Pump Up the Volume (1990)

Allan Moyle directs Christian Slater, Samantha Mathis and Annie Ross in this teen movie where a shy new kid at school is also a foul mouthed but inspirational anonymous pirate radio DJ by night.

One thing that frustrates me about just about every film’s page on Wikipedia is somebody has been allowed to write; “The movie is now considered a cult film.” The unsuccessful, the weird, the hyper-popular, the forgotten. They can’t all be ‘cult movies’ just because somebody rewatches themselves. Christian Slater is no longer a fashionable star… he had a fine decade long stint as “the teen Jack Nicholson”… made some fantastic films and some cute movies and was pretty memorable in all of them. And he has carried on working in a perfectly respectable regularity once the heat switched off on his career. True Romance and Heathers would be the releases of his that have retained and evolved their initial popularity but I’d say Pump Up the Volume is his finest acting role and best candidate for cult revival. It has just faded from availability in spite of being pretty fantastic. DVD copies change hands for high fees on EBay, it has never to my knowledge been available on a streaming service in the UK. Yet it has so many strengths. A witty script with real edge. A red hot debut from Samantha Mathis who has thermonuclear chemistry with her lead. A genuinely cool soundtrack featuring Leonard Cohen, The Pixies, Beastie Boys and The Descendents. A sense of rebellion and sincerity lacking from even your John Hughes and Cameron Crowe flicks. Allan Moyle is the unsung hero of my generation’s youth cinema. Times Square, this and Empire Records is an unofficial trilogy that will mean something special to film fans of a certain age. He seems attuned to how important music is to communal cohesion and discourse among kids, the fact that the hopeful already see how rigged the system they are growing up into is. His style and voice is more akin to novelists like Douglas Coupland or Jonathan Lethem than the big teen movie auteurs. Pump Up the Volume won’t change your life but it has an attitude, a philosophy and a value system that still feels rare within the genre. The ending is a little rushed and abrupt, squandering the potential of everything coming to a big head as promised. That quibble aside, if you can find the right frequency, here is a film ripe for cult re-evaluation and resurrection. Hornier than a ten peckered owl, to boot.


Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.