The Doom Generation
1995, R, 95 min. Directed by Gregg Araki. Starring James Duvall, Rose Mcgowan, Jonathon Schaech.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Nov. 3, 1995
Admittedly, Araki's new feature may not appeal to all tastes, but that does not at all diminish its immediacy and wit. This bloody road movie about two bored teenaged lovers, Amy Blue (McGowen) and Jordan White (Duvall), who get mixed up with the manipulative and violence-prone drifter Xavier Red (Schaech), contains images of sickening mayhem that are matched only by the director's inveterate romanticism. These alienated teens are TV babies, whose notions about love and affection sound just as deep as the advertising slogans they were reared on. Nicknamed X, Xavier adds an ambisexual challenge to the couple's sexual diet; he adds, if you will, an X factor to the situation. Sex with Amy is consummated quickly, but X's homosexual come-ons to Jordan lead to the movie's concluding maelstrom of violence. This set-up is all the more interesting coming from Gregg Araki, whose earlier movies The Living End and Totally F***ed Up earned him a reputation as one of the pioneers of the Queer New Wave. The opening credits of The Doom Generation bill it as “a heterosexual movie by Gregg Araki.” But Doom is really a lot more anarchic than that. It challenges the heterosexual status quo at most every turn: for example, the way in which most of the kisses are composed as three-shots, or the way Jordan brings his face close to X's and, instead of kissing him as anticipated, burps loudly. Doom is Araki's first movie shot in 35mm on a budget that required more than mere toes and fingers to count. The movie also had a sudden and much-publicized shift in distributors prior to its release. Yet, none of this has dampened Araki's unique blend of nihilism and romanticism fueled by a witty script and dynamic compositions. Of course, some of these compositions involve gross images like the newly severed head of a Quickie Mart manager that X felt compelled to kill still babbling and hollering from its new perch amidst the relish tray. The Doom Generation is also packed with loads of funny material, as well as a mountain of cameo performances from the likes of Margaret Cho, Heidi Fleiss, Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction, Amanda Bearse of Married With Children, Lauren Tewes of The Love Boat, Christopher Knight of The Brady Bunch, and Dustin Nguyen of 21 Jump Street. The movie's soundtrack presents a relentless driving force featuring music by the Jesus & Mary Chain, Nine Inch Nails, Cocteau Twins, Pizzicato Five, Love & Rockets, and much, much more. More than any other filmmaker making movies about the new “kids” generation, it seems to me that Araki -- with both Doom and Totally F***ked Up -- has his finger tuned most acutely to the human pulse and not just the lens shutter.