Mar 13, 2015

Review: The Doom Generation (1995)

Gregg Araki's Totally F***ed Up is far from your every day movie and that goes way beyond its eye-catching title. Whether it was from its pseudo-documentary format or its at times shocking imagery, it's certainly memorable. It wasn't a perfect movie by any means and it may not have held my attention the whole way through, but I definitely admired it for its ability to stand out on its very limited budget.

In The Doom Generation, Gregg Araki continues the themes he introduced in Totally F***ed Up. These two films as well as the 1997 film Nowhere constitute what is the Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy. They're not follow-ups to each other story-wise, but are all the same extensions of one another. They all feature ostracized teenage characters who reject anything to do with normalcy. Oh, and James Duval happens to be in all of them as well.


Genre: action, comedy, crime
Directed by: Gregg Araki
Produced by: Gregg Araki, Yves Marmion, Andrea Sperling, etc.
Written by: Gregg Araki
Music by: Dan Gatto
Running time: 83 minutes
Production company: Union Générale Cinématographique, The Teen Angst Movie Company, Desperate Pictures, etc.
Distributed by: Trimark Pictures, Haut et Court, Vértigo Films, etc.
Country: United States, France
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: $284,785 (North America)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Rose McGowan, James Duval, Jonathan Schaech, Dustin Nguyen, Margaret Cho, Parker Posey, Lauren Tewes, Christopher Knight, Nicky Katt, Amanda Bearse, Cress Williams, Skinny Puppy, Perry Farrell, Heidi Fleiss, Khristofor Rossianov



After leaving a club, Jordan White (James Duval) and Amy Blue (Rose McGowan) pick up Xavier Red (Jonathan Schaech) not exactly on purpose. Jordan gives Xavier the nickname "X," but Amy wants him out of her car. X eventually obliges, but appears once again at just the right moment to get Jordan and Amy out of a sticky situation in a convenience store which unfortunately results in the death of the shopkeeper (Dustin Nguyen). The trio have no choice but to stick together and lay low.


Compared to Totally F***ed Up, The Doom Generation is far more polished. It has a more straightforward narrative, it doesn't use handheld camera and it doesn't have to follow as many characters. The production also feels a lot richer and more extravagant, but its feet are definitely still wading in the small-budget indie film pool. Still, it's a far more accessible film and that's especially so if you go with the R-rated cut that removes most of the extreme stuff. It's not what I would recommend if you want Araki's true vision though.

Amy, Jordan and X find themselves in a desolate American wasteland of intolerance, convenience stores and gaudy fast food restaurants. The way in which the United States is portrayed in TDG is almost like a fantasy world for how amplified its qualities are and I love it. The result is part amusing and part freaky though since it's not hard to imagine that this could all be real to a certain extent. 

The satirical news report from two TV anchors (Lauren Tewes, Christopher Knight) in regards to the accidental murder of the shopkeeper is probably one of the best examples of this. It sounds like something from The Onion for how unseriously serious it is. It's funny stuff and it just goes to highlight how much our three characters don't fit in with the society that they hate so much. 

With some extravagant colour usage and lighting, Araki has definitely made The Doom Generation a visually arresting film. Do I know why all the interior decorators in the world of TDG are probably on heavy drugs? I won't pretend that I do, but that doesn't mean I don't like seeing all the wild motel rooms as well as all the tinfoil covered surfaces in the bars. 

I did notice that the main colours that Araki uses are red, white and blue which also happen to be last names of all the characters. I wonder what that could mean? The American flag is also red, white and blue, so my guess is that Araki is trying to say something (most likely negative) about his great country.

Rose McGowan is probably the presence you notice the most here and that's pretty impressive given that this is only her second appearance on film. You definitely don't miss her as the angry, foul-mouthed Amy. James Duval plays your regular airhead who doesn't really have a lot to say unless he's under the influence of drugs. Still, compared to his appearance in Totally F***ed Up, I think he's better utilized here. Johnathon Schaech is also quite good, making me think of a wolf. You never really know what he's going to do and he seems more like an antagonist than a protagonist if you really think about it.

I don't want to spoil anything, but I will say that the climax is quite explosive. Gregg Araki seems to have a thing for shocking climaxes because he does the same thing in Totally F***ed Up. This is where the unrated cut of the film is truly felt because if you go with the R-cut, you end up with a chopped up version that doesn't show anything. Perhaps for some people this is preferable since it is quite shocking. I'd still go with Araki's original vision though. 

Blood is spilled, sexuality is blurred and lots of crappy roadside food is eaten in The Doom Generation. Like Totally F***ed Up, this is not a movie for everyone. There's no way that I would go out of my way to recommend TDG to casual movie watchers. Even seasoned film watchers are probably likely to find it a bit much. Something like The Mysterious Skin is a far safer bet. Still, if I somehow were to run into an Araki fan, I would definitely recommend The Doom Generation if they hadn't seen it yet. This is a true cult film in every way and I dig it.



Related Reviews:

Totally F***ed Up (1993) 
Nowhere (1997)

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