Suburban Mayhem is the type of movie you watch, feel disgusted with, absolutely despise, and then completely forget what happened after it’s over. At least, that’s how I experienced it. I remember how I felt while it was playing — although I also remember being bored quite often — but I have trouble recalling specific moments that made me feel that way. I’d think about re-watching it if it wasn’t such a mundane experience, which is saying a lot when your main characters is as random and sporadic as they come.
Her name is Katrina (Emily Barclay), and she’s a woman out-of-control. At the young age of 19, she’s already had one child, and could easily be pregnant with another. Her brother is in jail for slicing the head off a convenience store employee, her father is struggling with her bad habits, and her baby is probably getting lung problems from all the second-hand smoke from Katrina and her boyfriend, Rusty (Michael Dorman). She’s found out the life isn’t easy, although she isn’t helping gain anyone’s favor with her antics.
We find out that her father has been killed, and Katrina is suspect number one. The film has a bunch of interviews with family, friends and other contacts, that’s supposed to give us insight into her life. We see the funeral for her father, and we learn that we also have an interview with our lead character to listen to. And then we get a ton of dramatizations of the events leading up to her father’s death, finding out exactly what happened to bring us to this point in Katrina’s life.
What you see likely won’t surprise you, but it might revolt and repel you. What Katrina does with her life isn’t something that most people aspire for, except for getting out of work whenever possible. She’s a lazy narcissist as far as I can work out, using everyone she can in order to get what she wants: Drugs, sexual pleasure, cigarettes, baby supplies and her brother out of jail. Her motivations couldn’t be more basic, although the life she lives would likely lead to her being imprisoned just like her brother is.
That is, if the police would actually do something about it. Despite the fact that everyone knows what she’s doing, and a lot of people are trying to help her, the police rarely get involved. We meet a Detective named Andretti (Steve Bastoni), but he mostly just sits around getting verbally abused by Katrina. He also provides footage for the interview segments, where he details how Katrina decided to target his family, and not just him.
That’s about as much as I can recall, and it’s also all that really matters. We already have the end told to us: Her father is dead, and she is who everyone thinks did it. Would her saying that she didn’t make any difference? Even if we get to see what truly happened, surely the police wouldn’t have the technology to enter her mind like we can. And then there’s also the unreliable narrator storytelling technique to think about. Can we, and can the characters, believe anything that she says? Or anything that other people say? I’m not so sure.
What this leads to is not caring much about anything that’s going on. We don’t really get to see Katrina’s decline into the degenerate that she becomes, instead seeing her for a while as a slightly innocent child, and then she becomes awful. She’s not a likable character, but more importantly, she’s also not an interesting one. She’s a one-trick pony, and that trick isn’t all that impressive to begin with.
Because there’s no reason to want to watch the lead character, I found myself drifting off while watching Suburban Mayhem. I had trouble concentrating on watching this person destroy her life, as well as the lives of people close to her. She’s the worst kind of person — one who abuses the goodwill of other people, causing them to suffer — and it’s because of this that she would get caught at every turn, or that those close to her would just stop helping. But because she’s good at being manipulative, people just allow her to be, while fueling her bad habits. They’re what psychologists call “enablers”, which means we can’t really sympathize with them either.
The saddest part about Suburban Mayhem is the fact that stories like Katrina’s really do occur in real life. While I doubt this is supposed to be a biopic, I’m sure that it rings true to the lives of a lot of people. With that said, do we really need a movie adaptation of it? This is an especially pressing question when we don’t get any reason to care about the characters. Movies about lives being destroyed can be very good, but you need something to make you care. This is a film without any such reason, and as a result, I wanted to stop watching.
I didn’t enjoy Suburban Mayhem, but it wasn’t even a memorable displeasure. It’s far blander than a film with this kind of content should be, and since I didn’t care about the character, and the story is already finished by the time we enter, with us only getting possibly untrue flashbacks, there wasn’t anything to hold my attention. I was simply bored, while also revolted by the fact that the story told here could actually take place. At least in real life, characters have more depth than shown here. Real life would be more fun to watch.