Gregg Araki is a polarizing filmmaker. He’s guaranteed to alienate at least slightly conservative tastes even before we begin to make sense of the plot. On the one hand, Kaboom is a frivolous comedy highlighted by the warm glow of a brightly colored visual palette. The enthusiastic, youthful cast engenders a playful mood that attracts interest. But anyone familiar with the director by way of his 2004 dramatic high point Mysterious Skin, will undoubtedly be disappointed in this wandering meditation on the sexual exploits of this group of college students. Their adventures are mixed with some nonsense concerning how an undergrad’s destiny holds planet Earth in the balance. Yes, you heard that right. It’s an end of the world story.
Of course most of the film is an excuse to show promiscuous students in a pansexual world of carnal escapades. I’m trying to write about this in the most urbane manner possible but it’s rather difficult. Thomas Dekker is our main protagonist Smith. The teens have a chilly indifference to their surroundings, none more so than his best friend Stella portrayed with sassy, nothing-fazes-me attitude, by Haley Bennett. Her presence gives the story some much needed direction. Her odd relationship with a witch gives focus to the directionless plot. She’s very amusing and a nice comic foil to 18 year old Smith, who is preoccupied by his all consuming lascivious desire and little else in this world.
The narrative does have some mental quests thrown in. Smith witnesses the apparent murder of a red headed woman by men in animal masks after a late night party. In a drug addled haze, he’s not quite sure if he didn’t just hallucinate the whole thing at first. But then he discovers a disc drive in his pocket left by the unknown victim that points to a mysterious online cult. Here’s where the tale starts to get interesting. Unfortunately director Gregg Araki is more interested in the sexual experimentation of teens and the story collapses under the weight of wanton pursuits. These interludes appear kamikaze style throughout and they’re neither sensual nor funny.
Kaboom is a schizophrenic melding of two different films. It presents a mildly entertaining, bizarro apocalyptic fable that is buried under a lot of drek. What a shame that everything is ultimately explained in a hastily executed wrap up in the last 10 minutes. The explosive streams of vernacular coming from the mouths of the entire cast is a recklessly spoken explosion of words meant to clarify what we‘ve been watching. It renders the whole account as arbitrary and meaningless. I couldn’t possibly do justice to the ridiculous conclusion. Perhaps the producers were running out of money and Araki had to quickly end this mess. I know you pretty much get what you deserve when you choose to watch a Gregg Araki flick, but good heavens, Kaboom is really out there, even for him.