Sunday, January 25, 2015

Totally Fucked Up (Gregg Araki, 1993)

Since I'm a bad boy who doesn't play by the motherfuckin' rules (that's right, I said doesn't), it only makes sense that I watch the first chapter of Gregg Araki's Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy last. And to the surprise of virtually no-one, this chapter is loaded with teen angst and plenty of butt-fucking. Presented as "fifteen random celluloid fragments," Totally Fucked Up (a.k.a. Totally F***ed Up) is a cautionary tale about the dangers that can arise when you let a guy sporting a My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult t-shirt into your heart. Don't get me wrong, I love their early stuff (Confessions of a Knife... is the shit), but this guy is wearing a My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult t-shirt that features artwork from the "Kooler Than Jesus" 12" single. In other words, run, James Duval, run! Take your racially ambiguous ass and get the hell away from him. He's going to hurt you!!!! Wow, see how easy that was? That's what's so great about the film's in Gregg Araki's Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy, I'm able to relate to just about anything that transpires onscreen. What I think I'm trying to say is, they're clearly made by someone who is cool. And by "cool," I mean they like industrial music, they aren't afraid of sex and they have a sly sense of humour.

Sure, you're thinking to yourself, lot's of other directors have sex scenes and sly humour peppered throughout their movies. Yeah, I suppose they do. But do they like industrial music? Let me answer that question for ya: They don't. Or, if they do, they don't show it. Well, Gregg Araki definitely shows it.

The only director that I'm aware of to acknowledge of the existence of industrial and shoegazer music simultaneously, it's obvious that Gregg Araki loves music, as his films, particularly the one's in the Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy, are stuffed to the gills with songs.

Anyone who is even vaguely familiar with either of these music scenes will recognize songs by Coil, Red House Painters, Numb, Pale Saints, The Wolfgang Press, Ministry, 16 Volt, Unrest, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, Ride and His Name Is Alive.

If being cutting edge when it comes to music wasn't enough, Gregg Araki also manages to predict the rise of self-absorption. To be fair, people have always been self-absorbed. However, since the dawn of the video camera, the self-absorbed have started to document their lives for all to see. And Gregg Araki captures this burgeoning phenomenon by having one of his characters film himself for some kind of video diary. While what he's doing might not seem de rigueur in the early 1990s, millions are partaking in this sort of behaviour as we speak.

Everything from the purchasing of food, to the eating of food, to the shitting of food is recorded for posterity.

In a not-so shocking twist, James Duval, who plays an eighteen year-old named Andy, starts off the movie by saying, "I guess you could say I'm totally fucked up" (all these movies start off this way).

Introduced via video confessional, we also meet Tommy (Roko Belic), Deric (Lance May), Steven (Gilbert Luna), the maker of these videos, and gal pals Michelle (Susan Behshid) Patricia (Jenee Gill), who are bored and disenfranchised.

While it was difficult for me to relate to the feeling of disenfranchisement the characters experience throughout this film (since they don't like disco, Joan Crawford or drag balls, they feel cut off from the majority of the gay population), the way teenage boredom is depicted, however, was spot-on, as I, too, remember wasting an entire summer standing around in front of a convenience store; after they told us to scram, we'd usually head over to a nearby parking garage.

Speaking of which, one of the parking garage hang out scenes in this movie features the best use of a My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult song, "The Devil Does Drugs," in motion picture history.

Anyway, these video confessions deal with a variety of topics. While I can't remember everything they talked about, I do recall sex being a major topic of conversation.

After enduring seven "random celluloid fragments" (one that includes the gang playing Heartthrob: The Dream Date Game until two in the morning), the film finally gets around to introducing its narrative drive. Taking place near the twenty-five minute mark, things get somewhat conventional when Andy is approached by Ian. (Oh, no, not the guy in the Kooler Than Jesus t-shirt?) Yep. (This isn't going to end well.) Breaking the ice by discussing their mutual love for Ministry, the two hit it off. As expected, they end up kissing in a–you guessed it–parking garage.

In the film's most adorable moment, Andy can be seen later that evening staring at a scrap of paper with Ian's phone number on it with a gleeful smirk on his face. (That's weird, I didn't notice the gleeful smirk, as I was too busy admiring the living fuck out of that kick ass Front 242 poster on his bedroom wall.) Well, that's where you I are different, as I was able to notice the gleeful smirk and admire the Front 242 poster on his wall. Multitasking, FTW!!!

Of course, his playful smirk soon turns to one of abject horror, when Andy finds out that Ian (Alan Boyce) isn't exactly a nice guy. To make matters even more dramatic, the relationship between Deric and Steven begins to fall apart and Tommy gets kicked out of his house.

It's true, I was somewhat disappointed by the film's overly serious tone; Totally Fucked Up doesn't have the same whimsical feel that The Doom Generation and Nowhere do. That being said, if you look closely, you'll see brief flourishes of whimsy transpire in unexpected places.

Take the scene where Andy goes to Ian's apartment (the dreaded pop-in). As he's walking up the stairs, we see a blue-haired punk princess dragging the body of a man wearing nothing but tightie-whities down a flight of stairs. In true Gregg Araki fashion, no explanation is given as to what is exactly is going on here. If you keep an eye out for these wacky touches, you should be able to swallow the film's more earnest moments.


  1. I've enjoyed Araki's films, The Doom Generation for example, was pretty freaking awesome, so 90's, filled with so much hatred for the's like the straight to video version of Natural Born Killers...hehhehe...Smiley Face is so underrated, highly recommend it, seriously, it's his funniest movie ever...and one of the best stone flicks ever made!

    1. In Smiley Face, I liked how instead of using A Flock of Seagulls' "I Ran" (one of the most overplayed 80s songs), Araki used "Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)," a bold move.

  2. A Greg Araki film I haven't seen. I'll have to check it out. Always loved DG and Nowhere.