River's Edge is directed by Tim Hunter, written by Neal Jimenez and stars tons of great young actors with familiar faces. It also stars Dennis Hopper This movie clings to the line right between teen melodrama and cinematic brilliance. It never quite achieves either, but it also never goes over to the melodrama side.
The pre-pubescent Tim (Joshua John Miller) is a young punk who hangs around and is heavily influenced by a local group of high school kids. In the film's opening sequence, Tim is standing on a bridge and witnesses John (Daniel Roebuck) sitting on the river bank screaming. It looks like something or someone is laying next to him.
In a scene that follows, it gave me the feeling that the young kid was kind of in awe or fascinated by what he witnessed. Tim's purpose in this movie seems to be that of a fly on the wall. But a very impressionable fly who will no doubt make decisions that will probably lead him to exactly where the rest of these older kids are. Tim sees and hears absolutely everything, but he manages to remain all but invisible to the rest of the group.
The next day at school, John brags (in a very nonchalant and emotionless way) that he killed Jamie (Danyi Deats). A couple of the kids think he's making a bad joke and they just walk away. Layne (Crispin Glover) starts to freak out, but immediately takes charge of the situation and begins to devise a plan to help John stay out of trouble. Someone in the group goes to the police and this starts the questioning of each of the kids. Layne take John to Feck's house to hide him. Feck (Dennis Hopper) is a middle aged guy who is probably an alcoholic and schizophrenic. Obviously someone who needs to be involved in this coverup. Every time he answers his front door, he does it with a gun. He also provides all of the kids with weed. John and Feck have a great conversation about whether the other one is psycho or not. Feck thinks he's normal and John says he's probably psycho.
Tim Hunter also directed episodes of the David Lynch produced Twin Peaks. Which is fitting, the subject matter here is practically the same and River's Edge looks like it could be part of the series, with it's grey skies and muted colors. Crispin Glover's ultra weird character could easily be from Twin Peaks. He has this speech pattern that shows how obsessed he is with what's going on, and it's slightly more exaggerated than the typical Crispin Glover weirdness.
There are also some remarkable similarities between River's Edge and the Penelope Spheeris film Suburbia (1984). It would actually be a pretty good companion piece to River's Edge. The acting in Suburbia isn't quite as good though and the film loses some of its impact as a result. Both films have the impressionable youngster who hangs out with big kids and Suburbia's world view is even bleaker. River's Edge is pretty bleak too, but it's so much deeper.