Where the houses are only ten years old and all look alike.

Where all the restaurants are built on the foundations of whatever historical landmarks still existed, and whose menus are usually laminated.

Where all clothes are bought new and the new car smell is coveted.

Where there is no local history that isn't white, middle class, and boring to read about.

Where natural light is gobbled up by artificial light so that people's skin attains that convenient store glow.

Where we may have even wanted to live when we grew up, but where, instead, we settled for because the neighborhoods appear safer.

Where most food starts out in a shiny plastic bag and gets thrown into a shiny plastic box and called dinner.

Where the only thing to be looming on the horizon is either a man made park or a plant.

Where most people subscribe to a paper, but never read it.

Where sprinklers and trampolines are still a last ditch effort for summer fun.

Where people re-pave their driveways and re-finance their homes.

Two words: vinyl siding.

Two more: gated community.

Two more: neighborhood watch.

Where adult children are more likely to return home and never leave again.

Where nothing really happens and nothing really changes.

A locale that is not exactly urban, nor it is rural. It's in a limbo of sorts, marked by a fairly dense population, but not quite as dense as, say, New York City. Suburbs tend to be on the outskirts of a major metropolitan area, a sort of buffer between the city and the country. Suburbia tends to be boring, saturated with gas stations and fast food places and, of course, malls.
See also: Hell

A state of mind, not a place. If you allow yourself to become victimized by what you cannot control, you will end up here without knowing it. You collect love carefully and let it suffocate in your attic. You kill dreams antiseptically. You are the architects of blindness clinging to systems in a world as even and cold as a flatline. The only safe things are dead ones, laquered to prevent the rot.

subUrbia the movie was released in 1997. Directed by Richard Linklater. Written by Eric Bogosian based on his off-Broadway play by the same name. Players: Giovanni Ribisi, Steve Zahn, Amie Carey, Nicky Katt, Dina Spybey, Jayce Bartok, Parker Posey, and more.

It has been some time since I've seen this let's see how I do...

Jeff (Giovanni Ribisi) and his friends live in the suburbs. A suburb just like any other in America. Strip malls, tract housing, etc. They spend their days hanging out by the dumpster of a nearby convenience store. Jeff has the philosophy that life is futile and in 50 years him and all his friends will be dead and forgotten. All the characters struggle to be unique, but never really achieve it. The plot for the movie involves the return of Pony (Jayce Bartok) who has managed to escape and become a pop star, but eventually it is revealed that he hasn't really escaped and is still like the rest of them. This movie brings up a lot of the problems faced by the youth of suburban America, but offers few answers. I think this more than anything brings out the point of how futile the characters' struggle seems to be to them.

There is more that happens in this movie, but I think that covers the main plot. IIRC I thought it was good, I'm not going to rate it because it has been too long since I've seen it. If I see it again I'll update this writeup.

One quote I just read in a review of this movie says "What good is running away if every town looks the same?" from salon.com.

Where cynical people go to pretend to lead innocent lives.

Also, a movie directed by Penelope Spheeris (see The Decline of Western Civilization), alternately titled The Wild Side. About a group of young punks who call themselves The Rejected, living in a deserted housing development overrun with wild dogs. Favorite quote: "I'd like to fuck your brains out.. if I thought you had any," uttered by a harder-core-than-thou asshole as he looks a girl up and down. Unfortunately, he proceeds to accost her, ruining the comic value. Depressing and raw and pretty sensationalistic.
According to one of my favorite bumper stickers, suburbia is

Where they cut down the trees, then name the streets after them.

But for all the little boxes, I find suburbia pleasant. I certainly wish one could find affordable housing nearer to office parks, but I'm not going to buy a double wide and I'm not going to buy burglar bars and a gun. My alternative is suburbia.

This 1984 film written and directed by Penelope Spheeris, who also made The Decline of Western Civilization series, was required viewing with the crew I hung out with in college. It tells the story of a host of misfit punk rocker kids, cast out of society for various reasons, and squatting together in abandoned houses. There are three things in particular that make this film worth watching. First, the actors playing the punks are really punks. They aren't professional actors, and it shows. In fact, Flea of The Red Hot Chili Peppers has a prominient role in it. Second, Roger Corman co-produced it so that ought to give you an indication of the film's quality level. Third, it features live performances by the k-rad punk bands D.I. and The Vandals. T.S.O.L. are also featured, but as the Meatmen song goes, T.S.O.L. Are Sissies.

The plot is not this movie's strong point. Neither is the acting, but I digress. Our story begins with the young Evan Johnson getting kicked out of his suburban home by his wicked mother. He grabs his younger brother, Ethan, and they hit the bricks. Before long, they are picked up by Jack Diddly, a hella cool punk rocker driving a shit mobile. They roll around town, stealing stuff out of people's open garages. Eventually, the roll over to the squat where the Johnson meet the rest of the T.R. gang.

T.R.? It means The Rejected. The T.R. kids all squat in a bunch of abandoned, condemned houses over by the interstate. There's drinking, drugs, sex, junk food, head shaving, and vermin. And when evening comes, it's time to check out some bands. The first band they go see is D.I., and the song played is Richard Hung Himself. Later, The Vandals sing The Legend of Pat Brown, a song about some punk kid that runs over cops and stuff. There's fighting, drugging of unsuspecting patrons, and moshing as one would expect at an early 1980s punk show.

That's really the long and the short of the plot. It sort of meanders around showing little scenes of these kids' lives and hints at why they choose a life of squalor over the dark vision of suburbia presented. The dragging pace drives home the point that most of the time these kids are terribly bored. One wonders what the point is and when it will finally end. That is, up until the end of the movie when something terrible happens -- a suicide/overdose. And then something else terrible happens -- a murder. Then it kind of hits you how tragic and senseless the lives of these kids truly are.

Cast
Chris Pedersen as Jack Diddley
Bill Coyne as Evan Johnson
Jennifer Clay as Sheila
Timothy O'Brien as Skinner
Wade Walston as Joe Schmo
Flea as Razzle
Maggie Ehrig as Mattie
Grant Miner as Keef
Christina Beck as T'resa
Andrew Pece as Ethan Johnson
Donald V. Allen as Officer William Rennard
Lee Frederick as Jim Tripplett
Jeff Prettyman as Bob Skokes
Dorlinda Griffin as Mother In Car
Robert Griffin as Baby
Donna Lamana as Tina Johnson
Anna Schoeller as Anna
André Boutilier as Peg Leg
Nicky Beat as Club Owner
Steve Bidrowski as Spotlight Operator
Julie Winchester as Sandy Dawson
John McCormack as Head Bouncer
Robert Lund as Bouncer
Rip Murray as Bouncer
Paul Votara as Doorman
Gavin Courtney as Joe's Father
Robert A. Van Senus as Father's Friend
De Waldron as De
Frank Gargani as Man In Truck
Jon Battenberg as Officer Richard Bates
Bob Ozman as Man In Garage
Larry Wiley as Camper Buyer
Marlena Brause as Tripplett's Wife
Patsy Coyne as Neighbor
Trisha Malin as Housewife
Elizabeth Ramirez as Maid
Ray Lykins as Hippie In Car
Ed Mertens as Policeman
Ladd Hitchens as Policeman
Gil Christner as Store Manager
J. Dinan Myrtetus as Sheila's Father
Ilene Latter as Sheila's Mother
Suzann Schott as Stripper
Ratley as Ratley
Drew Bernstein as Other T.R. Kid
Sean Boren as Other T.R. Kid
Bobbie Brat as Other T.R. Kid
Ed Brown as Other T.R. Kid
Cynthia Coleman as Other T.R. Kid
Kathleen Culverwell as Other T.R. Kid
Matt Davis as Other T.R. Kid
Rebecca Dorn as Other T.R. Kid
Mike 'Geek' Glass as Other T.R. Kid
Penny Harris as Other T.R. Kid
Larry Kelsey as Other T.R. Kid
Mitch King as Other T.R. Kid
Terri Kottica as Other T.R. Kid
Maynard Leigh as Other T.R. Kid
Meri Resovich as Other T.R. Kid
Gary Rivas as Other T.R. Kid
Scott Rosenthal as Other T.R. Kid
Vixen Yvonne as Other T.R. Kid
Mike 'Rooster' Montea as Other T.R. Kid
Barbara Doyle as Citizens Against Crime - Woman
Don Goodman as Citizens Against Crime - Man
Ray Lawrence as Citizens Against Crime - Man With Shotgun
Ricky Jewett as Citizens Against Crime - Wife
Ron Hugo as Citizens Against Crime - Pastor Farrell
Jerry Madison as Citizens Against Crime - Mr. Dawson
Arvid Holmberg as Citizens Against Crime - Man
James Harrison as Citizens Against Crime - Man
Casey Royer as D.I. - Vocals
Tim Maag as D.I. - Guitar
Derek O'Brian as D.I. - Drums
Jack Grisham as T.S.O.L. - Vocals
Ron Emory as T.S.O.L. - Guitar
Mike Roche as T.S.O.L. - Bass
Todd Barnes as T.S.O.L. - Drums
Greg Kuehn as T.S.O.L. - Keyboards
Steve O as The Vandals - Vocals
Jan Ackerman as The Vandals - Guitar
Joe Escalante as The Vandals - Drums (as Joseph Escalante)
Steve Pfauter as The Vandals - Bass
Herschel F. Rubin as Man In Truck (as Gary Calhoun)

Produced by
Roger Corman
Bert L. Dragin

Sources:
Internet Movie Database, of course
vandals.com
diunderground.com

Suburbia (1984) - My Rating: {>>>-} (Sweet, like Trogdor is sweet!)


Please note that this review is laden with spoilers.

The first time I saw this movie was when I was nineteen years old and living in Colorado Springs. I had been hanging out with some punk guys on a pretty regular basis. Of course they all lived with their parents, and none of them had bands, so they weren't really all that "punk" anyway, but they did all have dumb hair. They talked about this movie all the time. I don't think I had been hanging out with them for more than a week before we rented it from the video store.

So when I saw this movie at the video store for a mere $2 I immediately snapped it up. It wasn’t even a former rental. The thing was still in shrink wrap. Unfortunately it wasn't a vintage 80s copy, it was a year 2000 re-release. Not that it really matters, but I like to snag the older style VHS tapes whenever possible. They are heavier than the new ones and feel moe substantial.

Body count:11. There are approximately seven dogs that are shot by rednecks. One baby is ripped apart by a dog. A security guard is stabbed in a club. A girl commits suicide, and a child is hit by a car. As long as you are counting dogs as bodies then this film beats many horror films in terms of body count.

Plot Outline: The movie starts out with a girl named Shiela running away from home. She is hitchhiking with a middle aged lady and the lady's young child. The car gets a flat tire. Soon we see everyone get out of the car and go to a pay phone, where the small child gets ripped apart by wild dogs, while the mother is using the phone.

Then we jump over to the story of Evan. Evan's alcoholic mother comes home and starts giving him grief about drinking her vodka (they never actually establish if he did it or not). She goes off on him for a little while. Evan decides to run away, so he says goodbye to his little brother and leaves.

Evan does what all homeless kids do, he heads off to a punk rock club to watch DI do a live show. Someone offers to sell him drugs, which he refuses, but they spike his drink with something anyway. Meanwhile one of the skinheads in the audience decides it would be a good idea to completely rip some poor girls clothes off of her body, underwear and all. The poor girl screams and cries, but no one will help her. Some real tool is operating the spotlight, and he aims it right for her. Eventually the band stops their song and starts yelling at the crowd about what they are doing. Even after the music stops no one will step in, so the owner closes the club down for the night.

Evan is completely passed out on the floor from whatever it is that he took, so the bouncers just drag him outside. From there he is picked up by Jack Diddley, who takes him back to T.R. House in his banged up old car. On the way there they pick up Joe Schmo who is running away from home again. Joe's reason for running away seems to be the fact that his dad is gay. They eventually all make their way to T.R. house, which is a squat in a condemned row of homes.

There are a ton of other kids living in the same home. The rest of the movie we watch what happens to them, and Evan's little brother Ethan (who he goes to get later on).

My Opinion: This is a great movie and it is well worth watching at least once. It looks at the whole punk scene from several angles. What most of the punks who are fans of the film fail to realize is the fact that the movie fairly clearly shows that most of the problems the kids encounter are caused by their own actions. Jack Diddley didn't even seem to have a reason to be squatting, his stepfather sure seemed concerned and loving.


Interesting Notes:
  • The reason there was a large tract of abandoned houses was because they were condemned via eminent domain in order to build Interstate 105. The only problem was the fact that it took them fifteen years to build the thing.
  • The "wild" dog that tries to get in the window of the car has a clearly visible chain. The toddler eaten by the dogs obviously turns into a doll the moment the dogs get him, and you can see the tripwires used to knock the dogs over when they were shot.
  • Jack calls the "Razzle" character "Flea" in one scene. Those kind of flubs seemed incredibly common in 80s movies, the same thing happens more than once in The Goonies.
  • In one scene Shiela's shirt is torn off, she is shown clearly topless, but a few moments later you can spy something taped over her breasts as she is being restrained by one of the redneck bad guys.
Fun Quotes!

This movie doesn't really have a lot of good dialogue and largely isn't very quotable. So I didn't have much to put in this section.

  • "My old man's gonna be back soon and if we're still here he's gonna shit Twinkies." - Jack Diddley

Lead roles:

Directed by: Penelope Spheeris

Writing credits: Penelope Spheeris

Sources: The oh-so-wonderful IMDB, my head, and watching the sucker. A big thanks to weasello for the format used.

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