DREAM DECEIVERS: THE STORY BEHIND JAMES VANCE VS JUDAS PRIEST (1991) [Feature]

USA (MIFF 1992 , Documentaries)
Director: David Van Taylor


In December 1985 two Nevada teenagers car­ried out a suicide pact in the playground of a local church. Ray Belknap succeeded in blow­ing his brains out, but James Vance survived with most of his face blown off, only to die three years later. The cause of death was given as Heavy Metal music and the band Judas Priest was eventually brought to trial in Reno for inciting teenage suicide through subliminal messages in their music. As James later explained, "the band 'mesmerized' us into believing the answer to life was death."

With such a story it would be all too easy to go for pure freak effect — on-camera inter­views with the grotesquely disfigured James, the pie-in-the-sky platitudes of his religious fundamentalist mother and the built-in bizarreness of the whole heavy metal scene offer themselves as prime material for exploita­tion. But Dream Deceivers: The Story behind James Vance Vs. Judas Priest goes beyond this, per­forming a balancing act which, if it restrains itself for the sake of objectivity, still lets us become involved with the people and the inti­mate details that illuminate the real drama.

The real drama is not about condemning anybody — not the parents, nor the kids, nor even Judas Priest. It lies in an attempt to understand how they all play their parts in a kind of politics of despair. And in doing so, director David van Taylor engages us in an inquiry of emotions that intelligently avoids the trap of fatalism.

• Andrew Horn, Berlirtale journal

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