Saturday, 24 March 2012

THE DOOM GENERATION DVD review

Making its long overdue debut on DVD, Gregg Araki's cult 90's road movie The Doom Generation is out this week. But is it still a relevant piece of teenage mayhem 17 years later? Read on to find out.

Following a chance encounter with the mysterious and dangerous Xavier (Johnathon Schaech), young lovers Amy and Jordan (Rose McGowan and James Duval) head out on a bizarre road trip full of sex, drugs, violence and then a bit more of the same.


When a film starts off with a store owner getting his head blown clean off with a shotgun yet leaving him still able to talk, you know that the film you're about to see is going to be a bit weird. Taking place during an apocalypse that sees teenagers run rampant across the roads of America, The Doom Generation is the brainchild of cult director Gregg Araki, perhaps best known for 2004's Mysterious Skin. The middle segment of his 'Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy', The Doom Generation is what Araki refers to as his 'Heterosexual Movie', although like most of his films (and his characters) it's probably best described as sexually ambivalent.

Released in 1995, the year before Scream, this is an early performance from Rose McGowan in exactly the kind of role you'd expect from an ex-girlfriend of Marilyn Manson. This is the pulpiest film she's ever appeared in, and she once played a girl with a machine gun for a leg. As rough diamond Amy, she gets to wear a badge that says "Eat, Fuck, Kill" and deliver dialogue like "eat my fuck" and "he was an anus-face". Each vulgar put-down aims for ultimate quotability to the point that this film could rival The Room and Sing-a-long-a-Sound of Music for cult audience participation, but only around 50% of them sounds like anything you could say in the real world. Araki's actors have always had what could be described as a 'curious' approach to line delivery, however, I doubt that this film is striving for realism, coming from deep in the heart of Araki's odd little universe, one that I think only he understands fully.


Despite showing a lot of Araki's brand of sexual philosophy, the deepest conversation the film has is "do you ever wonder what the meaning of our existence is?", to be answered with the rather succinct "huh?".  Araki says in the special features that it's his vision of an AIDS ridden world's apocalypse, and he might not be far off.  Rather than post-apocalyptic, this is set during the apocalypse, with teens running around rampantly killing one another and having sex with anything that moves. The themes of sexual identity and experimentation are still relevant and 17 years later the film still looks great, but stylistically it might well be the most mid-90's film in existence. Yes, even more than Hackers.

Whilst not as flat out hilarious as the stoner classic Smiley Face, as dramatically weighty as Mysterious Skin or as sexually anarchic as Araki's most recent film, Kaboom, it contains all of the elements you'd expect from a Gregg Araki film. For the uninitiated it may be a bit too much to handle. Although not the weirdest of Araki's films, if you're looking for an entry point into his filmography, Smiley Face may be a better option before you wade in.


If True Romance is Badlands for the 90's and Natural Born Killers the evil twin of that, Doom Generation is the over-medicated, ADHD riddled, bastard teenage stepchild. Like all of those films its cult following is unsurprising (highly sexed road movies do tend to be popular), but it may be too outright bizarre for a general audience. However, it's a niche audience that it's aimed at, and if you like your films to be as cult as they come and you're in the mood for some hedonistic 90's nostalgia, this is the film you're looking for.

Verdict




Special Features: Commentary with the director and stars (who aside from Rose McGowan, all admit to being stoned for most of the filming), My Generation: a contemporary interview with Gregg Araki where he talks about the film's place in his career.

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