“If you want to be a good citizen you’ve got to be a good consumer.”
Set in 2025, some two decades after the 36-hour war, Euphoria is a tale of pharmacological experiments and corporate greed. In the post-apocalyptic future, the United Nations has been replaced by a consortium of major corporations and traditional democracies all but wiped out. Consumerism is the dominant ideology and personal debt has been deemed worthy of a three-year public service sentence. However, the convicted can absolve themselves by participating in trials for new drugs, which brings us to Melina Taylor (Sydnee Steele). Melina is selected as a test subject for ‘U4’, a hallucinogenic aphrodisiac distantly related to Viagra. It transpires that the birth rate in America has fallen over the years so this new drug is of considerable importance.
The majority of Euphoria is actually comprised of Melina’s drug-induced fantasies, fantasies that are closely monitored by U4’s creator, Dr Baron (Mike Horner) and the Vice President of pharmaceutical giant Koresh Hyde, Miss Smith-Sorayama (Ava Vincent). The characters who populate these episodes are primarily representations of people from her past (her ex-boyfriend, played by Cheyne Collins) or present (Dr Baron and Smith-Sorayama) but two are more enigmatic. Meta (Dillon Day) and Karma (Inari Vachs) appear throughout as members of the Digital Rebel Front (DRF). The suggestion is, rather than being a mere sexual aid, U4 will actually allow for the psychological sculpting of the masses. Melina, they claim, is uniquely placed to act as a psychic channel, to facilitate the destruction of Koresh Hyde and its monstrous experiments.
Euphoria was obviously an ambitious undertaking and the resultant film looks absolutely fabulous. Armstrong was afforded more than a week for shooting (a long time by adult standards) and that investment is certainly visible in the finished product. The swooping aerial shots that open the movie immediately differentiate it from other adult features and elegant tracking shots appear throughout. The art direction is also outstanding, incorporating painstaking make-up, fetishistic costumes and striking futuristic sets.
In addition to the abundant visual delights, the film boasts an engaging narrative and unusually rich screenplay. The basic story takes its inspiration from a number of mainstream sources and, with its apparent critique of consumerism and the ideological domination of the masses, would appear to have Marxist undertones. However, these elements are really quite superficial and it would be unwise to read too much into them. The resolution of the narrative is quite pessimistic but there remains scope for interpretation, if only because the lines between fantasy, dream and reality are totally blurred by that point.
Most of the cast acquit themselves well, especially considering the expansive vocabularies David Aaron Clark has bestowed upon their characters. Sydnee Steele, who dominates the movie in an array of outrageous outfits, and Mike Horner, who actually plays three roles, were duly honoured by AVN with awards for best actress and best actor. I can’t imagine why Ava Vincent, resplendent in a jet-black wig, wasn’t named best supporting actress for her portrayal of the kinky corporate executive. Unfortunately, Cheyne Collins and Asia Carera are somewhat less convincing in important secondary roles.
Euphoria is obviously essential viewing for anyone interested in contemporary adult movies and predictably swept the board at the 2002 AVN awards. Nevertheless, it does have one fatal flaw – its length. At two hours twenty minutes, the film is at least half an hour too long and does try the patience at times. Two of the sex scenes – the opening encounter with Bridgette Kerkove and the anonymous couplings at the strip club – are of no particular narrative significance and could have been either shortened or eliminated altogether. Fans of the featured performers might disagree but I think it would have helped the piece as a whole.