The Doom Generation

Here is a film where a severed head is allowed to make noise, even hours after it has been removed from its body. Not that anything is ever done with this concept, but at least it’s out there for everyone to see and talk about. No, I don’t know why it was included, or why a lot of the things in The Doom Generation are the way they are. It’s immaterial anyway; this is a film that just wants to take you on a fun road trip, while giving you a dose of nihilism every once in a while. Nihilism that, like all the groceries the characters buy in this film, will cost $6.66. (Very subtle.)

We open off with a couple of teenagers swearing about how the party they’re at sucks. They decide to go to their car, and then do so. These are quite independent people, you see. The car ends up being hit by a group of people in a fight, with one of these people, named Xavier (Johnathon Schaech) hopping in and telling them to get out of dodge. So they do, and now there are three people traveling around.

Eventually, the pair ditch Xavier and head to a convenience store. They are threatened by the man behind the counter, but are rescued by Xavier, who somehow managed to get to the gas station at about the same time as they did, despite having to walk. Whatever. The cashier ends up dying, and it’s his severed head that I mentioned in the opening paragraph. Amy (Rose McGowan) and Jordan (James Duval) decide to take Xavier with them, and go on the run from whoever might chase after them for their recent murder.

Nobody does come after them, but they keep on traveling, running into a bunch of people along the way. Once of the running gags of the film is that in every location, someone will see Amy and think that they know her. Whether they do or not isn’t made clear, although Amy’s profane exclamations after they see her make me think that they do. Whatever. They are mad that she’s with someone else — two someones when you really think about it — and are willing to kill her and her companions as a result. And when faced with death, what do people in movies do? Why, they either run away from, or kill, the person wanting them dead.

That’s what happens in The Doom Generation, and what occurs for most of the film’s runtime. Characters run away from other characters, our leads kill a bunch of people along the way, and the only time remorse is felt is when a dog gets run over. Eventually, the trio wind up in a polygamous relationship, with everyone seemingly fine with that. Whatever floats your boat, movie characters.

I call them that because they never came across as real people to me. Their dialogue starts out incredibly childish, like it was written by an 8th grader who recently learned a couple of new four-letter words, but eventually just ends up pointless. At least it wasn’t full of exposition, which is almost always worse, but I couldn’t believe that people would talk or act like the ones in the movie.

Which isn’t to say that the actors fully embodied these unbelievable characters either, because they were just as bad. There wasn’t any emotion, they delivered their adolescent dialogue just like if they were doing bad impressions at a comedy club, and they never seemed to gel with their characters. There seemed to be a disconnect between what the actor should do, and what their character should do, which led me to believe that director Gregg Araki wasn’t giving them much, if any direction. I picture him just sitting back and saying “have at it” for each scene, and the actors are left there going “Okay, let’s take the script as literally as possible.”

With that said, I can’t say I had a poor time with The Doom Generation. It ended up being quite humorous, even if a lot of it came from how immature the dialogue and situations were, and it seemed to have a heart, even if I’m not quite sure what the point to any of it was. Maybe that is the point: That there is no point. There’s a lot of nihilism going around here, and the film makes no bones about it. The symbolism is not hidden, and in almost every new locale, something about doom, apocalypse, having no hope, or something like that, is plastered on a sign for everyone to see. At one point a character asks “what is the point to our existence”, a question that never receives a response.

I’m sure there was more hidden symbolism as well as the parts that were extremely obvious, but I think I may be too dense to figure it out. That, or the over-the-top violence and sex kept me from trying to figure it out or even care that it was there. I’ve heard people tell me that different characters represent different things, like how one of them represents Satan, and one of them represents God, but honestly, that seems to me to be looking too far into it. Given how juvenile the rest of the project seemed, I don’t think such symbolism could have been thought up by the writer.

Speaking of the writer, characters are included that end up having nothing done with them. For example, the Korean shop owner who gets his head chopped off, but can still talk. That’s forgotten about. Then there is a character who thinks that she recognizes Amy, but the trio manages to escape. She swears that she’ll kill Amy, but that’s never touched upon again. Finally, the is one scene involving the FBI, where we get told that they have Amy’s fingerprints, and that they want the trio dead or alive (for some reason). But they show up for one scene and that’s it. I’m not sure if this was just sloppy writing, or it was done with intent of giving us a red herring so we wouldn’t figure out the ending, but it felt like we got an incomplete film.

I think that the reason I still had a good time with The Doom Generation was because of the atmosphere. This will be a timeless film, one that doesn’t rely on CGI or other special effects, but instead focuses on capturing the feeling of being a teen or young adult in the 90’s. You get a sense of what it was like to feel lost in the world, and you understand what these characters are feeling, even if they’re not the ones giving you that sense. It works because it builds a setting and it puts you in that setting along for the ride with people who, in the end, don’t mean anything to anyone, except that they’re able to take you on a journey.

In the end, The Doom Generation is a juvenile piece of filmmaking, but it serves a point in being somewhat fun and by setting a good mood. While the characters are inconsequential, and most of the film’s point being lost in the outlandish violence, sex and profanity-laden dialogue, it’s still a fun enough road movie about three young people trying to figure out the meaning of life.

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