‘I Just Want Those Old Versions to Die Forever’: Gregg Araki Restores ‘Doom Generation’ to His Original Vision

After distributor-mandated edits, bad transfers, and a "Blockbuster cut," Araki's 1995 cult classic is finally hitting theaters the way he intended for it to be seen.
The Doom Generation
"The Doom Generation"
Strand Releasing

Since its 1995 release, writer-director Gregg Araki’s gonzo NC-17 crime movie “The Doom Generation” — about a trio of teens on a bloody road trip — has achieved cult classic status and paved a way for provocative and confrontational YA content like “Euphoria.” But after its Sundance Film Festival debut, almost no one saw the film Araki made.

“It’s shocking to me that the movie has survived all this time as a cult film with a devoted audience,” Araki told IndieWire’s Filmmaker Toolkit podcast. “The [VHS and DVD] version that exists was never properly letterboxed, there’s a lot of stuff I didn’t like in terms of the color and sound, and the original master is not up to technical standards for streaming or Blu-ray.”

That’s all about to change with the release of a newly restored and remastered “Doom Generation” supervised by Araki that is set to begin rolling out in theaters on April 7. The 4k upgrade, which premiered at Sundance earlier this year, preserves cinematographer Jim Fealy and production designer Therese Deprez’s vivid colors and immerses the viewer in a surround mix that provides a showcase for the aggressive soundtrack. (The characters’ erotic and criminal adventures are scored to tracks by The Jesus and Mary Chain, Nine Inch Nails, Love and Rockets, The Verve, and more.) The new edition also restores a handful of shots that haven’t been seen since the original version’s festival run, removed for the initial theatrical release at the distributor’s request.

“The Doom Generation” was initially acquired out of Sundance by Samuel Goldwyn Films, but when Goldwyn himself saw the movie, he was appalled and dropped it; eventually, the film found a home at Trimark (later bought by Lionsgate). “It played for five minutes,” Araki said. “The amount of people who have seen it in a theater outside of festival screenings is minuscule. I think this re-release is playing more cities than the original release in 1995.”

“The Doom Generation”Strand Releasing

By the time the movie reached home video after its perfunctory theatrical run, Araki had fought so many battles over it that he didn’t have the patience or the power to ensure that the transfer reflected his intentions. “I was a little more punk rock in those days, and I was angry with the distributors, so there wasn’t a lot of cooperation going on.”

The Filmmaker Toolkit podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, and Stitcher. The music used in this podcast is from the “Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present” score, courtesy of composer Nathan Halpern.

Even worse was a “Blockbuster cut” of the movie created for the then-ubiquitous video store chain that eviscerated the film to a point where it barely made sense — and that cut didn’t just stay on Blockbuster shelves. “I’ve seen it pop up in weird places, like an IMDB free [streaming] site,” Araki said.

In 2000, Lionsgate approached Araki about supervising the DVD release, but he said no — he was fed up dealing with the movie and its distributors. Thankfully, the rights ultimately reverted to Araki, and he was able to collaborate with a trusted friend, Marcus Hu at Strand Releasing, on this version that presents “The Doom Generation” as it hasn’t been seen since its 1995 festival run. “I’m so excited for people to see it in a theater if they can,” Araki said. “It’s such a super fun, intense, and crazy ride, and I’m so glad I’ve had this chance to revisit it. I’m so thrilled about this new version because I just want those old versions to die forever.”

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