Dark classic, “River’s Edge” comes to Hulu


“River’s Edge,” the 1987 movie starring Keanu Reeves, Crispin Glover and Dennis Hopper, is based on the real events in which a teen kills his friend. The rest of the teens in the group struggle to define how they feel about their friends who now occupy the roles of murderer and victim. The real events took place in 1981 in California. “River’s Edge” takes place in late 1980’s Midwest. Despite the changes, the movie retains its dark qualities. The murder notwithstanding, drugs and heavy metal help to draw out the characters and create the movie’s at times disaffected and chaotic tone.

Hulu and “River’s Edge”

“River’s Edge” isn’t the only movie from the last 25 to 30 years that Hulu has brought back during March. Other cinema classics that are available for streaming patrons include “Edward Scissorhands,” “The Ice Storm,” “The Crying Game” and numerous others.

The appeal of “The River’s Edge” is that it does not overdramatize its darkness. The elements arise naturally, such as when the Slayer-heavy soundtrack plays as the leather and denim jacket-wearing teens speed around in one or another of the vehicles they have access to. The world looks natural. Audiences are absorbed by the people and setting. That the events are at least partially based on real events probably surprises few people.

Hulu’s inclusion of “River’s Edge” illustrates the service’s seeming dedication to eclectic movies and shows. Some of the titles that Hulu brought back as of March 1 used to be the darlings of premium cable after their runs at the box office.

“River’s Edge”: more than cult appeal

When it was originally released, “River’s Edge” was seen as a statement of sorts about the “Generation Gap.” The main characters are a group of teens, but they are antagonized by younger children and adults. Coming as it did before the age of grunge, “River’s Edge” shows how Generation X related to heavy metal. The music genre is seen as more than just entertainment. In the film’s context, visceral-sounding music seems necessary.

While it is unclear how long the movie will be available, that “River’s Edge” is on Hulu now means that its cultural salience remains.


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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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