Teenage Caveman (2002)
By: Julian on April 2, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Columbia Tristar (Australia). Region 2 & 4, PAL. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, German DD 5.1. English, Germam, Dutch, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Hindi, Turkish, Danish, Bulgarian, Swedish, Finish, Icelandic, Norwegian, Arabic, Greek, Hebrew Subtitles. 86 minutes
The Movie
Director: Larry Clark
Starring: Andrew Keegan, Tara Subkoff, Richard Hillman, Tiffany Limos
Screenplay: Christos N. Gage
Country: USA
A made-for-TV remake of Roger Corman's 1958 American International Pictures schlocker of the same name, America's favourite provocateur Larry Clark's post-apocalyptic horror tale is a total mess, albeit a vaguely entertaining one, with all the morbid appeal of a highway pile-up.

The film gets off to a promising start – the world as we know it has been annihilated, with select groups living prehistorically in caves. In one such group, a circle of friends including David (Andrew Keegan from Ten Things I Hate About You and Seventh Heaven, a résumé that I'm sure instils many with confidence), Sarah (Tara Subkoff), Vincent (Stephen Jasso), Elizabeth (Crystal Grant), Joshua (Shan Elliot) and Heather (Hayley Keenan) dream of escaping and rebuilding the past society. David's father, a religious nutter who has sex with underage girls (and boys) in order to enable their souls safe passage to heaven, runs the establishment with an iron fist and the fear of God. When Sarah is chosen to be the great Leader's new squeeze, David jumps to her defence and kills his father with a crucifix jab to the eye, in a delicious slice of Clarkian irony.

After the group of teens are banished from the tribe, they make their way out into the vast post-nuclear wasteland and get caught in a vicious sandstorm. After blacking out, the six mysteriously find themselves inside the house of a young couple Neil (Richard Hillman) and Judith (Tiffany Limos), who have somehow managed to retain the relics (basketballs, baseballs, televisions etc) of the past in their utopian existence and live in a house that looks… well, normal. After lots of booze, cocaine and an orgy in the lounge room, the teenage cavemen begin to discover that not all is fine and dandy in Neil and Judith's existence and it emerges that the duo are infected with one helluva STD – immortality, with a monstrous side effect.  

Teenage Caveman was part of a made-for-television series of films titled 'Creature Features', which remade six of Samuel Z Arkoff's AIP pictures. The series commenced with the genuinely horrible She Creature, which was perhaps a telling sign of the mediocrity that was to follow – we were since given Earth vs. the Spider, The Day the World Ended and How to Make a Monster, with Clark's effort bringing the series to a thankful close. Arkoff is executive-producer on Teenage Caveman, the last film of his prodigious one hundred and thirty-plus output, and effects maestro Stan Winston produces and does SFX work, as he did with the other five 'Creature Features'.

The selection of Clark as director is quaint, with the filmmaker having previously helmed the potent unrestrained-teen opuses Kids and Bully. Teenage Caveman is essentially a film of three acts – the first set in the cave, the second as the teens meet the decadent duo Neil and Judith, and the third that focuses on the Arkoffian schlock horror. It is in this second act that Clark's influence appears the most, as the kids debauch their way through the proceedings as they did in Bully and, later, Ken Park. Essentially, the conventions of this film are no different to any other Clark picture – teenagers are portrayed as being blasé and indifferent to rules and regulations, freely engaging in sex and alcohol and drug abuse, before more sinister factors come into play, whereupon the film shifts focus. And while in Bully it was the murder and in Ken Park it was the suicide, here this malevolence takes the form of a couple of giant monsters. Certainly it's far more preposterous and OTT, but the film doesn't even work on a basic horror movie level, with the ambience of Teenage Caveman coming across as if Kids, or Bully, or Ken Park had been spliced with, say, The Evil Dead. Had Clark's usual penchants been pared down and muted, and his liberal creative license restricted, then Teenage Caveman may have played out better than it did.

Technically, and for the paltry sum that was spent on it, Teenage Caveman isn't a totally irredeemable film. There are some crowd-pleasing scenes, and Clark's cameo character being skewered with a 'No Skateboarding' sign is quasi-iconic post-Kids. The thing is, no one really seems to be putting in much effort – not Winston when he explodes a writhing naked girl with one of the most squelchy, incompetent effects this side of Bruno Mattei; nor Clark, who exploits his own work as the camera voyeuristically lingers on extended scenes of substance abuse and sex education. None of the actors seem to give a shit and the performances are all dreadfully overdone. After this and Ken Park, I'd be more than happy never to see Tiffany Limos onscreen again – an attractive prospect that is looking increasingly likely after Limos' acting career came to a jarring halt following her work with Clark. Larry Clark is, at least in this reviewer's opinion, an incredibly competent filmmaker, but his directorial talent just doesn't come through here. Perhaps it is a trepidation in the horror-based material, or just a lack of effort owing to Teenage Caveman's made-for-TV roots – whatever the reason, it's a disappointment. While there's fun to be had, Teenage Caveman fails to really deliver on any level – not as a horror film, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi adventure (though the film is admittedly better than some of the Italian garbage that was churned out in the eighties) or a study in hedonistic underage excess.

At the end of the day, though, this is remaking a Corman B-movie, and a really bad Corman B-movie at that. It's certainly better than its source material, but that's a backhanded commendation. There's sure to be at least a few things here that ring true for the exploitation fan but overall Teenage Caveman is a disorganised, malconceived work that is representative of Clark's nadir as a filmmaker.
The picture appears to be intentionally muted and a tad grainy, but nothing too distracting. The picture is presented in its original 1:78:1 aspect ratio with 16:9 enhancement.
English and French Dolby 5.1. The sound is crisp and clear. No complaints here.
Extra Features
Awful. Talent profiles (and by 'talent profiles', I mean 'select filmography') of Clark, Keegan and Winston, photo galleries, movie trailers and a 'behind the scenes making-of featurette', which is a two minute piece on the costume designers.
The Verdict
Teenage Caveman is the kind of movie you put on for two reasons – a), you have a hefty supply of pizza and your brain is functioning on the level of a long-term coma patient, or b), you're bored shitless. There are far better monster films, and far better Clark films that you can watch instead of this sub par stab at the horror genre. A few unintentionally hysterical moments and that über-cool skewering just gets this one out of the one-star doldrums.
Movie Score
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