Gregg Araki’s Nowhere, originally released in 1997, is the last part of his Teen Apocalypse trilogy, after 1993’s Totally Fucked Up and 1995’s the Doom Generation (though I’d argue that 2010’s Kaboom, which carries on along similar lines, makes it a foursome.)
For those unaware of his oeuvre, Mr Araki’s films generally feature beautiful young things, of mixed acting ability but uniformly flawless complexion, doing drugs, and each other, in various combinations, in heavily stylised settings while spouting doomy dialogue with an emphasis on the alienating effects of a crass, overbearing consumer culture. If this, and the in-your-face nihilism of the titles seem to suggest a grim old time at the multiplex, it should be pointed out that his films are actually, y’know, kinda fun.
Nowhere follows formula, but throws a rubber-suit alien into the mix. We’re in shiny Los Angeles, following the lives of various shiny kids one sunny day. Video-camera wielding romantic Dark (James Duvall) wants Mel (Rachel True) to himself, but she’s having fun with Lucifer (Kathleen Robertson), amongst others…and doesn’t want to settle down. Around them circle other cuties: Sarah Lassez, Christina Applegate, Jordan Ladd, Mena Suvari, Heather Graham, Ryan Phillippe and many others, playing characters of varying functionality and sexual persuasion. In lieu of a plot there is the desire of most of the cast to get to a party: all have adventures, some are sweet, some are horrible, some don’t make it. Much sex is had. There is rape, addiction, messy suicide, nipple abuse and alien abduction, before it all goes horribly wrong at the party, then horribly wronger back at Dark’s place. The end.
Nowhere is a giddy, wonky feat of laugh-out-loud audacity, a plate-spinning act that barely holds together over its lean 78 minutes. Characters are called Handjob and Jujyfruit and Dingbat and say things like ‘dogs eating people is cool.’ They are distinguished mainly by hairstyle and interior décor. It zips nimbly from airhead to airhead, sustained by the perkiness of the cast, the audio-visual punch, and a horny, laissez faire attitude. From the opening shower-masturbation fantasy onwards, everything seems drenched in a hormonal fug, most of the cast have trouble keeping their hands off each other for any length of time, and when they do get it on their various scenes are spliced together in artful polysexual feats of editing. Everything is affectless and candy coloured and paper thin. Dark witnesses a reptiloid alien disintegrate three valley girls at a bus stop, but is most annoyed that he failed to catch it on tape. He seems stunned when the same thing happens to his fantasy lover Montgomery (Nathan Bexton) later on that evening, but at no point does he try to tell anybody about all this. It’s like Bret Easton Ellis made over by John Waters – the tone may be numb, addled and apocalyptic, but look! There’s Traci Lords! And Gibby Haynes! And those cool background paintings! And don’t Sonic Youth/ Suede/ the Chemical Brothers sound good in this bit?
The appearances by a money grubbing televangelist (John Ritter) aside (because no post-punk indie movie of the period was ever complete without a sleazy televangelist), it’s remarkable how little Nowhere has dated, given how achingly, trying-too-hard-hip this all was sixteen years ago. Perhaps it’s because it comes sealed in its own weird bubble, where, say, the absence of mobile phones and the internet come across as another stylistic decision, but now it seems box fresh and bright. On the commentary, somebody occasionally asks Gregg about the meaning of this or that shot, but he remains tight-lipped about that stuff, allowing the cast more room to obsess over their poreless skin, their clothes, teeth and hair. This seems entirely appropriate, it’s a film as much about youthful flesh, and surfaces and eyeball kicks as it is about the end of the world.
Watch the trailer: