Ken Park

Ken Park is a 2002 erotic drama teensploitation[1] written by Harmony Korine, who based it on Larry Clark's journals and stories. The film was directed and shot by Clark and Edward Lachman. The film is an international co-production of the United States, the Netherlands, and France. The film revolves around the abusive and dysfunctional home lives of several teenagers, set in the city of Visalia, California.[2]

Ken Park
German festival release poster
Directed byLarry Clark
Edward Lachman
Produced byKees Kasander
Jean-Louis Piel
Screenplay byHarmony Korine
Based onstories and journals by Larry Clark
CinematographyLarry Clark
Ed Lachman
Edited byAndrew Hafitz
Kasander Film Company
Distributed byVitagraph Films (US)
A-Film Distribution
Fortissimo Films
Release date
  • August 31, 2002 (2002-08-31) (Telluride)
  • September 10, 2002 (2002-09-10) (Toronto)
  • April 3, 2003 (2003-04-03) (Netherlands)
  • October 8, 2003 (2003-10-08) (France)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.3 million


Teenager Ken Park (nicknamed "Krap Nek" which is his first and last name spelled and pronounced backward) is skateboarding across Visalia, California. He arrives at a skate park, where he casually sits in the middle of it, sets up a camcorder, smiles, and shoots himself in the temple with a handgun. His death is used to bookend the film, which follows the lives of four teens who knew him in the weeks running up to his suicide.

Shawn (James Bullard) is the most stable of the four main characters. He's polite and caring. Throughout the story, he has an ongoing sexual relationship with his girlfriend's mother, Rhonda. He casually socializes with her family, who are all completely unaware of the affair, including her husband and his girlfriend Hannah.

Claude fends off physical and emotional abuse from his alcoholic father while trying to take care of his neglectful pregnant mother, who never does anything to defend him. Claude's father detests him for being insufficiently masculine. However, after coming home drunk one night, he attempts to perform oral sex on Claude, prompting the boy to run away from home.

Peaches is a girl living alone with her obsessive and overly-religious father, who fixates on her as the embodiment of her deceased mother. When her father catches her and her boyfriend Curtis on her bed about to have sex, he beats the boy and savagely disciplines her, including forcing her to participate in a quasi-incestuous wedding ritual with him.

Tate is an unstable and sadistic adolescent living with his grandparents, whom he resents and frequently abuses verbally. He is shown engaging in autoerotic asphyxiation during masturbation. He eventually kills his grandparents in their bed, in retaliation for his grandfather "cheating" at Scrabble and his grandmother for "invading his privacy". He finds that the act arouses him sexually. He records himself on his tape recorder so the police will know how and why he killed his grandparents. After finishing recording, he puts his grandfather's dentures in his mouth, lies naked in his bed, and falls asleep.

The film cuts frequently between subplots, with no overlap of characters or events until the end. As Tate is arrested for his grandparents' murder, Shawn, Claude, and Peaches meet and have sex as a threesome, while Gary Stewart plays. The ending finally reveals the motive behind Ken Park's suicide: he has impregnated his girlfriend who responds to his question asking if she wanted to keep it by asking if he wishes he'd been aborted himself. Realizing that he'd rather never have been born, he sets out to the skate park to kill himself.



Clark attempted to write the first script for Ken Park, basing it on personal experiences and people with whom he had grown up. Dissatisfied with his own draft, he hired Harmony Korine to pen the screenplay. Clark ultimately used most of Korine's script, but rewrote the ending. The film was given a $1.3 million budget. The arrangement was to film using digital video, but Clark and Lachman used 35mm film instead. [3][4]


Although it was sold for distribution to some 30 countries,[5] the film was not shown in the United Kingdom after director Larry Clark assaulted Hamish McAlpine, the head of the UK distributor for the film, Metro Tartan. Clark is alleged to have been angry over McAlpine's remarks about 9/11. Clark was arrested and spent several hours in custody, and McAlpine was left with a broken nose.[6][7] The film has not been released in the United States since its initial showing at the Telluride Film Festival in 2002. Clark says that this is because of the producer's failure to get copyright releases for the music used.[8] The film was banned in Australia due to its graphic sexual content and portrayals of underage sexual activity after it was refused a classification by the Australian Classification Board on June 6, 2003. A protest screening held in Sydney, hosted by esteemed film critic Margaret Pomeranz, was shut down by the police. The film remains banned in Australia to this day and has not been successfully appealed since.

Critical reception

Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports a 43% approval rating based on 14 reviews.[9]

See also


  1. Simpson, Clare. "10 Disturbing Films Rated NC-17". Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  2. What Culture#6; Ken Park (2001)
  3. Macnab, Geoffrey; Swart, Sharon (2013). FilmCraft: Producing (Ebook). Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9781136071171. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  4. "Ken Park (2002) Technical Specifications". IMDB. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  5. Police quiz critic after raid By Kirsty Needham, The Age, July 4, 2003. Accessed May 30, 2007
  6. Article in the BBC Collective
  7. "Too much verité..." The Observer. November 17, 2002. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
  8. "The Nerve Interview: Larry Clark". Nerve. 2006-09-20. Archived from the original on 2013-12-27.
  9. "Ken Park (2002)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
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