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Nowhere

Year: 1997
Production Co: Desperate Pictures
Director: Gregg Araki
Writer: Gregg Araki
Cast: James Duval, Rachel True, Debi Mazar, Jordan Ladd, Christina Applegate, Ryan Phillipe, Heather Graham, Scott Caan, Shannon Doherty, Rose McGowan, Mena Suvari, Denise Richards, Traci Lords, John Ritter

I'm never sure what attracts me to the films of Gregg Araki. He's a little like the bastard love child of Larry Clark and Alex Cox. His themes are always of disaffected, sexually ambiguous youth, strung out and bored by too much leeway (there's always a lot of sex and drug use, the partakers seeming to have reached every extreme they possibly can already).

But it usually contains some bizarre sci-fi backdrop. In Kaboom it was the literal end of the world at the hands of a religious cult. In Nowhere it's a little lower key, dealing merely with a reptilian alien stalking around and a Kafka-esque transformation right at the end that will leave you looking as confused and shocked as hero Dark (Duval).

Along with his friends, Dark tries to go about a life that's anything other than ordinary. Ironically he (and Araki) seem to want an everyday love story. Dark's confused but comforted by his feelings for his best friend Mel (True) and thinks the best thing is for them to settle down and be boyfriend or girlfriend.

But neither he nor Mel's lives are ready for it, and even while he feels a strange attraction to new friend Montgomery, Mel's going of with buff Swedish twin boys at the party of the year.

At the same time, Polly and Bart both realise the truth about how horrible life can be at the hands of a charismatic TV evangelist played by John Ritter, and Araki doesn't shy away from their horrible fates. Bart has his nipple rings ripped out by dominatrixes, and a handsome TV star whose motives have seemed sweetly innocent subjects Polly to a violent rape. There's no redemption or deliverance, and the proceedings treat their fates with as much black comedy as the alien or any other narrative device.

They're surrounded by a host of larger than life characters and although the basis of the film seems to be the search for love and belonging Araki lets his script, characters and camera go off in so many strange directions he could be saying anything. Despite this it's all strangely watchable.

At the time Duval seemed to be doing one for the studios and one for himself, having just played Randy Quaid's eldest son in Independence Day. He'd go on to play the most iconic imaginary friend of the 2000s as Frank the rabbit in Donnie Darko, and several of the then-new faces have gone on to bigger and better things.

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