**/**** Image B+ Sound B+ Extras D+
starring Andrew Keegan, Tara Subkoff, Richard Hillman, Tiffany Limos
screenplay by Christos Gage
directed by Larry Clark
by Bill Chambers Larry Clark's first official foray into the horror genre, Teenage Caveman simply introduces gore to his usual hedonistic admixture. Part of Cinemax's "Creature Features" line-up (glossy re-imaginings of Sam Arkoff monster movies overseen by Arkoff heir Lou, actress Colleen Camp, and F/X man Stan Winston), Teenage Caveman, if nothing else, handily demonstrates the auteur theory, as rather than suggest the work of a director-for-hire, the film evinces little regard for the series' presumed directive.
Not at all in the vein of homage, Teenage Caveman instead plays out like a quasi-sequel to Clark's Kids--meaning that most people will find it repugnant long before Winston's fake entrails hit the fan. Given that it's badly- acted, plotted, and shot (TV finds Clark lowering his personal bar), the film is perhaps even too shoddy for the director's admirers and strictly the domain of his apologists, myself possibly among them.
Set in a post-apocalyptic landscape, Teenage Caveman opens on a group of adolescent neo-Neanderthals who are under the leadership of a self-declared god (Paul Hipp), the father of (teen?) tribesman David (Andrew Keegan). In defending true love Sarah (Tara Subkoff) against the "shaman"'s sexual advances (Dad being the only one allowed to indulge in the flesh), David slays his father; Sarah, with four of their friends, returns the favour by rescuing David from literal crucifixion, and the six of them lose consciousness in an ensuing storm in which they're whisked away, Dorothy Gale-like, to a desolate but functional city.
They come to inside a futuristic (technically prehistoric) compound run by the sexually voracious couple Neil (Richard Hillman) and Judith (Tiffany Limos). Virtual immortals because Neil was a human guinea pig in college research experiments, the two lure their young visitors into a Jacuzzi. From that point forward, Teenage Caveman becomes an extended orgy sequence that pauses occasionally to allow for violence so extreme it's downright baroque. Clark's naturalist impulses often make up for the fact that he wears a film's themes on his sleeve, but he's let down here by performers incapable of the many degrees between stiff and florid, with the exception of Hillman, who really seems to believe his character's hype and has a convincing jealous glare needlessly given CGI assists that gild the lily.
Terrible beyond words is Limos, her frequent disrobing no reparation for her tone-deaf delivery of the simplest lines; Keegan looks lost in the lead. Teenage Caveman is, in other words, a superficial show put on by a superficial cast--the film succumbs easily to camp. But it never conforms to the shape of something Stan Winston would associate himself with, including Pumpkinhead, Winston's sadistic directorial debut: Clark delivers yet another piece of underage anarchy porn, and as usual his camera is bravely probing. Unfortunately, while Teenage Caveman is a testament to Clark's auteurist position, it establishes him as a filmmaker of limited range.
Columbia TriStar presents Teenage Caveman in 1.77:1 anamorphic widescreen and, gratuitously, fullscreen versions on the same side of a dual-layered DVD. The film stock was manipulated in post to appear blown-out and desaturated during the exteriors, but the interior scenes indicate a state-of-the-art transfer that looks infinitely more detailed than the other "Creature Feature" I saw on disc, She Creature. The DD 5.1 track is active during the windstorm and caps the high frequencies of Limos's screeching; LFE usage is tame. Extras: a pointless 2-minute featurette on the costume design; a multi-part photo gallery (with priceless stills of Clark giving instructions to a mutant beast); filmographies straight off the IMDb; and trailers for the other "Creature Features" titles, plus Bram Stoker's Dracula and Urban Legends: Final Cut. Originally published: June 11, 2001.