June 19th, 1984, the words “Northport” and “Satan” became synonymous, fused together for decades by the stabbing and mutilation of a 17-year-old in an alleged Satanic sacrifice. It was almost a month before the mostly skeletonized corpse was located by a police dog following an anonymous tip. As the infamous Rolling Stone article Kids In The Dark described of the body, there was “…enough flesh for a fingerprint and a pile of bones wearing denim vest, running pants, white undershorts, Nikes. Next to the grave was a black spot on the ground where the body had lain ten days before burial. Tissue had darkened and blood had drained. The body sank into the earth. Under some leaves, the worms did their work, transfigured themselves into flies and flew off. They left bones cleaned of flesh, full of dents from the blade of a knife. Thirty stabs? Forty stabs? Fifty? The eye sockets were whittled. There was no face to speak of.” Another cruel twist of the knife came with the realization that this was not the first examination of the body in its shallow grave. Apparently, a handful of teenagers had taken the less than ten-minute walk through the Aztakea Woods to view the gruesome trophy, almost always accompanied by the killer, The Acid King himself- Ricky Kasso.
When it came to cases like Kasso’s, the public–primarily the media–tended to proselytize; typically shifting the blame between drugs or the strange music the kids were listening to. Rarely was the thought conceived that anything beyond pure evil could make someone kill in Northport, New York, a village described by a former resident as a “…Norman Rockwell painting come to life.” As is the case with any true crime documentary, exploring the circumstances surrounding a case too closely rides a fine line with appearing sympathetic to the killer.
Luckily for us, Dan Jones and Jesse Pollack’s Acid King has managed to balance every facet of the Kasso story with its own brand of grace. Thus, able to create the “…ultimate Kasso documentary.” Which in this case is an accurate portrait of an unraveling and disturbed mind. Viewers get a rare glimpse into Kasso’s past, the abuse he suffered at home and the heavy drug use that may have expedited the negative effects of an undiagnosed mental illness. The film also interviews those who grew up in Northport with Kasso and his victim, Gary Lauwers, who are all too eager to dispel some of the more rumors surrounding the case. They also offer insight into how the myth of the murder grew into the stuff of folk legend that pushed Ricky Kasso into a spotlight that made him the poster child for the Satanic Panic era.
The intoxicatingly immersive watch that is The Acid King comes fervently recommended not only to true crime fanatics, but to those in need of a movie with an amusing, kind of stripped, piercing wit to it. I envy those who get to watch it for the first time.
Wicked Rating: 9/10