P.O.V.: Dream Deceivers: the Story Behind James Vance V. Judas Priest

The best edition of P.O.V. I’ve seen so far is Dream Deceivers: The Story Behind James Vance v. Judas Priest. Maybe you remember the case. One evening in 1985, two Reno teen-agers, best friends, tried to kill themselves. Raymond Belknap succeeded, blowing his head off with a shotgun; James Vance failed, surviving severe head wounds. Both had been listening to songs by the British heavy-metal act Judas Priest immediately before committing this violence, and Vance’s parents took the band to court to prove that there were subliminal messages in the music that made the young men ”do it.”

Apparently lots of people believe this malarkey; the judge in the Vance case didn’t, and ruled against the suit. Through interviews with the horribly disfigured Vance, his parents, and members of Judas Priest, director David Van Taylor creates a portrait of suburban anomie. We see the way bored, poorly educated, unsupervised teens become depressed and hostile, and the way the evangelical Christian faith of Vance’s mother, Phyllis, leads her — as it does so many others — to hear the voice of Satan in Judas Priest’s guitar feedback.

Unlike many other films in P.O.V., this one has a definite point of view: It says to parents that if your teenager goes wrong, don’t use rock music or the devil as a scapegoat: You’re the one who screwed up. Now there’s a p.o.v. that’s controversial.

P.O.V.: Dream Deceivers: the Story Behind James Vance V. Judas Priest
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