Horror Slash Punk: The Inside Story of the “Straight Edge Kegger”

I’m as straight as the line that you sniff up your nose
And I’m as hard as the booze that you swill down your throat
And I’m as bad as the shit you breathe into your lungs
And I’ll fuck you up as fast as the pill on your tongue

Straight edge revenge
Straight edge revenge
This time you pushed me too far

Ever wondered what it might be like to see the most malevolent version of the Project X classic manifest itself in the world?

Well, so did writer/director Jason Zink — and he transformed that vision into a gory, kinetic slasher/siege romp — with, uh, a killer soundtrack to boot (sorry) — entitled…Straight Edge Kegger! (Actually, he had other touchstones, as you’ll read, but that’s just what popped into your humble correspondent/resident aging straight edge enthusiast’s mind…)

To mark the occasion of this gore-festooned subculture celebration landing on superior dark cinema streaming channel Shudder Decibel — which just inducted the straight edge behemoth Destroy the Machines into our hallowed Hall of Fame last year — reached out to Zink for a fascinating convo on punk, horror, and the joys and trials of intertwining the disemboweled intestines of each…

So…tell me a little bit about how you came to punk/hardcore and how it derailed your subsequent life.

I grew up watching skate videos and I’ve always been the type to dive deep. So watching something like Zero’s “Misled Youth” I’d hear Black Flag’s “Fix Me” and then go search that out and I just kind of fell down the rabbit hole. And my dad always took me to concerts when I was a kid and the shows were super eclectic. I’d see everything from Black Sabbath to Sum 41. But as I got older and found more music I started picking the shows we’d go to and found myself in the pit for Suicidal Tendencies and Leftover Crack. My tastes are still all over the place but punk is my go to and Ceremony never leaves my car’s CD player.

Have any non-“scene” audience members assumed you invented straight edge up as a narrative device yet?

[Laughs.] That’s super funny. No, I don’t think so. We’ve gotten lots of comments about people just not knowing much about the culture and learning a bit from the movie. I always just try to remind those people that it’s a horror movie, not a documentary. Straight edgers are actually nice people!

Clearly you’re familiar with the subculture. What’s your history there?

While I’m not straight edge, I fully support the lifestyle. I spent many years sober but never called myself edge. Now, I drink occasionally and that’s still it. So most of my relationship to straight edge is just my love of the music. Minor Threat and Noose are a couple of my favorites on opposite ends of the spectrum. I will say that I ran into some edgers at a show years ago that were fairly hardline and we didn’t exactly mesh well. I’m always the type trying to pull people into the pit and I think they perceived what I was doing as aggressive or alcohol fueled but it was just me being me. Some words were exchanged and then we all went about our business. No big deal and I have edge friends still. So the fact that the edgers kill people in the movie is not my opinion on the culture. It was just a way for me to combine my two favorite things — punk and horror — in a way that hadn’t been done before.

Yeah, that’s definitely how it feels! I want to get to some of the touchstones for the movie but first I should probably ask about the other side of the coin — when did your interest in filmmaking develop? Indie filmmaking — especially of the surrealist and horror variety — seems to be a very punk adjacent pursuit.

I picked up a camera at a pretty young age for the lamest reason. We just wanted to be like the guys in the CKY videos. We had a group of friends who were all about pranks and skits so we really started by just ripping off those videos — although we didn’t think of it that way at the time. But it taught me the basics of shooting and editing so that we could turn some of those skits into shorts and then eventually our first feature. I was inspired early on by Kevin Smith and Robert Rodriguez just because they made their first movies with no celebrities. It left me feeling empowered. Like it was possible for us to do the same thing. And then I started seeking out indie horror movies and that was it. I knew what I wanted to do. I have Army of Darkness tattooed on my side as a reminder that I want to make it to that point. Looking at Sam Raimi’s “Within the Woods” and seeing how high they climbed is a driving force for me. It’s just a bit harder nowadays to pull that off I’m finding. [Laughs.]

You were looking to cross the streams, so to speak. How’d you settle on Straight Edge Kegger?

I was reading Kevin Smith’s book Tough Shit — highly recommend, by the way — and he talked a lot about his experience making Red State. He wrote what he knew but was also taking a note from Gretzky’s book and trying to see where the puck was going. So my guiding question was just, “What punk element hasn’t been touched in horror?” As soon as straight edge popped into my head, the snowball just kept building.

I think people looking for contemporary touchstones will probably look to Green Room and You’re Next, but I kind of felt a bit more vintage vibe — Straw Dogs, maybe, or the great old Australian siege pic Fortress.

Dude! Rad references and fairly spot on. The script reads a bit more like Romper Stomper and SLC Punk but in execution it definitely feels more like You’re Next meets Suburbia to me. Which works for me because I like those movies too. I love Green Room and it’s easy to make the comparison but we really tried to avoid a lot of what they did in that movie so that people didn’t accuse us of ripping it off… and we didn’t have four million dollars to play with. That’s also why there’s a lot of character building and genre crossover we played with.

Okay — soundtrack! You were pleased with how it came together, I imagine.

Most definitely! We had our sights set on a couple more that we couldn’t get but ultimately it all worked out. Sometimes we even wound up with a better track. The end credits song by UGLYBONES “Boozehound” should have been my first thought but for some reason I was playing with something else. We couldn’t make that deal because it would cost too much and as soon as I dropped “Boozehound” in I realized that I was an idiot for not using it in the first place. I don’t want to drop band names but we really tried to get an LGBTQ+ song into the movie. Just couldn’t make it happen with the band we had our sites set on.

Have you gotten any feedback from people in the scene?

Yes definitely! I feel like the folks who don’t like it or won’t give it a chance just don’t say anything to me. That totally surprised me because I expected a lot of hate mail. But all the straight edgers I’ve talked to about it seem to get what we were doing and they say that it’s apparent that I have love for the scene despite making them murderers. I’ve definitely met some who are conflicted about it but we usually have fun talking about it and become friends. [Laughs.]