By Bob Freville
Teen movies have always been profoundly fucked up. Don’t believe me? Just revisit Revenge of the Nerds (1984) today and tell me it’s totally acceptable for a buck-toothed creeper to disguise himself as some Betties’ boyfriend in order to have sex with her.
Even more fucked up? Watch how Betty ends up falling for the creeper in question because of his sexual prowess. Tell me that shit would fly today and please…tell me that shit with a straight face.
Teen movies are historically fucked for a number of different reasons, some of them cool, others not so much. For example, those of us who grew up in the 80s hold a special place in our heart for the angsty, verbose detention dramedy The Breakfast Club. However, in retrospect, it’s not exactly awesome or rad for the high school jock to fall for the basket case only after she’s been painted up to look conventionally pretty.
Teen movies of yesteryear have delivered a lot of questionable messages to the impressionable youth of America, from the rampant narcissism and sociopathy of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to the self-aggrandizing of Hollywood’s Less Than Zero film adaptation.
None of it is worth a wet fart in a diaper compared to the extremity of the following titles, each of which have been carefully curated to form what could be an all-night movie marathon of misanthropy, molestation, moodiness and murder.
1. Totally F***ed Up (1993)
How can you make a list of totally fucked up movies without including a film titled Totally Fucked Up? Strand Releasing added the asterisks for advertising purposes after acquiring the flick in the early-90s, but producer-editor-writer-director Gregg Araki (The Living End) always intended it to be called Totally Fucked Up.
This Godardian indie tells the story of an insular group of gay LA teens in a series of vignettes that reveal how funny, normal, alienated and, ultimately, doomed most of them are. When a young lesbian couple pass a bowl and a turkey baster around to collect their gay male friends’ semen we see just how innocent they really are. These girls are actually young and naive enough to believe that this is a viable means of insemination.
The film introduced many of us to James Duval, a character actor who would go on to serve as Araki’s muse for the duration of his Teen Angst Trilogy (and then some) and become a fixture on the horror convention circuit thanks to his role as Frank the Bunny in the cult hit Donnie Darko.
Totally Fucked Up earns its moniker thanks to the no-holds-barred approach taken by Araki and his inexperienced cast. After witnessing mutual masturbation, a gay bashing, an AIDS scare and a painful breakup, the film ends in the emotionally stunned aftermath of a suicide, one that fans of The Sopranos will recognize at once.
2. The Doom Generation (1995)
“I feel like a gerbil smothering in Richard Gere’s butthole.”
That’s an actual line from the second installment in Gregg Araki’s Teen Angst Trilogy, and it goes far towards explaining how so many young people feel in the modern world. It’s a sentiment that has been echoed in other classic teen movies like Pump Up the Volume in which Christian Slater played an angry teen with a pirate radio show on which he connected with other depressed youth.
As Slater’s Happy Harry Hard-On said in PUTV, “All the great themes have been used up and turned into theme parks.” There’s a universal feeling in both movies that a life worth living has already passed and that the current generation has been left with table scraps.
The characters in The Doom Generation compensate for this apparent fact by eating shitty food from convenience stores, rhapsodizing about emo rock bands and engaging in some unique sexual acts.
How fucked up is this flick? Every time Xavier Red (Johnathan Schaech), Jordan White (Duval) or Amy Blue (Rose McGowan) buy a snack or order a drink, the total comes to $6.66, an omen that first crops up when they accidentally blow the head off a militant cashier…a head that lands in a produce display before coughing up guacamole and demanding “Six dolla sixty six cent!”
When our innocent young lovers lose their virginity to each other in a motel bathroom, their new pseudo-companion stands in the doorway, jerking off before eating his own climax. Scrumdiddlyumptious!
3. Nowhere (1997)
Think Araki maxed out the teen extremity quotient with The Doom Generation?
At first blush, 1997’s Nowhere might seem like a gorgeous ambient sexual fantasy, but once its protagonist’s ornery mother (Beverly D’Angelo in a hideous face mask) snaps him out of his masturbatory reverie, the film’s true reality is revealed.
Dark (James Duval) is a sensitive film student who videotapes everything because he believes he’ll capture his own “spectacular” death on camera. His friends and acquaintances are equally fucked. Mel (Rachel True) is a promiscuous bisexual who keeps her cantankerous girlfriend (Kathleen Robertson) around in much the same way Paris Hilton used to keep her little shit dog around, like an accessory that reminds Dark that he will always have to share her with someone else.
Throughout the movie’s running time, we bear witness to alien abductions, a clown carrying a dead dog, glammed out drag queens brandishing automatic weapons, a sadomasochistic biker making his girlfriend spank his ass raw and, later, beating a guy to death with a Campbell’s soup can, a junkie teenager killing himself by sticking his head in an oven, a bulimic girl getting violently raped by the star of her favorite teen soap opera, John fucking Ritter sermonizing the impressionable youth into suicide via televangelism and a guy fingering his girlfriend with a piece of chocolate before making her lick it off his fingers.
All of this occurs before a very bloody and very bizarre final sequence that seems like it was ripped from one of Franz Kafka’s fever dreams.
This wouldn’t be the last time that Araki would make a fucked up teen movie. In 2004, he would adapt Scott Heim’s grim novel Mysterious Skin for the screen, giving the world teen heartthrob Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a 17-year old hustler who was molested as a child by his little league coach (Bill Sage).
In 2010, Araki reunited with James Duval for the batshit conspiracy-crazed teen sex romp Kaboom. Neither of these movies touched on the anarchic spirit of the Teen Angst Trilogy.
4. The Boys Next Door (1985)
Before she ended up becoming a gun for hire (see: Wayne’s World, The Little Rascals) Penelope Spheeris was a punk rock documentarian (The Decline of Western Civilization) who segued into narrative features with gritty urban films about a generation of orphaned punks (Suburbia, Dudes).
Spheeris directed this early Charlie Sheen vehicle from a script by future Final Destination scribes Glen Morgan and James Wong. As anyone who saw Suburbia could probably guess, this one was not pretty.
After their high school graduation, Bo (Sheen) and Roy (Maxwell Caulfield) take a road trip to Los Angeles where they end up on a murder spree after Roy strangles one of their dates to death. The film may seem tame by today’s standards, which really says something about us as a society, but at the time it ranked right up there with Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer as one unflinching look at the homicidal mind.
Caulfield may be best known by Gen-Xers as Rex Manning from Allan Moyle’s cult comedy Empire Records, but at the time he was a Teen Beat sensation who was making panties moist with his turn in Grease 2. Looking like a squintier, more brooding Ricky Schroeder, Caulfield captivates here because you never know what he’s thinking…but you know it ain’t good.
The Boys Next Door retains its shock factor today because it speaks to one of our greatest fears—the notion that evil can look like that friendly bagboy who offers to carry your groceries to your car.
5. Bully (2001)
Not nearly as well-known or successful as director Larry Clark’s first film, the Harmony Korine-penned “Kids,” Bully is one of the most fucked up movies ever made. Period. That the characters are teenagers only makes the action that unfolds that much more egregious.
The movie’s central antagonist is Bobby Kent (Nick Stahl), a nasty, entitled and severely demented kid with sociopathic tendencies and homosexual predilections. I bring up his homosexual proclivities not to disparage homosexuality, rather to broach one of the film’s more cringe-worthy elements.
The flick opens on a bunch of underage twinks dancing in their underwear in a gay bar, much to the delight of lecherous middle-aged men. Bobby sits at the bar and negotiates a cash deal with one of the patrons for his “best friend,” the beleaguered Marty (the late Brad Renfro), to disrobe for the patron’s pleasure. Bobby then forces Marty to strip on stage. Shortly thereafter, he makes fun of Marty, insisting that Marty liked doing it. Later on, we discover that Bobby has coerced Marty into performing lewd sex acts on himself on videotapes which Bobby then sells to clients.
This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg as Bobby goes on to date rape not only his own date but Marty’s girlfriend as well. When Marty’s girlfriend Lisa, the film’s second most deranged character (played brilliantly by Rachel Miner), finds out that she is pregnant we are never clear on whether it is Marty’s baby or Bobby’s.
None of that matters, of course, since Marty and his girlfriend ultimately end up conspiring with a group of friends and a dubious hitman (Leo Fitzpatrick) to kill Bobby. The murder is one of the most realistic ones in cinematic history. It is agonizingly protracted and lacks the quick, bloodless quality favored by most mainstream films.
6. The Stoned Age (1994)
Before directing the funny but forgettable Jerky Boys movie for Miramax, James Melkovian got his start with this largely forgettable direct-to-video stoner comedy. Technically, it’s a period piece set in the 1970s, but due to its low budget, you can clearly see cars from the Nineties driving past in the opening scenes.
Budgetary flaws aside, what makes this movie notable is its total disregard for morals or decency. Coming as it did on the footsteps of Richard Linklater’s Dazed & Confused, one would expect this to be a marijuana-fueled movie about kids partying and having a good time. Which is what it tries to pass itself off as…when it’s not too busy showcasing the finer points of petty thievery, bullying, betrayal and rape culture.
Oh, yeah. And Frankie Avalon. Because the 70s, right?
In the flick, Joe (Michael Kopelow) and Hubbs (Bradford Tatum) are two “best buds” who like to drive around in their shitty jalopy, smoking “skank weed” and eating old ass burritos they find on the car’s litter-strewn floorboards.
Their goal is to get some trim because this movie doesn’t know if it wants to be American Graffiti or Porky’s. When they find out about two chicks that have been promised to an ex-con upon his release from prison(they are literally referred to as property, i.e. “Tack’s chicks”), they decide to ditch the dude who told them about the girls and head to the girls’ house for themselves.
To go into how fuckity this movie’s concept of male-on-female contact is would take far too many paragraphs to sum up, but suffice it to say that this is one that needs to be seen in order to be believed.
Before he made the Teen Angst Trilogy, the aforementioned Gregg Araki blew the film festival circuit away with his gay lovers on the lam flick The Living End. At the time, Araki billed the film as “an irresponsible movie by gregg araki.” Sorry, Greg. This one’s got you beat. Truly a fucked up teen movie that reflects the climate in which it was created.
7. Rock & Roll High School (1979)
It pains me to say this now after having grown up adoring this movie and the Ramones as a band, but Allan Arkush’s film about a teenage girl convincing the legendary NYC pop-punk band to play at her high school is all sorts of inappropriate.
Granted, it’s a comedy and I’m not here to play P.C. Principal, but this Roger Corman-produced pastiche is pretty fucking fucked, fuckers. I mean, you’ve got a grown ass man (Clint Howard no less!) hiding inside of a bathroom stall in a high school, waiting to spring out to sell contraband to kids and to offer them misguided sexual advice.
At one point, Howard’s Eagle Bauer—a name that couldn’t sound more like a sexual predator—gets kids to sign contracts to go on dates together and promises Tom, the film’s horned up leading man, that he’ll get laid. A blowup doll is used for practice and a rape van with a wet bar in the back is loaned out for Tom’s rendezvous with the flick’s virginal second female lead.
Basically, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School is one 90-minute rape fantasy wherein scuzzy guys in leather jackets invade the bedroom and bathroom of an underage girl, a grown ass woman (Mary Woronov as the crazed, dictator-like Principal Togar) attacks children, a grown ass man teaches teenagers how to date rape chicks and blowing up one’s high school is considered a happy ending.
8. The Last American Virgin (1982)
Israeli-born auteur Boaz Davidson may be best known for his erotic 1978 opus, Lemon Popsicle, a West German sex romp that took place in the Fifties and may have led to the success of Porky’s. Like Porky’s and The Last American Virgin, it followed the exploits of young men who were out to get their dicks wet. That’s where the similarities end.
Where Lemon Popsicle can be viewed as a sophomoric and even playfully infantile take on the innocence of teen love and lust, The Last American Virgin subverts the teen sex comedy by showing the stark contrast between idealized love and the reality surrounding such infatuation.
This one’s fucked up for a number of reasons, not least of which is its gritty take on the teens go to a whorehouse scenario. This is not the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, this is just plain grotty and kind of sad for all parties concerned.
The film only gets worse from there as we watch sad sack pizza boy Gary (Lawrence Monoson) sacrifice everything that’s dear to him for the unrequited love of a village bicycle. By that, I mean that Gary borrows scrilla from his boss at the pizzeria in order to pay for town slot machine Karen’s abortion and all but blows a dirty stranger in order to buy her a gold locket…only to find her making out with his best friend.
Unlike a visit to a whorehouse, there is no happy ending here.
9. Deadgirl (2008)
Genre fans might know the name Trent Haaga from the gloriously fucked up Netflix movie Cheap Thrills or his recent adaptation of 68 Kill, but before he became a director Haaga wrote this masterful cumming-of-age horror-drama about two high school friends who discover a living dead girl in an abandoned mental hospital.
If you’re anything like me, you may have grown up exploring places that you didn’t belong. Old mental hospitals are always high on that list. I vividly remember walking through the ruins of Pilgrim State Psychiatric with my old drug dealer and his girlfriend’s college roommates, trying to summon the spirit of Allen Ginsberg’s mother who had been a patient there.
Deadgirl is all about going to places where you don’t belong, both literally and figuratively. In the pic, timid outcast Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez) and his rapscallion pal JT (genre mainstay Noah Segan) find a woman tied to a table in the bowels of an asylum.
Rickie books it out of there in terror, but JT sticks around to sexually abuse the presumably reanimated corpse chick. As if this wasn’t sick enough, JT eventually converts the deadgirl’s room into a makeshift brothel, hanging Christmas lights from the walls and inviting classmates to come and have their way with the deadgirl.
Described by one reviewer as “the most feminist horror movie I’ve seen this side of Teeth,” Deadgirl builds to a revolting but satisfying climax that hammers home the flick’s message about moral integrity and the consequences of unbridled lust.
10. Super Dark Times (2017)
Like Deadgirl, this one can be considered a coming-of-age picture, but it’s definitely not Catcher in the Rye. The story revolves around a small group of friends who are driven into a state of paranoia after an accidental death occurs among them.
To say too much more than that would really spoil this solid indie flick, but the bottom line is that this is an eldritch tale of teen violence that recalls the emotional numbness of The River’s Edge and the shocking outbursts of The Lord of the Flies.
The last fifteen minutes are guaranteed to leave mouths slack and chests heaving as it presents a display of horror that is brutally abrupt, almost comically awkward and painfully real.