PhotobucketGregg 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.

12 Responses to “Kaboom”

  1. I liked this one a lot more than you. I mean, i don’t think it was perfect(I think the tonal shifts between the conspiracy part and the sex comedy part could have been a bit more smooth) and i do agree the ending felt random…but overall i kind of liked it.

    Plus, i really liked Decker in the lead role. I would like to see him get more prominent movie roles


    • Something about Dekker reminds me a little of Johnny Depp. And that’s kind of a coincidence because apparently Dekker was in the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), Depp’s film debut in 1984.


  2. This movie was all over the place. It started one way and ended another. Too twisted for me to really enjoy. Too bad too , cause I liked the acting.


  3. Fantastic review, Mark! I won’t go out of my way to see this one, but I really want to check out Araki’s Mysterious Skin.


  4. “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.”

    Yes. Because of MS, every time I hear that Araki is making or has released a new film, my heart skips a beat. Although “Kaboom” was disappointing, I still have hope!

    As you pointed out, the problem with “Kaboom” is that it tries to be many things at once, a jack of all trades that fails to master one storyline. The bit about the witchcraft, a distraction at best, sort of interested me because it was reminiscent of the occasional cheeky darkness of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” Season 6 where Willow goes ape-shit with black magick. Ultimately, I think the movie will appeal to 14- or 15-year-olds only for, sadly, the sexual encounters/experimentations (which aren’t even photographed well). At least Smith trying to convince himself so badly that Thor is gay has its moments. I laughed at the super organized closet.


    • I hesitate to even mention these two films in the same breath because they’re really quite different, but Kaboom has some end-of-the-world plot similarities to Donnie Darko, a film I really love. Unfortunately, those similarities are few and superficial at best.


  5. Yeah I’m not too sure I want to see this one.


  6. Araki: One of the funnest metaphors for me in the film is the idea that when you’re that age, everything that happens to you is so dramatic and so apocalyptic. If you break up with somebody or fail an exam, your emotions are so big. Everything always feels like the end of the world. I love that scene in the movie where Smith is really questioning if it is the end of the world. Making that emotional state real and part of the story was, for me, one of the funnest parts of the movie.


  7. Hmmm, I completely forgot about this movie. Really interesting take on it. I’m a huge fan of Mysterious Skin, so maybe I’ll give this one a go. I’ll proceed with caution though. Ha.


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