After the in-your-face queerness of his indie breakthroughs The Living End and Totally F***ed Up, cult auteur Gregg Araki wrote, directed, edited, and produced this obliquely homoerotic road movie full of sex, gore, slang, convenience stores, cameos, credible alt-rock and tentative existentialism. An unlikely blend of Dennis Cooper's dark gay fiction, John Waters' garbage aesthetic, and Valley Girl's So-Cal teen vacuity, The Doom Generation works best on the level of trashy, subversive comedy, its video-game violence and naughty thrills played for laughs instead of titillation. Rose McGowan established her singularly snotty and sexy screen persona as Amy, the meth-head with the Pulp Fiction hair, the heavy-lidded eyes and the gift for slang neologisms so bad they're good. James Duval, in the second of many Araki outings, displayed the Keanu Reeves-on-downers vulnerability and the confused affability that would make him a sexually ambiguous alterna-pinup. Johnathon Schaech offsets his almost absurd good looks and supple body with a genial psycho persona that finds him masturbating, seducing, and killing almost absentmindedly, yet still somehow emerging as a sympathetic protagonist. Araki's casting is dead-on, but it's his overall vision that impresses, for he bypasses such played-out aesthetic strategies as irony and appropriation to strand us in a surreal Los Angeles whose plasticity and moral ambiguity are as alluring as they are alienating for his young protagonists. Wandering a punkishly art-directed landscape of endless motel rooms and hallucinatory strip malls, Amy, Jordan, and X embody Araki's quest for novelty and connection -- in that order -- in a world given over to complete alienation. In the end, then, The Doom Generation is a simultaneous condemnation of and love letter to mass teen culture, its solaces and its deceits.