‘Sex. Mayhem. Whatever’
The Doom Generation, Gregg Araki’s 1995 cult classic film is being reissued by Strand Releasing in the USA having been restored in 4K with scenes that were edited for its original theatrical release to create a new director’s cut. The film has been completely retimed and re-edited for today’s technological standards. The sound has been remastered to complement today’s new audio standards in a new 5.1 mix.
Headed home after a wild night at a Los Angeles club, young lovers Jordan White (James Duval) and Amy Blue (Rose McGowan) pick up a dangerously handsome drifter named Xavier Red (Johnathon Schaech). Jordan doesn’t see a problem with offering Xavier a quick ride, but his acid-tongued girlfriend thinks he’s a creep.
Filmmaker Gregg Araki came to prominence in the “indie” film scene of the 1980s and early 90s, confronting taboo subject matter (chiefly homosexuality and AIDS) and building a reputation for, well, let’s say nothing Disney would distribute (at least not at the time).
His films grew more polished, plus packed into their ensemble casts a great deal of mainstream stars for whom a Gregg Araki cameo apparently brought cachet. Or maybe the crafts services tables were awesome.
The Doom Generation is the bracing, darkly comic mid-point in his “Teenage Apocalypse” trilogy, between Totally F__ed Up” (1993) and Nowhere (1997) – nihilistic portrayals of idle California youth, seemingly hell-bound and proud of it in an affluent, kitsch-coloured and spiritually desolate southwestern-American wasteland.
Aggressive, alluring, Louise-Brooks-hairstyled Amy (Rose McGowan) and her boyfriend Jordan (James Duval) are surprised when a bleeding young stranger, Xavier (Jonathan Schaech) jumps into their car, beginning an odyssey of violence and horror throughout the Encino area. Eating junk food is a running joke throughout, and their visit to an open-late convenience store (the cashier amounts always ring up as $6.66) goes badly when Xavier slays a clerk.
Eventually a sexual threesome (Xavier is stated to be bisexual), the young fugitives careen through a Day-Glo landscape of shopping malls, motels, plastic chain restaurants and sterile concrete highways. Typically, hostile confrontations result. Dead bodies pile up, as Jordan, Amy and “X” commit manslaughter again and again, often unintentionally. Those circumstances do not deter pursuing FBI agents from determining to kill them. Remember, though, by the standards of this milieu, the frankly dislikable central trio are what passes for “the good guys.”
Watch for the band Skinny Puppy playing a savage punk gang that tries to molest Amy with a Virgin Mary statue. Watch for cameos by American celebrities of notoriety, especially Heidi Fleiss, Lauren Tewes, Margaret Cho, Parker Posey and Perry Farrell (yes, that Perry Farrell). Watch especially for ace cinematography by Jim Fealy. But will you watch it? Many critics at the time recommended not, but the robust bad taste and gallows humour indicate that little of this was meant to be taken with utmost seriousness.
One could argue that Alex Cox struck many of the same notes a decade earlier with Repo Man, and also added aliens (aliens would subsequently show up in Nowhere). But once you get on the carousel-of-the-damned that is The Doom Generation, it is hard to disembark. Like an angry punk anthem that nonetheless gets little girls up dancing. Even if its pretences at trying to puncture The-Way-We-Live-Now are superficial, it has a crazy, infectious energy and was brought off by Araki and company with a commendably economic budget.
Charles Cassady Jr, MOVIES and MANIA
Trailer [2160p 4K]:
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