The Living End (1992)
This movie sucks in all the most obvious ways.
Grainy picture. Terrible sound. Hipper-than-thou plot devices. One-dimensional stereotypical side characters. Annoying industrial soundtrack.
And, of course, that’s the entire point.
The Living End put Gregg Araki on the map, and his quirky movies are instantly filed under the “cult” label.
There’s only one reason why I even remotely bother with this movie — the sex scenes are damn hot.
The first half of the movie is pretty self-indulgant. All sorts of unrealistic characters trapaise throughout the storyline — psychotic lesbian drifters, an unstable spouse wearing a ’50s hat and veil, gaybashers in dark shades, a dominatrix pulling her slave in a shopping cart.
Once the story moves into the road movie portion of the plot, things get interesting.
Hapless Jon finds out he’s HIV-positive. That day, he literally runs into a fellow HIV-positive drifter named Luke, who runs in front of Jon’s car after he shoots three gaybashers.
Luke’s unhinged crime spree lands him in deep trouble when he shoots a cop, forcing him and Jon to hit the road.
While fleeing the police, Luke convinces Jon their HIV status allows them total freedom from societal norms. They’ve been sentenced to die, Luke’s thinking goes, so why not do whatever the fuck you want till then?
When The Living End gets past all the exposition and focuses on the plight of Jon and Luke, the movie does actually reveals some depth. It’s pretty obvious to the audience that Luke’s tirades against society are indicative of a greater fear, and even though his behavior is self-destructive, his feelings for Jon are rooted in some sort of humanity.
It’s just tangled up in a psychological mess.
Perhaps the most striking part of the film is the very dated references to President Bush — the first Bush, not the son. But the disdain for Bush the First sounds every bit as venomous as the disdain Bush the Second illicits today.
The movie could have been made in 2002 instead of 1992, and it would be somewhat relevant.
(If the movie were made in 2002, though, it would probably have much better video and audio, thanks to hand-held digital cameras.)
The Living End is currently out of print, but it’s still a sexy movie with a lot of anger. If you’re in the mood for that kind of thing.