All-American Murder

(Anson Williams, USA, 1992)


Once upon a time, a cult movie was a sincere, unselfconscious, somehow compellingly unusual work of popular art which slowly gathered around it a small but fervent band of admirers.

These days, when every second independent production is both conceived and marketed with a cult market in mind, the results can be pretty depressing.

The publicity for All-American Murder asks us to imagine a hip amalgam of Heathers (1989), Beverly Hills 90210 and Twin Peaks, with a little Silence of the Lambs (1991) thrown in for good measure.

The problem with this monumentally awful film is that director Anson Williams (yes, that’s Potsy from Happy Days) and writer-producer Barry Sandler (Crimes of Passion [1984]) probably thought up that marketing tag in the first place. It’s the worst kind of contrivedly cool modern movie: terminally flip one second, sweatily overwrought the next.

College kid Artie (Charlie Schlatter), wrongly accused of a gruesome campus murder, is described as a sensitive lover, a “major misfit”, an anarchist, an outlaw and an artist who “sees magic where no one else does” – and all within the first few minutes of the story.

As for rebel cop P. J. Decker (Christopher Walken), he proves his mettle by talking dirty through a megaphone during a tense supermarket stakeout.

© Adrian Martin July 1993

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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