The story of Ricky Kasso, an American teenager who murdered his friend, Gary Lauwers, in an alleged “Satanic sacrifice” during the summer of 1984.

Released to coincide with the 35th anniversary of the infamous killing that made nationwide headline news, the independent documentary, The Acid King, explores the life of Ricky Kasso. Co-adapted by Dan Jones and Jesse P. Pollack from Pollack’s 2018 book of the same name, this 2-hour, 23-minute exploration leaves no stone unturned in detailing the circumstances leading up to the crime.

The year was 1984 at the height of the “Satanic Panic” in America. Seventeen-year-old Ricky Kasso murdered his friend Gary Lauwers in the presence of two other friends, Albert Quinones and Jimmy Troiana. Lauwers stole bags of PCP and owed money to Kasso. On June 19th, Kasso invited him to get high on what they believed was mescaline—in retrospect, they were most likely using LSD—in the woods near Newport, New York. As the night dragged on, Kusso became involved in a fight with Lauwers. Kusso bit Lauwers’ neck and stabbed him in the chest.

The following mutilation of Lauwers’ body shocked the nation: he was stabbed up to 37 more times and his eyeballs had been removed. The appearance of the body, and the manner in which the press reported on the events made many believe that they had sacrificed Lauwers to Satan. After the three teens were arrested, Kasso committed suicide by hanging in his jail cell. 

Unlike some other true-crime documentaries, The Acid King devotes equal time to establishing all the key players and their background as it does focus on the case and trial itself. Coupled with interviews with family members, friends, and law enforcement officers that worked the case, the filmmakers explore the details of the case in all its gritty details. The in-depth approach by Jones and Pollack provides a mostly fascinating viewing experience.

While the documentary is engrossing, its length was indulgent. One thing that remained in the back of my head was how obsessed our culture is with true crime stories. Sign onto any streaming service and you’ll find a slew of documentaries, biopics, and serial killer movies from Mindhunter to Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile to The House That Jack Built.

Personally, I feel overwhelmed by the surplus of true-crime material at our fingertips. Perhaps that is what dampened my viewing of The Acid King. I zoned out a bit. I also felt it hit similar notes as last year’s Lords of Chaos

While I didn’t feel a strong affinity for its subject, I believe the documentary is of high quality, better than most already out there. Many true-crime fans will benefit from how in-depth the filmmakers devote to the Ricky Kasso case and hopefully come away with having learned something new about it.

The Acid King
Runtime:2 hr 23 Mins
Directed By:
Written By: