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  Doom Generation, The Next Stop On The Highway To Hell
Year: 1995
Director: Gregg Araki
Stars: James Duval, Rose McGowan, Johnathon Schaech, Cress Williams, Skinny Puppy, Dustin Nguyen, Margaret Cho, Lauren Tewes, Christopher Knight, Nicky Katt, Perry Farrell, Amanda Bearse, Parker Posey, Salvador Xuereb, Heidi Fleiss, Dewey Weber, Don Galloway
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Thriller, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Amy Blue (Rose McGowan) and her boyfriend Jordan White (James Duval) are at a club, but she is not having a good time and wishes to leave, so after a cranky conversation with one clubgoer she drags Jordan out and they wind up trying to have sex in their car in the parking lot. Unfortunately he is not quite up to the deed, and they are left mulling this over when suddenly there is a row outside and they drive off - with a new passenger, who is bleeding from a knife wound. He Xavier Red (Johnathon Schaech), and he will do his level best to change their lives forever...

One of writer and director Gregg Araki's gay punk movies, this was proudly proclaimed as a "Heterosexual Movie" in the opening credits, which as you may have surmised was his idea of a joke as he smuggled in the gay themes and scenes by stealth. The Doom Generation was the middle entry in his Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy which had started with All F***ed Up and ended with Nowhere, but was much like his other efforts in tone and concern, at least for the first couple of decades of his career, or thereabouts. Thus everything about this was angry and death obsessed, from the characters to the plot.

Which made for distinctive, if not exactly easy to get along with, viewing as it was very much an in your face work, going out of its way to shake up the audience and make them assess their existence in the face of their impending, well, doom. You would either get along with this famously, or more likely roll your eyes at Araki's bullish attempts at being offensive to prove a point, and this led to his canon being regarded as very much an acquired taste even among cult movie fans. As often, there was a sense of a creative force being keen to get down with ver kids to make his opinions plain, which could have you opting to deride Araki for being little better than Larry Clark.

Yet there was a more aesthetic sensibility to Araki's work, a drive to catch the eye with an arresting, even artistic image, whether it be one of a striking location or an act of brutality, that marked him out as more serious about his passion than many would give him credit for: this wasn't all for its own sake, he had a true interest in expressing himself through his movies, and if that meant he got a lot of fury out of his system, so much the better for him. Whether that was good enough for the viewer was a moot point, as Araki's chosen methods courted an insincere appearance, so the thoughts coursing through his head about how Generation X were obsessed with death were perhaps not best served by his efforts here.

After all, this was a generation labouring under the spectre of AIDS, and Araki, being gay, felt that justified his wake up call to those who would reject the idea that it was everyone's problem. However, the people who thought that were hardly the ones who would seek out one of his films, so the feeling of preaching to a choir of poseurs was very much in evidence in The Doom Generation. Taking the form of that popular indie framework, the road movie, it followed our three heroes as Xavier seduced Amy, though she still didn't like him much, all so Araki could get to what really interested him, which was Xavier seducing Jordan in the final act, which not too coincidentally arrived at the same time as the bloody climax where innocence is corrupted and we're all left to go home feeling suitably chastened. With a cast of stars of variable cult appeal from Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss to rock band Skinny Puppy to "troubled" Love Boat star Lauren Tewes, it was evident Araki was appealing to a very specific demographic, even if his statements were intended for a wider audience. Music by Dan Gatto.

[Second Sight's Region 2 DVD has an interview with Araki and a commentary with him and the main cast as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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