When I was a kid I was heavily into punk rock. I listened to it, I dressed the part, I embraced the culture so to speak. I was an avid film fan back then as well, and I could never get over the lack of Punk Films. Sure you had Repo-Man, Sid & Nancy, and Decline of the Western Civilization but not much else. Then one day at the video store I picked up Suburbia. I was into Corman stuff and saw he was the producer. I recognized Penelope Spheeris’s name from Decline, and with the cover featuring a group of punkers I picked it up. It became a favorite of mine. I have the soundtrack, and in fact listened to it just a few months ago. I had not watched the film in quiet some time so when I got the Shout Select Blu-ray a few hours ago I popped it right on.
The plot is a fairly standard teenagers in crisis plot from the 80’s but with a much darker tone. I mean it opens with a girl hitchhiking getting picked up by a mom and her kid, then like 4min later the kid is killed by a rabid dog. We cut to another punker named Evan. He comes from a broken home with a drunk mom and heads out one night to a D.I concert. He meets up with a few other punks who offer him a place to stay. Well place may be a weird word, it’s an old abandon house that they basically just squat at. They call it the “TR House” T.R. standing for The Rejected. They pick up another kid and then as is customary for all that live there, they get TR branded onto them. They wander around at night stealing food from open garages and go to punk shows. There way of life does not really sit well with the locals who have a neighborhood watch called Citizens Against Crime. They decide they want to run the punks out, and even try framing them for some random crimes.
Sexual assault, suicide, murder, this film is heavy. Really heavy. So heavy watching it now as an adult it’s pretty depressing. Don’t get me wrong it a good film, and incredibly well made. A little known fact is that actually punk kids, and members of bands played all the main parts. Spheeris wanted it to be as authentic as possible and thought using real kids instead of actors would give it a better sense of realism, and she was correct. It was even filmed in an old run down area in California in drug houses that people actually squatted at.
Is the film an accurate portrayal of Punks in the early 80’s? I cannot answer that. I was still a child and did not get into the punk culture until around 88, four years after this was made. I can tell you the feel and look of the concerts is accurate. In fact this film has one of my favorite soundtracks. It even has soundbites of the film spliced before the songs.
Now watching it again as an adult I can tell you it’s still a very good film. In my opinion if you have never seen this I can honestly recommend watching it. Even if the punk rock culture doesn’t interest you the gorilla style of film making is something you need to see. The film is made cheap, but it’s hard and raw and has an energy about it that I cannot explain with words. It’s a see it to believe it thing.
Shout Factory, under their Select Banner is giving this the full Blu-ray treatment. I just turned it off before I started writing this and I cannot get over how fantastic the sound is. This concerts scenes are stunning to say the least. The audio is so clear that the music just pulses from your speakers. The film transfer looks good as well as all the scenes are crisp and vibrant. Now even though this is so cleaned up don’t worry, it still has that raw look and feel to it. It even has special features.
Overall 3.5 out of 5 Stars!