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Teenage Caveman (2001)

Since his debut with Kids, director Larry Clark has emerged as a controversial maverick known to provoke audiences with explicit displays of drugs and underage sex shot in a documentary style that heightens the sense of voyeurism. He has polarized audiences, with many finding him a genius who reveals human truths, while others consider him a licentious, talentless, dirty old man. And of all the filmmakers who worked on the Showtime-produced "Creature Feature" series (in-name-only, made-for-cable remakes of earlier grade-Z horror films designed around Stan Winston's make-up effects), Clark is probably the best known, and his choice of re-imagining Teenage Caveman seems somehow appropriate, if not a little scary. The story concerns a tribe of post-apocalypse survivors that lives in the hills and is guided by a false prophet who uses his influence to have sex with young girls. But the prophet's son, David (Andrew Keegan), resents his father's abuse of power, and when David's dad picks his sweetheart Sarah (Tara Subkoff) as his next concubine, David strikes his father — an event that causes the village to order his crucifixion. Fortunately, David is rescued by his friends, and they leave their village to find a lost city, where they are taken in by Neil (Richard Hillman) and Judith (Tiffany Limos) — two city-dwelling survivors who remember the 20th century's ways — and who introduce the crew to drinking, drugs, and promiscuous sex. Of course there's just something a little off about Neil and Judith, and though David and Sarah remain holdouts from the debauchery, their love for each comes into question. Directors tend to work their passions into their films by hook or by crook, but for Clark there seems to be no middle ground: From the beginning, when Teenage Caveman casually spews profanity, the film immediately establishes its Clark-ness. What makes this interesting though is that, by placing the concerns of contemporary youths so baldly into a sci-fi setting, it makes Clark's obsessions involving — by the distance the setting creates — and kind of funny. Scenes concerning the leading characters' chastity — which would normally fall flat in a '50s sci-fi yarn — here have a refreshing bluntness as Sarah causally remarks about their sex lives. Clark also has a fine handle on his actors, getting strangely naturalistic performances out of the youths. Whether the humor is intentional or not is hard to tell, but the results are entertaining whether you're laughing with it or at it. Columbia TriStar's DVD release of Teenage Caveman presents the film in both anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) and full-frame, with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1. Extras include a featurette (3 min.), a still gallery, trailers for this and other Columbia TriStar horror flicks, and cast/crew notes. Keep-case.

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