Savage Streets (1984) Review

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Danny Steinmann (Friday the 13th: A New Beginning) directed a film in 1984 that has since gone down as a cult classic, that film was Savage Streets, a revenge action thriller that, watching it thirty years after its release, personifies the 80’s in sound and visuals as well as casting and the whole “feel” of the film in general.

Linda Blair (The Exorcist) plays Brenda, a tough high-school girl who, along with her tough high-school girlfriends, likes to hang around the L.A streets, sipping fruity alcohol and gossiping. They have a run-in with a gang of thugs called “The Scars” who, after the altercation with the girls, vow revenge on them. The revenge materialises when the gang of hooligan guys lock Brenda’s mute sister, Heather, in a high-school gym and rape her. This is where the film takes a turn as Brenda, after discovering what has happened to her innocent sibling, seeks vengeance on the group of maniacal thugs responsible. Armed with a crossbow and other weapons, Brenda takes to the streets and brings about her own special brand of justice.

I love revenge and vengeance films. I’m not sure why, there’s just something about someone seeking revenge for a demented act, and taking the law into their own hands, that I enjoy watching on screen. Savage Streets, a corny, cheesy and dated film, is one of those times when the corniness is charming and the gritty and dirty setting of the streets, filled with leather clad gang members, neon graffiti and terribly clichéd dialogue, works wonderfully.

You could almost call this a pure 80’s high-school film, dropped into a bag of sewerage and rolled around in glitter. Linda Blair is fantastic as the foul mouthed and violent Brenda, and though this was a part of Blair’s fall from grace as a Hollywood star, it is a good thing for fans of this film, because she is a big part of why the film works like it does. John Vernon, as Principal Underwood, is also a major part of why I enjoy this film so much, his dialogue and presence is top notch, and his delivery of the so-bad-its-good dialogue is a thing to behold.

Thirty years later, and with special editions of the film released by many labels, including Arrow Video (which is the specific version I have) and fans of this film still speak highly of it. It is one of those experiences, similar to The Exterminator (1980), in which regardless of how poor the acting is at times, how cringe worthy the writing is, and how offensive the topic may be, that just works. A silly violent work of not-quite-art, Savage Streets is a cult classic for good reason.

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