Film: The Doom Generation
UK Release date: March 2012
UK Distributor: Second Sight
Director: Gregg Araki
Starring: James Duval, Rose McGowan, Johnathon Schaech, Cress Williams, Parker Posey
Running time: 83 mins
Reviewer: Daryl Wing
The middle part of Gregg Araki’s ‘Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy’, The Doom Generation sandwiches itself between a tale of six gay adolescents struggling to get along with each other and with life in the face of major obstacles (Totally Fucked Up, 1993), and a story about a group of bored, alienated brats in Los Angeles during a typical day of sex, drugs, and the requisite wild party (Nowhere, 1997). Largely trashed by critics on its release, will The Doom Generation find a new lease of life with a fresh audience long since desensitized?
Jordan White (James Duval) and Amy Blue (Rose McGowan), two troubled teens, pick up an adolescent drifter, Xavier Red (Johnathon Schaech) after he is attacked by a group of thugs.
Together, the threesome embarks on a drugged-up, sex-fuelled, violence-filled journey through an America self-destructing with its plethora of psychos and convenience stores.
But with the bodies piling up and jealousy on the rise, it isn’t long before our three reprobates are being hunted down by their past mistakes…
After watching this oddity, you can probably imagine what school would’ve been like back in 1995; teenagers all over the land would be uttering lines such as, “I feel like a gerbil smothering in Richard Gere's butthole”, or, “If bullshit were music, you'd be a big brass band”. In truth, the teachers were probably just thankful it was no longer Bill and Ted gobbledygook, even if The Doom Generation did teach their pupils that shagging around doesn’t necessarily make you a whore, and worst of all, you can actually catch aids from a Virgin.
Littered with dialogue that seldom makes a point, Araki’s script confirms immediately that for some reason Jordan and Amy are very close friends, but that’s all it does. It may shock too, but as the film moves on every exchange is lacking in direction and soon becomes repetitious. This could’ve been how we spoke to our mates during the nineties, but for the sake of the story, it soon abandons any kind of purpose, other than the director showing us how ‘excellent’ he is with spiky dialogue. His words may be fleetingly entertaining, complete with slang and profanity, but when all the talking is done what’s left is what we paid to see; a movie. We watch a movie and we hear a play. Taking that on board, what exactly is left?
Set in a seemingly lawless country, the cast exhibit some of the poorest acting seen on screen. Oddly, they appear to get better as the movie goes along, or maybe you just get used to it. James Duval is the biggest offender; his character ripped straight out of Wayne’s World and dumped on Araki’s miserable planet, his doomed fate looking set until Xavier is somewhat unrealistically allowed to crash the party. Red is allowed to say things like, “Sniff my finger and tell me it doesn't smell like your girlfriend's sweet, juicy snatch,” without laughing. He masturbates while watching Jordan and Amy fornicate, and then licks his sticky hand when he’s done. He blows holes in guys for no reason, and then has sex with Amy while her boyfriend is sleeping next to them. Yet Jordan, even less appealing, continually defends his new friend by saying, “He’s not so bad.”
They troubled teens – Amy’s mother used to be a heroin addict but now she's a Scientologist - hop between motels and marts, their urban jungle of dreary interiors and comic-book exteriors barely demanding exploration because all the threesome wants to do is eat and screw around. McGowan at first seems innocent enough, until she opens her mouth and unleashes a lively vocabulary while ditching her clothes time and again. Between them, they generate no empathy and aren’t even likeable, while other characters pop in and out of proceedings to flesh out a weak storyline about revenge. Ludicrously, and never justified other than a lengthy comedown from stimulants, every person they come in contact with seems to be infatuated with Amy, so when she knocks them back, jealousy takes over, and they all individually decide to hunt her down and kill her. Harsh, fair, but as storylines go, disappointing.
Luckily, there’s a welcome supply of gore and mayhem as Araki gleefully punctures proceedings – and a few arteries - with splattered headshots, severed limbs or the difficult to watch finale which is bloody, brutal and surprisingly believable. Unfortunately, you’ll probably be rooting for the antagonists by this point. Equally impressive is the soundtrack, so it’s a shame when the soulless sex scenes and bromidic banter fail to compliment it. Most disappointing of all is that the film doesn’t at least offer one clear-cut hero; instead Araki prefers to depict people with different degrees of ambivalence. With nobody to really root for, we’re left with a film that’s probably not for modern moviegoers. In a world where everything costs £6.66 (see what he did?), the only thing that sucks more is the fact that there just isn’t a place for such mundaneness. No matter how many times McGowan gets them out.
It’s not all doom and gloom, but Gregg Araki clearly favors style over substance, and his spiky dialogue is - for the most part - out of date and a bit ridiculous. With no plot to fall back on, its brief bloodshed and never ending nudity could sustain interest until the film’s surprisingly hard to watch finale, but you’re probably better off eating a Dorito.