can decide if they want to completely lambaste any and all involved, or be sympathetic, or possibly both. The devil worshipping aspect is brought a little closer to home and I'm sure can put a lot of people on edge. Yeah, occultists in old Hammer films with black robes and a certain precise order to their shadowy practices is one thing, but having an unsupervised kid running the streets and hanging out in local cemeteries is a lot more unpredictable and closer to your backyard. Except the film isn't mainly about that per se--even if it didn't hold back on the "praise Satans"--as it didn't try and show it was an epidemic that needs to have something done about it. It was a special set of circumstances that probably won't happen in the same way again. This is more about a delusional, misguided and rebellious kid who makes up his own rules and takes what he does to the absolute extreme, which ultimately leads to his end. Whether it would disobeying his parents and living on the streets, destroying property, fighting, doing excessive drugs, and then the main clincher being a quick but still brutal torture and murder over a prior dispute. One way of looking at it is he only lived 17 years on this Earth but lived it up by breaking whatever rules and deemed morals he could. He'll never see tomorrow, but what more does tomorrow hold in store for him?

The production values aren't stunning but this makes it a little more realistic that there are all unknown actors, real locations and natural mistakes. The acting is the equivalent of the public broadcasting channel for all those that are just used to fancy Hollywood movies, and the picture quality looks like somewhere in the '70s despite obvious trends in the '90s running rampant. Regardless of what comes out of their mouths everybody still looks the part. The atmosphere in this short essentially captures what was apparently going through Kasslin's head. The story is pretty straightforward but there are still various shots and snippets of dialogue to get a feel for his demeanor, motivations and lifestyle. There's some narration overtop to explain what the people were thinking at that time and how they would have done it differently after the fact. It goes to show how someone can get caught up in something without even realizing what they're doing because they're so directly in the moment.

Rating: 7/10

Director: Jim Van Bebber (Deadbeat at Dawn)
Stars: Jim Van Bebber, Terek Puckett, Mike Moore
Link: IMDB, Real life story

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