Kaboom (2011)

Smith (Thomas Dekker) is in his freshman year at college, his acerbic friendship with laconic lesbian Stella (Haley Bennet) and pansexual ponderances at the foot of statuesque room-mate Thor (Chris Zylka) masking a growing dread that stems from a recurring dream he has been having since the beginning of term. Featuring a missing co-ed, a possessive witch and strange men in animal masks, Smith’s visions soon bleed into reality as these figments of his imagination start cropping up around campus. When British student London (Juno Temple) enters his life, dropping a few extra clues, they join forces to investigate a mysterious cult with links to each of their pasts. Meanwhile, at the same party that Smith meets London, Stella finds herself the object of the witch’s afformentioned affections.

With 2005’s haunting Mysterious Skin forcing his critics to sit up and take notice, Gregg Araki’s New Queer Cinema looked to have finally come of age. Following in the footsteps of such OTT titles as The Doom Generation and Totally Fucked Up, Mysterious Skin marked a change of tact for the director, with its heartbreaking subject matter and measured storytelling hinting at a new-found maturity. Invited by one John Waters  to channel such ‘old-school Gregg Araki’ once more, however, Akari has since written and directed Kaboom, a genre-splicing mash-up of Bret Easton Ellis characters, Diablo Cody dialogue and John Hughes setting.

As much respect as I have for Araki’s Mysterious Skin, it’s difficult to describe Kaboom as anything other than Donnie Darko-lite. Little more than a selection of taudry sex scenes masquerading as porn so soft you could use it to market toilet paper, Kaboom nevertheless purports to be more, with its portentous tone and supernatural stylings suggesting intentions that go beyond mere erotica. Whereas Donnie Darko submitted fully to its time-twisting narrative, however, Araki is far too preoccupied with his pert young cast to spend the necessary time developing his film’s mythology.

Complicit in their own deification, the cast’s embrace of Araki’s vision goes some way to legitimising what might otherwise seem little more than the lewd fantasies of an old man, even if their perceived indifference to traditional narrative does rub off on the audience. While not necessarily sympathetic, they do a commendable job of at least making their roles interesting. With their witty repartee and refreshingly fluid relationships, Dekker and co. make for a compelling ensemble as they conspire to solve a mystery, uncover a conspiracy and avert an apocalypse from their base in whoever’s bed they’re currently doing it in.

A perpetually topless Juno Temple steals scenes as the film’s best approximation of a conventional love interest, while Dekker and Bennett’s charismatic coupling manages to address the more fantastical elements with their unflinching cool – after all, if they don’t care then why should we? Considering just how much time they spend semi-naked, it’s surprising that the central trio manage to retain as much dignity as they do. You wouldn’t believe how many shots simply show a sleeping Dekker wake, or be kidnapped, or stumble artfully up a back-lit corridor, Araki’s adoring lens never far behind. The supporting cast aren’t quite as successful, their thanklessly obtuse roles fuelling a plot that their own director has nothing invested in.

With its minimal budget, televisual direction and half-baked narrative, you could be forgiven for thinking that this was someone’s first feature, and not their tenth. Despite its many flaws, however, Kaboom is still an interesting and entertaining watch. Silly, stylish and blissfully sarcastic, Kaboom gives you at least some bang for your buck.

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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