Pariah

A more chilling treatment of domestic terrorism can be found in this year’s Pariah, which goes beyond last year’s American History X in showing how skinhead gangs operate. We are not surprised to learn that the gang members are obsessed with sex, and filmviewers see the brutality of their sexual encounters, which are heterosexual simulations of prison rape. Women who associate with the white and black gangs were molested as children and now survive mostly as sex slaves; some are hooked on drugs. In Pariah, the white protagonist, Steve (played by Damon Jones), is held down by a skinhead gang, forced to watch while his black girlfriend is gang-raped. When she commits suicide after the incident, Steve resolves to join the skinhead gang to exact revenge. To establish his legitimacy in the gang, however, it is not enough that he is beat up by a black gang or that his girlfriend Sissy (played by Aimee Chaffin) is a member of the skinhead gang; he is forced by the leader of the gang Crew (played by Dave Oren Ward) to execute a transsexual in a park. The film graphically shows violent crimes perpetrated by the various gangs, led by young studs who have had bad interracial experiences, either while they were growing up or in prison. Pariah, an independent film that was first released to the general public in Los Angeles during May 1999, shows upward spirals of first senseless and then brutal retaliation beatings and a discourse in which the only adjective known by gang members seems to be the word “fucking.” If there ever was a film to justify locking up perpetrators of hate crimes, this is it; yet prison life seems to be a rite of passage to prove one’s manhood. Once out of prison, the gang members try to return to live at home, are rejected by their parents, and soon reconstitute on the streets. Randolph Kret, director and screenwriter of this film noir, suggests that there is no easy answer to stop the violence-begets-violence scenario depicted in which even a gay gang is portrayed as retaliating against the skinheads over the death of the transsexual. MH