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Photo credit: James Merendino

“Punk’s Dead” is the sequel to the 1999 cult classic “SLC Punk,” a film set in Utah that helped propel the acting careers of Jason Segel, Devon Sawa and Mathew Lillard. Both films are the brainchild of Salt Lake native, director James Merendino.

The long overdue release of the “SLC Punk” sequel debuted in Salt Lake on Feb. 11 with two sold-out screenings.

“I was unbelievably anxious,” said Merendino. “I could barely leave my hotel room before the screening. I eventually summoned the courage to attend the premier, and I was nervous for no reason. Everybody was so kind and enthusiastic. Honestly, I was moved to tears.”

Community member Rick Razzeca went to high school with Merendino. Growing up as outsiders in Utah, both Razzeca and Merendino found their places in the punk scene.

Razzeca was eager to attend the initial screening of his friend’s latest film. “I went to the premier night,” Razzeca said. “It was great to see James. It was the first time I’ve seen him in years.”

An old school punk rocker, now a father, Razzeca said, “I got to introduce my daughter and a couple of her friends to James. They loved the movie ‘SLC Punk,’ and actually loved ‘Punk’s Dead’ as well.”

When compared to its older sibling, “SLC Punk,” Razzeca believes “Punk’s Dead” is a movie that stands on its own.

“Personally, I like Punk’s Dead even better than I did ‘SLC Punk,’ and I loved ‘SLC Punk.'”

Set nearly two decades after the original, the film centers around the life of Ross, the child of “SLC Punk’s” deceased main character, Heroin Bob. Played by Michael Goorjian, Heroin Bob narrates “Punk’s Dead” posthumously, in an attempt to illustrate his son’s coming-of-age struggles.

“Ross is not the hardcore punk that his dad, Heroin Bob, was,” Razzeca said. “But he is an outsider, and what you find with his friendship with Crash is that even as his character develops through the story, you see him developing those thoughts and connections that come from punk.”

The supporting character, Crash, is played by Colson Baker, better known as rap artist, Machine Gun Kelly (MGK). Some fans of the franchise were initially concerned about his involvement and portrayal as a punk.

“Colson Baker, MGK, was an actor in my movie — not a rapper. He’s a real presence and proved it to me during the casting process. That guy could be a huge movie star. As for people who said ‘How can you cast a rapper as a punk?’ I always say, “Peter Jackson Cast zero hobbits in ‘The Hobbit,’“ Merendino said.

Merendino knows the passionate cult fandom surrounding his first film and the tremendous amount of individuals who resonate with it.

“I didn’t make either film with any message in mind,” he said. “I just want to make movies that engage people, and I can only hope they are entertained. What they take away from the experience is a bonus.”

Weber State junior Lauren Mongie moved to Utah from Michigan. She watched “SLC Punk” to gain perspective on what life is like in the Beehive State.

“I actually saw it before I moved to Utah,” she said. “I have family from Salt Lake, so they thought it would be a good educational and cultural experience for me … I liked it actually. It was different from what I expected from Utah … the movie had a kind of off-color humor, but at the same time, it’s kind of an off-color description of Utah, which I really appreciated.” Mongie was excited to discover the latest installment of the franchise.

Residents who missed out on the premiere screenings will have another chance to see “Punk’s Dead” on the silver screen. On Thursday, March 10 at 7:00 p.m., the Megaplex in Sandy will host a special screening. Tickets are $11. The instant video release of “Punk’s Dead” is now available for purchase.

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