|Image: Artifical Eye|
Greg Araki made his name as one of the leading lights of the New Queer Cinema movement in the 1990s. While Mysterious Skin (2004) was an undeniable cross-over success, Kaboom was promoted as a return to his anarchic roots.
Smith (Thomas Dekker) is a bi-sexual student at an unnamed San Diego university. He’s approaching his 19th birthday and is tortured by nightmares he doesn’t understand, as well as his beautiful but straight roommate Thor (Chris Zylka). In between sexual encounters he discovers that he is part of an elaborate conspiracy involving a murderous cult that may well bring about the end of the world.
Kaboom is the work of a filmmaker who is happy in his work. It’s beautifully shot; a big, bold, colourful explosion of memorable images. It’s referential but in a very loose fashion. It’s highly sexual but never in a way that feels seedy or voyeuristic. Instead there’s a tremendous sense of absurd humour, which only improves as the film goes on. Smith’s best friend Stella (Haley Bennett) starts dating a controlling French nymphomaniac witch (Roxanne Mesquida), and the characters treat her as any other film would treat a suddenly scary lover.
The young cast is capable and willing. Dekker (Heroes) is affable as Smith, while Bennett (The Hole) is bitingly acerbic as Stella and has most of the best lines. Mesquida (Satan) is hilarious as the psycho witch, as are Juno Temple (Atonement) as Smith’s straight-talking straight sex partner London (she has the rest of the best lines) and the wonderfully dopey Zylka.
The film does drag a little in the middle as Smith slowly starts figuring out that something very big and very bad is happening, but it all comes together in such a wonderfully absurd fashion that you’ll be completely enthralled by the ending. Kaboom recalls two inferior films: Roger Avary’s The Rules of Attraction in its sex ‘n’ drugs ‘n’ students subject matter, and Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales in its apocalyptic leanings, and surpasses both. It’s a little too influenced by Bret Easton Ellis at times, but while it may not always completely work, it’s a fantastically entertaining, funny, off the wall piece of cinema.
It’s a blast of sunshine for the cult crowd. Funny, bright, sexy, scary, and fantastically weird.