Unrated - Cinema of the Extreme

Loosely based on David St. Clair’s true crime book, SAY YOU LOVE SATAN, Peter Filardi’s directorial debut concerning the life and death of “Acid King” Ricky Kasso is the second film by an independent filmmaker to tackle the subject. Jim Van Bebber’s MY SWEET SATAN (1994) covered much the same lines but strayed from the facts by presenting us with a hip, pierced, and tattooed punk with Mohawk hair, who looked altogether more menacing and capable of the horrific killing he was arrested for. Unlike Van Bebber’s nihilistic short, Filardi’s RICKY 6 falls short of exploitation, sticking closely to the facts with the portrayal of Ricky (Vincent Kartheiser) as an average looking, disaffected teen, whose sad attempts to gain recognition from his peers come courtesy of protracted drug abuse and a cursory dabbling with the occult.

RICKY 6 begins with an epilogue voiced-over by “Ricky’s best friend” in which we see Ricky covered in blood, and chanting magical incantations to Satan in a charred woodland that appears somewhat hallucinatory. We then step back some eighteen months, it’s 1983, and we follow Ricky as he blunders through school as a bullied, and weak-willed teenager. He strikes up a friendship with Tommy (Chad Christ), fellow student (and aforementioned narrator), who is supportive of Ricky as the pair resort to drugs in order to escape the suburban alienation of New York State. One day whilst perusing a new age store Ricky meets Pat Pagan (Kevin Gage) an alcoholic Satanist who takes the impressionable teen under his wing and introduces him to the darker side of the occult.

Several spells and a whole lot of acid later, Ricky’s confidence is growing and he has persuaded Tommy and several other disenchanted youths from the neighbourhood, that include Tweasel (Richard Stuart), Tommy’s girlfriend Lee (Emmanuelle Chriqui), Greg (Kett Turton), and Kellie (Sabine Singh), to join him in a Satanic circle. We follow the gang as they indulge in high-street text spell craft, attempting to contact Satan, and bring some excitement to their lives via drug experimentation and minor felonies.

As Ricky’s drug problem escalates, we are treated to a number of disorientating filtered camera set-ups involving ghosting and soft-focus lensing that depicts the group’s various psychedelic experiences. The best of these involves Ricky being pursued by a semi-naked Christ-like figure in a supermarket. As a spaced out Ricky attempts to hide, director Filardi utilises various optics that exaggerate the store in terms of size, shape, and dayglow colours, to depict the acid-haze that Ricky sees. The sequence ends with Ricky crawling through what appears to be a barred tunnel, as the camera pulls back we suddenly identify his claustrophobic surroundings as an aisle between rows of stacked shopping trolleys.

Eventually, the side effects of the drugs transform Ricky into a paranoid schizophrenic, with symptoms of delusional grandeur, and violent recourse behaviour inherited from his stepfather. When Tweasel steals some angel dust from Ricky, the act doesn’t go unnoticed and following a mescaline fuelled gathering in the woods one Summer’s night, Ricky decides to exact his revenge.

Director Filardi is no stranger to writing occult styled screenplays, having cut his teeth on FLATLINERS (1996), and THE CRAFT (1996) so it comes as little surprise that he should be drawn to the life of Kasso, a follower of LaVey’s Church of Satan and the events surrounding the murder of seventeen-year-old Gary Lauwers on 16th June 1984. Filardi’s script, possibly due to legal reasons, changes several names, and places in order to bring the events to the screen smoothly. Ricky Kasso becomes Ricky Cowen, his best friend James Troiano is now Tommy Portelance, and murder victim Gary Lauwers is Tweasel.

The film takes its subject matter fairly seriously, and is at pains to depict the demons and a brief encounter with Satan as products of Kasso’s hallucinating mind, appearing to no-one else and disappearing almost as soon as they have materialised. Sadly, despite allusions to both the “Knights of the Black Circle” cult that was rumoured to exist at Kasso’s Newport High School, and The Church of Satan, neither sect is named. In real-life, Kasso would often perform rituals culled from Anton LaVey’s “The Satanic Bible”, but instead, Filardi makes do with improvised rituals fusing a mixture of high magick basic candle-burning rituals, along with the obligatory Lord’s Prayer reversal to set the scenes. Maybe this was a conscious development, but it does dilute the authenticity of the film a little, having managed to avoid all the stereotypical trappings that a Hollywood production involving the occult world would have demanded it’s director throw on-screen.

Nevertheless, RICKY 6 has a lot to recommend it; whilst the film might have explored more of the cause for Ricky’s disaffection that ultimately led to his spiral descent, (though a brief scene is included showing his stepfather throw a football at Ricky, bloodying his nose), Vincent Kartheiser manages to convey the confused, and misunderstood loneliness of Kasso (gleaned from a reading of David St. Clair’s book) nicely. Equally convincing is Chad Christ’s portrayal as Ricky’s confidant. And Filardi’s script has the sense to treat all the characters and their beliefs with respect, without ever being judgemental or dismissive of whatever personal failings the group may have had, which may have inadvertently led to the tragic murder of the real-life Lauwers.

The special effects are thin on the ground, but prove more than adequate. This film is not about monsters, it’s about the horror of drugs, and the reality that befell the town of Northport, Long Island. The film’s pacing is pretty tight, and Rodrigo Prieto (AMORES PERROS, 8 MILE, 21 GRAMS) provides cinematography (shot in New Brunswick, Canada) that captures the inherent isolation and brooding atmosphere of NY State perfectly. In all it’s a pretty polished picture, that, whilst lacking in the bloodbaths that UNRATED viewers may be accustomed to, ought to be tracked down.

Carl T. Ford

Directed by Peter Filardi

English Language
USA / 2000 / 111 minutes approx



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