Teenage Caveman (2001)


USA. 2001.


Director – Larry Clark, Screenplay – Christos N. Gage, Producers – Lou Arkoff & Colleen Camp, Photography – Steve Garner, Music – Zoe Poledouris, Visual Effects – First Unit Inc (Supervisor – Dan Schmidt), Special Effects Supervisor – Jor Van Kline, Makeup Effects – Stan Winston Studio (Supervisor – Shane P. Mahan), Production Design – Jerry Fleming. Production Company – Creatures Features


Andrew Keegan (David), Richard Hillman (Neil), Tiffany Limos (Judith), Tara Subkoff (Sarah), Stephen Jasso (Vincent), Crystal Grant (Elizabeth), Shan Elliot (Joshua), Hayley Keenan (Heather), Paul Hipp (Shaman)


Following the downfall of civilisation, a small tribal group huddles in a cave. Sex has been banned by the elders in order to keep population numbers down. David leads a group of teenagers in teaching them to read. He is then driven to kill the tribal shaman when the shaman tries to take David’s girlfriend Sarah into his bed. David then leads the rest of the group into the wilderness. They become lost in a storm and come around in the sanctuary of Neil and his girlfriend Judith. There Neil introduces them to alcohol, drugs and sex. They soon discover that Neil and Judith are the results of genetic experimentation and both are over a hundred years old and invulnerable to almost all damage. However, when Neil has sex with the girls, he causes them to be impregnated with his own genetic material and explode.

Teenage Caveman was one of a host of old AIP B movies remade as cable tv movies in 2001 under the umbrella table Creature Features and produced by former AIP head Samuel Z. Arkoff’s son Lou, monster maker Stan Winston and actress Colleen Camp. Others in the series included The Day the World Ended (2001), Earth vs. the Spider (2001), How to Make a Monster (2001) and She Creature (2001).

Among the mostly uninspired other Creature Features titles, Teenage Caveman was the one standout. The Creatures Features team took the radical step of hiring Larry Clark as director. Larry Clark is best known for such uncompromisingly incisive films as Kids (1995), Bully (2001) and Ken Park (2002), all of which concern themselves with really troubled teens. Certainly, Larry Clark is not the first name that comes to mind when making a Creature Feature – and that’s clearly the thinking that informed Arkoff’s decision to approach Clark, as the filmed interview that accompanies that film’s cable premiere makes clear.

The original Teenage Caveman (1958) was a Roger Corman film. The film’s hook was entirely a conceptual reversal – one where what we initially think is a caveman film is turned about in the final act to show us it is in fact a post-holocaust tale. Teenage Caveman 2001 by comparison reveals itself as a post-holocaust tale in the very first scene. Thereafter it makes a beeline for the territories that Larry Clark usually inhabits – the sex lives of teens. Clark sets up a standard scene where the teens are puzzling over artifacts/text from the past – only here it is a copy of Penthouse Forum: “I never believed these stories were true until my conservative wife asked me to ream her bunghole with a vibrating dildo,” “What’s a bunghole?” Later Clark choreographs a somewhat gratuitous ten-minute long handheld camera-shot orgy of coke, alcohol and sex. If nothing else, what Arkoff and co have gotten out of Larry Clark is someone who launches with alacrity right across the taboo lines the staid other Creature Features trod. In the most startlingly perverse scene, Clark has Hayley Keenan fall sick as Richard Hillman and Tiffany Limos sit on a bed, with Limos masturbating as she watches Hayley Keenan’s stomach literally explode.

On the other hand, Teenage Caveman 2001 is clearly more of a Larry Clark film than a Creature Feature. There is a monster at the end, seemingly because being a Creature Feature mandates it. On the level of a face-value reading, the Creature Feature aspect gives Clark’s usual proclivities an almost comic exaggeration. Clark loves to create apocalyptic pictures of contemporary youth gone way out of control and indulging in sex, drugs and alcohol. Clark loves these horror portraits and yet for all the conservative ire that his films have raised, Clark is not too far removed from those who condemn him in his dismissal of modern youth as having gone fundamentally awry due to lack of parental controls. Teenage Caveman seems to metaphorically echo most of the same basic themes as Kids – kids escape autocratic adult controls against them having sex, fall in with other bad kids, indulge in drugs and alcohol with abandon, and then have unprotected sex that leave them with a deadly infection. On the looming level of metaphor, Teenage Caveman is almost comically silly but in terms of Clark’s boundary pushing images it is startling.

Lead bad guy Richard Hillman overacts horrendously, but his partner in crime Tiffany Limos gives a sexy and amazingly assured performance on screen. She has talent and a future ahead of her – one hopes to hear from her again. She quickly proved equally awesome the following year in Larry Clark’s Ken Park, although appears to have vanished as an actress since.

(Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (Tiffany Limos) at this site’s Best of 2001 Awards).

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