Review: The Allins

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This new documentary about the notorious shock rocker G.G. Allin delves beyond the public persona to explore his ongoing legacy and how it affects his brother and mother.

G.G. Allin remains, 25 years after his death, the embodiment of unrestrained rock ‘n’ roll insanity – the punk rock terrorist who stripped naked, beat himself and his audience members up and played shows covered in assorted bodily fluids – shows that were inevitably cut short by horrified venue owners. When G.G. died of a heroin overdose after an especially chaotic New York show (you can watch the show and the aftermath on video, which is unsettling when you realise it’s a document of a man heading for his death), his plans of an on-stage suicide – or mass murder/suicide, depending on when you asked him – died with him, as did the particularly pure interpretation of rock rebellion that he espoused.bio

His band The Murder Junkies continued though, with brother Merle as the helm, and they continue to record and tour. The show is, of course, much more restrained – at least, as restrained as a show that includes audience members shoving drum sticks up the ass of an ageing, naked drummer ever can be.

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Director Sami Saif has the unenviable task with The Allins of following Todd Phillips’ Hated, which seemed to be the definitive G.G. Allin documentary – the need for another film about him didn’t seem pressing. But Saif’s film is a very different, and perhaps more interesting affair. If you want to simply see the public image of G.G. Allin, then Hated should remain your go-to film. If you want to get further into the story of how Kevin Allin became G.G., and what has happened since his death, then this is pretty essential viewing.

The film flits between two members of Allin’s family – Merle, who is still peddling the G.G. legend with his band and his mail order business selling anything you can think of with G.G.’s name and image on it, and his mother Arleta, who wonders where she went wrong and has little love of the public persona that ultimately consumed her son. At times – especially when we see Merle and his mother interacting – there’s the comic and, at times, contrived dynamic that the trailer and the title suggest; The Allins as The Osbournes, a dysfunctional and eccentric rock family. But there’s considerably more than this here.

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The film opens with both Arleta and Merle expressing their anger at dumbass fans who turned up to G.G.’s grave to piss and shit on it, which ultimately led to the removal of the headstone, and throughout, Arleta regrets the needless loss of her son – a man who played a character and was finally consumed by it. Merle, meanwhile, continues to live the rock ‘n’ roll dream and is a conflicting figure – at times, the line between keeping his brother’s legacy alive and ruthlessly exploiting it seems rather blurred.

The film explores the difficult upbringing the boys had (their father originally named G.G. Jesus Christ Allin – which the young Merle mispronounced ‘G.G.’, leading to the nickname – and was a mentally unstable, somewhat psychotic character) and the way they both became obsessed with rock, going in their own direction until Merle formed The Murder Junkies as a new backing band while G.G. was in prison, convicted of assaulting a groupie. It also follows the band today, as they tour (with some original members, including the aforementioned drummer Dino Sex) and record songs like Eating Pussy on a Friday Night. I have a couple of Murder Junkies albums, and they are pretty solid, gleefully offensive punk – but the band will forever be in the shadow of their former frontman, whose antics they smartly refuse to imitate.

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Fans of Allin will be glad to hear that there is plenty of footage of the man himself performing live, and there isn’t too much duplication of material from Hated. As you might expect, it’s pretty unrestrained and uncensored – so if the sight of naked men pissing into the audience while covered in blood and shit upsets you, this might prove a challenging viewing experience. But unlike Hated, there is much more to this than mere shock value and sensationalism. At times, it’s quite moving, and by the end, only the most hardened viewer would still believe that Allin’s death was anything other than a pointless, wholly unnecessary act of self-destruction, or that his whole act wasn’t simply a trap that he was unable to escape from (even if Allin had wanted to clean up and play straight-ahead shows that relied on the music, it’s doubtful that his fans would’ve let him – here, as in Hated, the fans interviewed in this film seem a dreadful bunch of punk rock clichés and self-consciously nihilistic cocks).

I’m actually very fond of G.G.’s work – and I very much enjoyed his no-hold-barred attitude and persona. The Allins doesn’t change that – but it does offer a broader view of who he was, and of how his path of self-destruction affected the members of his family. It’s a fascinating cautionary tale, and one well worth checking out even if you have no time for Allin and his work.

DAVID FLINT

Screening at the Doc ‘n’ Roll Festival, London November 10th 2017

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