The Acid King (2019, directed by Dan Jones and Jesse B. Pollack)

In 1984, a Long Island-based teenage drug dealer and wannabe gangster named Ricky Kasso murdered a childhood friend named Gary Lauwers, reportedly because he was angry that Gary had stolen some drugs from him.  While tripping on LSD, Ricky brutally stabbed Gary to death in the woods.  Ricky later said that he demanded that Gary say “I love Satan,” while killing him.  Ricky claimed to be a Satanist, though he never actually learned how to spell the name of his supposed Dark Lord and instead would tag walls with graffiti exhorting the viewer to “Hail Satin.”

Not being the smartest drug dealer/Satanist to ever grace the state of New York, Ricky spent the next two weeks bragging about the murder and taking his friends to view Gary’s corpse.  While none of the people who saw Gary’s body ever called the police, rumors started to spread about what had happened.  Acting on an anonymous tip, the police arrested Ricky and two of his friends.  Ricky Kasso, the self-described “Acid King,” committed suicide in his jail cell a month after murdering Gary Lauwers.  Supposedly, the other inmates in the jail egged Ricky on while he hanged himself.  No one liked the Acid King.

Ricky Kasso had been in-and-out of trouble for the majority of his short life and, at the time of the murder, he was living on the streets because his family had kicked him out of the house.  What set Ricky apart from other murderous drug dealers was that he claimed to be a Satanist and that he demanded that Gary declare that he loved Satan before killing him.  This played right into the burgeoning Satanic Panic of the 80s and, in death, Ricky became a symbol of the Satanic conspiracy that many were convinced had taken hold of the teenagers.  (Especially teenagers who, like Ricky, listened to AC/DC.)  A book called Say You Love Satan was written about Kasso and his crimes.  Though the book has since been discredited, it was a best seller when initially published.  (I can still remember, when I was a kid, coming across a copy in Waldenbooks and reading a few pages.)  Ricky Kasso became a cult figure, inspiring both filmmakers and bands.  Meanwhile, all of Ricky and Gary’s former friends had to deal with the burden of being branded as Satanists by the rest of America.  Heavy metal music was blames for leading kids like Ricky into Satanism.  Tipper Gore campaigned for the labeling of offensive music.  Satin would have been proud.

The Acid King is an eye-opening documentary about the case, featuring interviews with the people who knew both Ricky and Gary.  While criticizing the way the case was reported on by the press, The Acid King also makes it clear that Ricky Kasso was a twisted individual.  (More than one interview subject describes him as being evil.)  The documentary takes a look at how Ricky and his friends were essentially abandoned by their parents in their privileged community, leaving them with next to no guidance on how to deal with the real-life consequences of their actions.  Of course, for the media, it was much easier to blame Satanism and heavy mental music than it was to ask where the parents were while Ricky Kasso was plotting to kill Gary Lauwers.

The first half of the documentary deals with Ricky and Gary.  The second half features interviews with the horror filmmakers and the musicians who were inspired by the sordid media coverage of Ricky’s crimes.  Lori S, the lead singer of Acid King, took the name of the band from a passage in Say You Love Satan while director Jim VanBebber, while being totally dismissive of the book’s claim that Ricky was directly inspired by Satan, still directed a short film about Ricky Kasso.  The second half is a less interesting than the first, until you consider that none of these people would have heard about Ricky Kasso if not for the attempts of people like Tipper Gore to turn him into the poster child for her crusade against heavy metal music.  Instead of scaring people away, the Tipper Gores of the world made Ricky Kasso, a barely literate idiot, into a cult figure.  Again, Satin would be proud.

The Acid King provides a valuable service by separating the fact from the rumors, revealing that the mundane truth is even more disturbing than the sordid fiction.

One response to “The Acid King (2019, directed by Dan Jones and Jesse B. Pollack)

  1. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 4/10/23 — 4/16/23 | Through the Shattered Lens

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