Queer auteur Gregg Araki’s ‘Teen Apocalypse Trilogy’ films are back on big screen

By Zeke Reed

In “The Doom Generation,” Jordan White and Amy Blue are a young couple going home after a night at a Los Angeles club. They pick up a drifter who ends up killing a convenience store worker, and all three go on the run. Video courtesy of YouTube.

Gregg Araki was born to Japanese American parents in mid-century Los Angeles, a landscape he found full of suburban ennui and alienation. To escape his surroundings, he turned to punk rock music and the avant garde cinema of David Lynch, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and John Waters. In the 1980s, he enrolled at USC’s film school and became a leading figure in the New Queer Cinema movement of the 90s. Araki’s iconoclastic films were polarizing, even within the queer cinema world, because he was unafraid to tackle sensitive topics like HIV/AIDS.  

“From the beginning, his films were outwardly and proudly queer,” says KJ Relth-Miller, film curator at the Academy Museum. 

Araki’s edgy 1995 movie “The Doom Generation” became part of a cult-classic teen apocalypse trilogy set in LA. 

“He said when ‘The Doom Generation’ first premiered at Sundance, the audience afterward looked like they had been hit by a truck,” relays Relth-Miller. “It was that much of an in-your-face, confrontational impact that it had on not just the queer community and his fellow filmmakers, but also the cinephile community at large.”

This weekend “The Doom Generation” and its two companion films are back on the big screen at the Academy Museum.

Gregg Araki’s “The Doom Generation” features actors Rose McGowan (center), James Duval (left) and Johnathon Schaech (right). Courtesy of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. 

Given their provocative subject matter, Araki’s films never got a wide theatrical release. Most of his fans have had to scrounge for VHS tapes and DVDs that were frequently corrupted and even missing entire scenes. 

This return to theaters is an opportunity for hardcore fans and newcomers alike to engage with his films in their full splendor. For Relth-Miller, the screening cements Araki’s continued cultural relevance some three decades later. 

“What I think is so exciting about a filmmaker like Gregg Araki is how different generations interpret his work and have come to see his work. … Many in the audience will also be seeing [his films] for the very, very first time so it's going to be an incredible weekend.”