The second part of Gregg Araki’s Teen Apocalypse trilogy – after Totally F***ed Up and before Nowhere – The Doom Generation holds a special place as one of the few films that truly helps define mid-90s indie cinema. It’s a movie that feeds off Generation X nihilism and the anger of post-punk youth to create a road trip film that feels both meaningful and pointless at the same time.
Amy (Rose McGowan) and her slightly dim boyfriend Jordan (James Duval) are out one night when their paths cross that of drifter Xavier (Johnathan Schaech). While Amy at first wants nothing to do with him, a strange bond develops after Xavier saves her life by literally shooting a gun-toting shop owner’s head off. The trio end up heading off on a trip together, with Xavier having an unnerving tendency to kill people, and Amy being constantly mistaken for the love of peoples’ lives, with violent results.
Things get ever stranger and soon Xavier is having sex with Amy, but with Jordan’s knowledge and tacit approval. And why does everything cost $6.66?
As with several other of Gregg Araki’s films, The Doom Generation lives on the edge between meandering pointlessness and surreal significance. With plenty of sex and extreme violence, one moment it seems like it’s going nowhere, before adding a neat little satirical point. For example, just as OTT blood, guts and gore reaches the point of becoming tedious, the film stops for a few minutes so the characters can mourn the death of a random dog, highlighting the daftness of how desensitised we can get to violence against humans but animals will get us every time.
Many have compared it to Natural Born Killers, but while Oliver Stone’s movie has always struck me as rather contrived, The Doom Generation has a far better sense of humour and a stronger authenticity to the grunge generation. It’s very rough around the edges, but it works. Indeed, it’s worth a look just for Amy’s incredible use of profanity, who manages to turn cursing into an art form.
Araki is well known for his queer sensibility, but The Doom Generation is billed as his ‘heterosexual movie’, although as he acknowledges in the new interview on the disc, that’s a bit of a misnomer. Although there’s no actual gay content, the sexual tension between Jordan and Xavier is deliberate and palpable, with the only question being whether Jordan is oblivious to it or not. It’s not a coincidence either that the dark and wince-inducing ending comes just as the duo are about to act on their attraction.
Overall Verdict: A strange movie that puts post-punk grunge nihilism on screen, with a dark sense of humour as well as plenty of sex and violence.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac