A look at the film ‘The Doom Generation’ directed by Greg Araki.
They say that there are no original stories these days. no matter how something may be dressed up, the core themes can always be traced back to something that preceded it.
An example of this is ‘Bruce Almighty’. This is the story of Midas with a 21st century spin on it. When you strip it back, take out the fluff and the waffle, it is a startlingly faithful retelling of the original Greek tale.
And thus you will find that the original Greek tales are the basis for almost all the stories we watch or read as entertainment. Even if the modern writer was not intending to copy, there are only so many themes one can use and it ends up mimicking the old formula anyway.
But there are some exceptions. Occasionally you get a film that breaks from convention and manages to be totally isolated. Sometimes you even get a film that has so little story, narrative, context or meaning, that it can’t possibly be a retelling of anything except some disturbed and deranged individual’s bad dream.
Introducing ‘Doom Generation’.
At this point I’d like to say, “a film about something-or-other where someone-or-other does this and manages that,” but I can’t.
My quandary is that this is a film that is not about anything. The best description I can offer is that two unpleasant youths get mixed up with a third unpleasant youth and then they embark on a short journey of alternating sex and murder until some credits roll.
That description is actually quite misleading in that it sounds as though things happen in the film that could command your attention. After all, who doesn’t appreciate a little shagging and/or mindless violence from time to time, but – and I can’t stress this enough for this film – there is no reason for any of it and it feels hollow and meaningless.
The story is not the only thing that is lacking on this feature. The quality of the film stock used is so abysmally poor and the post-production remarkably absent that the image has the sort of quality one would expect from the early days of direct-to-VHS camcorders. The 4:3 aspect ratio does little in its favour and highlights the movie’s poor pedigree rather than appearing to be any kind of artistic intention.
That the film managed to draw any of the actors it did is nothing short of miraculous. Though let’s not kid ourselves here, it was the mid nineties and those were early-days for the careers of the people involved, though they were past that dangerous embryonic stage where films like this could extinguish a future in the film industry.
Rose McGowan takes the lead and is largely unbearable for the duration. Each line is delivered like a spoilt and surly teenager. This may have been the intention, given the themes the film might have been attempting to explore, but with no character development of any kind, no let-up in her behaviour and no glimpse into what makes her character the way she is, it quickly becomes an irritant.
James Duvall is the opposite to McGowan. Her on-screen boyfriend who is weak, indecisive and ultimately a bit drippy. One thing that he has in common is that his character is equally as unlikable, just for slightly different reasons.
The third person who is there to add some interruption to the starting equilibrium is a fairly typical narcissistic cardboard cutout who serves no purpose than to come between the two leads and to be a catalyst for pointless shit to happen.
Pointless shit like a convenience store robbery gone bad that ends up in the store owner being killed in some weird decapitation attack. In any other film, that would have been it, aside from a few reactions and consequences as a result of the attack. But not this one.
No, this film had to distinguish itself somehow. The writer/director decided he would achieve this by having the decapitated head come to life, be sick and then talk gibberish for a few moments.
You may be reading this and either thinking – or perhaps even vocalising – the trendy and popular acronym WTF. You would be well within your rights to do so. Quite what the talking head was meant to indicate is a mystery. It was completely out of place in this film, it was badly done, it was highly unnecessary, it was embarrassing to have to watch and it wasn’t even backed up by anything that followed on.
What was the point?
Ah, that magical question. One that people who view this film keep asking in the hopes that some cosmic intellect with be able to answer. Sadly, it never will, only because there is nothing here to ‘get’. There, simply put, is no point.
For a short film, it takes a veeeeeeery long time to watch. Many struggle to finish simply because it’s so woefully poor quality and that there’s nothing to focus on. Sitting in a silent, dark room for eighty minutes would pass more quickly than sitting and watching this title.
Only ever watch this film if you consider yourself something of a film-connoisseur; someone who can sample and spit out different genres and titles with ease while never getting too seriously involved or invested in each one. For the casual viewer, this will do nothing. Only for the strong willed and those with an iron-fortitude shall succeed to go from credits to credits.
I pondered for a time after my viewing. I did a little internet research, browsed some forums, tried to get other people’s take on it and I came out the other end none the wiser. Vindicated that it wasn’t just me who thought it was shallow, trashy bollocks, but still clueless.
The friend who let me borrow his DVD to watch, upon taking it back, did remind me that I had been warned it was a different breed of film to most. I pointed out that the characters surnames – Red, White and Blue – coupled with some very high contrast lighting and a weird (not in a good way) attack near the films conclusion to some distorted sense of patriotic justice involving the American flag and ‘The Star Spangled Banner’, all seemed to be hiding some sort of message.
To that, I was simply advised, “try not to think about it too much, nobody else really gets it either and I think you’re giving too much credit to the guy who wrote it.”
Well, there you go. What more can one say?
I shall begin my conclusion by noting that this film is part of trilogy. Not the kind of trilogy like ‘The Godfather’ or ‘Back to the Future’, but more like part of a collection of independent titles that follow a theme. Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright did it with their ‘Blood and Ice Cream’ trilogy which started with ‘Shaun of the Dead’, through ‘Hot Fuzz’ and concluded with ‘Worlds End’.
What this means is that there are another two films out there that are considered part of this films universe. This should make you afraid. If it doesn’t, watch a few minutes of ‘Doom Generation’ and you will see why you should be scared. Perhaps it’s simply much safer to stay away from anything linked with the name Greg Araki, irrespective of how involved he was in the production.
As far as pointless, meaningless dross goes, ‘Strangerland’ felt more coherent.
A reason why you should watch it: Umm… Uhh… Erm… You like obscure, weird shit?
A reason why you shouldn’t watch it: You need your films to have some kind of relevance or point.