The Doom Generation is a hugely entertaining movie that feels like it could almost have been made by a handful of other directors. There’s a hint of David Lynch kookiness in there, John Waters comes to mind (most probably because of the unflinching and open sexuality of the characters) and there’s also a certain impressive low-budget swagger to the feature that recalls Alex Cox in his prime. However, despite these various personalities being called to mind it has to be said that Gregg Araki is a writer/director who very much does what he wants to do. And the man deserves quite a bit of kudos for his unique and funky vision.
The fun starts even before the movie begins. It may be billed as “a heterosexual movie by Gregg Araki” but there’s a refreshingly carefree mixing of the sexuality onscreen that will make jittery jock types sneer and verbalise feelings of disgust. Which I, personally, think is a great way for Araki to have fun at their expense and I thoroughly endorse his carefree attitude to a lot of the onscreen antics.
The core story strand sees Rose McGowan (an actress who I always seem to forget is stunningly gorgeous) travelling along with her boyfriend James Duval (a sweet, rather naive, young man who goes through the movie in a state of almost childlike wonder). The two meet Johnathon Schaech and tension rises. Strangely enough, the tension starts to drop and a certain chemistry develops between the threesome after an incident that results in some bloody slaughter. Dark impulses are explored, sexuality is given some time and space to develop and the nihilism is offset by the moments of uncomplicated enjoyment. But it can’t last forever, surely. Especially with the number of people who approach Rose McGowan’s character and keep thinking that she’s someone else.
Clearly this won’t be for everyone. In fact, it may not be for most people (though I hope that the audience for this film grows). The acting is stilted and deliberately carries an air of the all-too-innocent or the blase and the cool with every line of dialogue. Rose McGowan is a great actress to put in the middle of proceedings, with Duval and Schaech holding in orbit around her. The supporting cast features some fun little turns but Cress Williams and Parker Posey stand out from the crowd.
There are some moments that are very, very sexy and then some moments that feel almost squalid (possibly not Araki’s intention but I’m not sure, there is certainly a winding path towards real darkness and grit), the number 666 keeps cropping up throughout and we also get some nasty violence. Yet there’s also a great style to everything and Araki knows how to frame a shot and create something eye-catching with nearly every scene.
This was my first Gregg Araki movie. It won’t be my last.
The Doom Generation storms on to DVD here in the UK on Monday 26th March and extra features include a decent conversation with Gregg Araki and a superbly entertaining commentary featuring Araki and his three leads. Quite informative but also very funny in places.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: GREGG ARAKI
STARS: JAMES DUVAL, ROSE MCGOWAN, JOHNATHON SCHAECH, CRESS WILLIAMS, PARKER POSEY
RUNTIME: 83 MINS APPROX