Riley’s Rad Reviews – Over The Edge

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Riley Letendre, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Over The Edge- a phrase that evokes visions of revolution, change; the idea that something is very wrong, or something very wrong is about to occur. From the first moments of the 1979 indie-drama Over The Edge, classic teenage insurrection is swirling on screen. The film, noted for its influence on the young adult movie genre, is a rather dark turn on traditional teen dramas,  keeping the themes that fall under rebellion – sex, alcohol, drugs, and violence- close, but arson closer. 

Over The Edge follows a group of young teenagers that live in a paradise-like community in Colorado- New Granada. The only problem? The idealized community was not designed for people of their age. New Granada has nowhere for these kids to spend their time besides a rinky-dink recreational center, referred to as “The Rec.” Their increasing boredom creates room for drug use and other age-inappropriate activities, growing the divide between the children and the adults in town. As the police find the teens more and more unruly, and the parents of the community decide to suppress their children further by closing “The Rec,” all hell begins to break loose. Two of the teens are about to get in trouble for bullying a classmate, and in response they run away with a gun and steal a car. Their escape is short-lived as one of them is shot in a police chase, and that’s when the teens of New Granada gave up all intentions of playing nice. When their parents meet in their middle school, pondering what to do with their uncontrollable teenagers, our group of protagonists lock them inside and begin to explode their cars and vandalize everything they can outside. New Granada has gone “over the edge;” these kids will not go down without a fight. The film ends with an unruly calm when the teens are escorted on a bus to “The Hill”- the juvenile detention center- for their behavior. And yet they don’t seem to mind.

At the time of its release, most films that were meant for teenage audiences weren’t as honest or crazy of a depiction of adolescence as Over The Edge, leading to a wider appeal to young audiences but much panic from parents and the studio. In fact, the general release of the film was delayed by the studio for about two years due to fears it may cause a teenage uprising or rebellion like the one in the story. It was pulled from many theaters upon its release but was eventually shown on channels like HBO throughout the 1980s and released on DVD in 2005. Yet, most of those who saw the film liked it. Currently standing at an 82% on Rotten Tomatoes, it is now seen as a cult-classic and stands among the first notable teen films.

The influence of Over The Edge on movies made for the teen demographic is undeniable. The film portrays teenage characters played by real teens in relatable situations (well, except for the violent uprising) and doesn’t put an overarching opinion over their actions. No careful narrator is telling you “this is wrong” or “this should not be imitated.” It seems the intention is to let the audience decide for themselves- a sharp turn from other media of the time that talked about dark subject matter, like the infamous ABC Afterschool Special series. The movie has a sort of grit and realism that opened the door to less romanticized teen media, such as John Hughes’s The Breakfast Club and Joel Schumacher’s St. Elmo’s Fire. Though those films involve far less crime and rebellion, they deal with the emotions and real situations of their teen and young adult characters, drawing a line of comparison to Over The Edge.

All of the themes presented in Over The Edge are relevant today- children feeling more disconnected from their parents and the ideas of their society than ever due to modern technology, parents growing over-protective, troublemaking kids, and fear of youth rebellion. I think even the teenagers of Marco Island can relate to this film. Marco Island doesn’t offer much for teenagers to do, so what else is there but to get involved in “inappropriate” situations, like those seen in the movie. The film reverberates the power of the teenager, something I think we need today where a lot of youth feel powerless in their own society.

Today, Over The Edge stands as a decently relevant piece of media, often lost in the pre-80s Hollywood shuffle and missing it’s true mark as a notable film. Though aspects of society have changed since it’s release, like the slang used, the fashions, and technology, one thing that hasn’t is the idealized spirit of the rebellious American youth. It raises a question many of us would be afraid to answer- what is the purpose of a teenager in a world where we have very little role?