Dream Deceivers: The Story Behind James Vance vs. Judas Priest

1992, NR, 60 min. Directed by David Van Taylor.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., July 17, 1992

I can remember a year or so ago, during the precedent-setting trial of James Vance vs. Judas Priest, my parents, who live in Reno, Nevada where the trial was held, sent me all manner of clippings on the events that so shook up the media and the music industry in general. In 1985, Jay Vance and Raymond Belknap decided, more or less on a whim, to take their lives via shotgun. Belknap died instantly, the contents of his head spattered over the length of the children's playground where the incident took place. Vance, unfortunately, survived: as he pulled the 12-gauge's trigger, the blood-slicked shotgun slipped from beneath his chin, and the blast merely succeeded in removing most of his face and scalp. Later, he told police and family that he believed the music of heavy metal band Judas Priest had exacerbated the boys' already nihilistic outlook, and before you could say “Tipper Gore,” the lawsuit was underway. Director Van Taylor makes extensive use of police and news video footage, as well as complete, non-biased interviews with the families of the two boys. Suffice to say, the judge found no evidence of alleged backward masking on the Judas Priest album in question, Stained Class, though Vance's family has appealed that decision. It's a disturbing look into the grief-induced ignorance that can overwhelm people in times of personal tragedy; scapegoats are needed when your son blows his face off, the only question being, “where can we find one?” Also playing with Dream Deceivers (which perhaps would have been more aptly titled “Omnicide '92,” or something along those grim lines) is The Red Bridge, a Belgian documentary on the ghastly events surrounding a colosal, obscenely crimson span bridge in Luxembourg. Since its construction in the mid-Sixties, this nightmarish overpass -- built quite literally over a bit of the city itself -- has played deadly host to over 80 separate suicides. Director Geneuieve Mersch combines firsthand interviews with the unfortunate residents who live below the bridge (many of whom are small children, always first to arrive on the gory scene, inquisitive and curious) with archival footage of the span's construction and a soundtrack that sounds disturbingly like Einsturzande Neubauten. This is the most unsettling documentary I've seen in my life, and though it runs only 20 minutes, it's a ferociously powerful piece of filmmaking that you may never forget, no matter how hard you try.

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Dream Deceivers: The Story Behind James Vance vs. Judas Priest, David Van Taylor

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