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Dream Deceivers: The Story Behind James Vance vs. Judas Priest (1992)

Two young men shoot themselves in a churchyard. Ray Belknap dies; James Vance - severely disfigured - survives. Their parents take heavy-metal icons Judas Priest to court, claiming the band... See full summary »

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Cast

Credited cast:
K.K. Downing ...
Himself (Judas Priest guitarist)
...
Himself
Ian Hill ...
Himself (Judas Priest)
...
Himself (Judas Priest guitarist)
Scott Travis ...
Himself (Judas Priest)
James Vance ...
Himself
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Two young men shoot themselves in a churchyard. Ray Belknap dies; James Vance - severely disfigured - survives. Their parents take heavy-metal icons Judas Priest to court, claiming the band "mesmerized" their sons. The unprecedented trial is the framework for this one-of-a-kind, Emmy-nominated documentary.

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6 August 1992 (USA)  »

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Dream Deceivers  »

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James Vance: I come to visit this place every so often and I talk to Ray - like a dead person - I don't expect an answer and I do tell him what's on my heart, still. I would like to call certain people murderers. I feel that they murdered Ray. I just wish it never happened.
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Thought-provoking and a little insightful look into a controversial trial
9 April 2013 | by (São Paulo, Brazil) – See all my reviews

The greatest achievement of this documentary is to offer very few positive lights amidst some outstanding acts of stupidity, and what makes this a good documentary is that it focus on both sides of an issue without the interference of the director. Of course, this was made back in the days where documentaries weren't so much used as deadly instruments of propaganda, or deeply biased or conflicted with ideas favoring one side and being critical with the other. Here we follow an American family who decided to enter a lawsuit against the band Judas Priest for hiding subliminal messages in their music which was responsible for the death of one kid in a suicide pact with another one who survived the suicidal attempt but ended up practically faceless, and we follow the band defending themselves against such ruthless lawsuit and we follow the surviving kid, James Vance, who tells little about the reasons why he would engage in such act.

Like I said, the director isn't an intrusive one, he's just a follower of the events and that's why "Dream Deceivers" is an interesting doc to watch, whether you're fan of the band or not. The scenario in itself is painfully absurd to imagine and to see but it makes you wonder about a lot of to which extent artists should be responsible for their act. Since the "Natural Born Killers" trials weren't filmed - or at least weren't made into a documentary (and which would provoke a far more interesting and dangerous discussion than this trial), with Oliver Stone and Warner Bros. having to defend their movie against John Grisham and other plaintiffs, this movie is the next best thing that brings some thoughtful question in our heads.

It was proved in court that there's no subliminal messages of "Do it!" in the music, and if there was a meaning within the lyrics doesn't have nothing to say about 'go forward and shoot yourself', so all in all, pointless. Even so, that doesn't mean we're seeing Judas Priest look too good in this due to some of members reactions towards crucial moments of testimonies on the stand. It's not their fault, period. What we have to look at is the upbringing of both kids, the root of, if not all, to most of their problems and the way they coped with life, their parents are the ones to blame. Do I need to mention about religion having some part on this? Here's another case of extremists looking for someone or something, in this case the band, to blame. Most viewers will be repulsed by the families and their arguments.

The obstacles in the way of the film comes in presenting some fans giving their thoughts on how they started to listen Priest's music, kids that are used here almost in the same context, behavior and problematic life of the ones from the deadly pact, however, they don't add much to the sides neither much of the band's comments on anything - except when Rob Halford goes to the stand and is required to sing (quite hilarious, actually). The trial is greatly presented just as much of Vance's interviews, not much in what he has to say - although you feel a little sorry for him - but to look at his face and see what he made to his life. What bothers the most is like when he says he didn't want to die but he knew he would shoot himself, something "good" had to happen. He would die three years later due to an overdose brought on by his addiction to painkillers ultimately brought by this incident.

The bottom of line is: with a movie like this I found very difficult to someone claim that musicians, bands, filmmakers, painters, writers or any kind of artists can cause, demand tragedies to happen. At the most, it can be used as some influence to bad actions but that doesn't excuse anyone. Help is out there to be sought if one thinks he might do something wrong. Very good but not much insightful as it could be. 7/10


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