DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: Kaboom

Thursday, 2 June 2011


Kaboom (2010) dir. Gregg Araki
Starring: Thomas Dekker, Haley Bennett, Juno Temple, Chris Zylka, James Duval


By Alan Bacchus

The latest underground effort from Gregg Araki (The Living End, Mysterious Skin), one of the pioneers of the ‘New Queer’ movement of the ‘90s, is a sometimes delightful sleaze-fest, bi-sex comedy – kinda like a retro Kevin Smith film mixed with Richard Kelly end-of-the-world craziness. While we can enjoy the garish silliness of a John Waters b-movie throwback, this film flies too far off the rails in the final act to justify a recommendation.

Smith (Thomas Dekker) is like a bi-sexual college student version of Kyle MacLachlan from Blue Velvet, an everyman (if there can be one in an Araki film) inexorably drawn into a zany murder plot on campus involving a horrific stabbing by three masked men.

Smith is a fun character introduced early on as both gay and straight, though his sexual fantasies about his meat-head frat boy hetero roommate would suggest otherwise. With that said, he finds himself in a relationship with a sexually adventurous gal named London. Connections between a recurring dream involving mysterious campus characters, ominous notes left on his computer about being ‘the chosen one’ and a subplot about his missing father are left vague until a rapture-esque apocalyptic sci-fi explanation ties everything together.

Aesthetically, Araki creates a heightened melodramatic world. Garish colours, overly stagey production design and crappy lighting contribute to a purposefully artificial world. It’s almost as if he’s stolen the set from an Italian soap opera or a San Fernando Valley porn movie.

Despite this weirdness, Araki writes some genuinely likeable and relatable characters. By the way, Araki costumes and shoots Thomas Dekker to make him look like a star. Much of the time he locks his camera in a single close-up of Dekker reacting to the oddball happenings around him. There’s nothing casual about Dekker’s supercool jet black hair or blank expression. Araki and his camera are in love with this guy and the audience can feel it.

Peppered into the sometimes gay and straight sex liberally shown on screen are some genuine scares. The freaky animal-masked killers that seem to creep up on Smith both in his dreams and eventually in reality produce some chills.

The film works best in its most simple and realistic moments, including the frank and entertaining discussions about sex between his characters and the pointed critique of college life. If you’re scared off by any gayness, it is inherent in an Araki picture. His strong but observational humour reminds us of Kevin Smith’s very naughty early days, specifically Jason Lee and Ben Affleck’s fine banter in Chasing Amy. Unfortunately, Kaboom crumbles in respectability with its far too ridiculous science fiction plotting, which is neither cutting edge nor observationally funny.

Kaboom is available on DVD from eOne Entertainment in Canada.

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