DIRECTED BY: Gregg Araki
FEATURING: Thomas Dekker, Haley Bennett, Juno Temple, Chris Zylka, James Duval
PLOT: A sensitive college freshman experiences sexual awakening, stumbles upon a murder mystery, and uncovers secrets about his family while once in a while working on his film studies major, all set amidst scores of colorful visions, voodoo hallucinations, and sexy encounters.
WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: Kaboom is a tough one to pin down. It takes a while to get a handle on itself, combining a wealth of different ideas and subplots that don’t quite add up, but it does command my respect with its delightfully trippy visual approach and boldly unhinged ending. It must be said: this movie is definitely weird. But is it List-worthy?
COMMENTS: Enrolled in a clean and modern college replete with impossibly beautiful, voraciously horny undergrads, Smith (Dekker) has plenty of free time to sleep with or fantasize about most of the people he comes across. While he becomes a surprise sex-buddy for the blunt and sexy London (Temple), his best friend Stella (Bennett) begins dating a real-life witch with a clingy personality. Through many sexual escapades and relationship woes, a lingering murder mystery involving a scantily-clad redhead and some creepy men in animal masks worries Smith for months. The more he delves into the puzzle, the more he seems to get konked on the head or chased by mysterious figures no one else sees. And it all seems to tie into his recurring dream featuring those closest to him and a bright red dumpster.
With its over-exposed, over-saturated cinematography and frequent use of dreams and hallucinations, Kaboom definitely finds its way into “surreal” territory. The vibrant color schemes, kooky mod fashion, slightly pornographic sex scenes, and sarcastic one-liners belie the dark undertones involving mysterious killings and abductions, masked men, witchcraft, and a sinister doomsday cult. This dichotomy can work against the film as a whole; the tone is uneven and the script flits back and forth with awkward attempts at cohesion. However, seeing these distinct narrative halves somehow come together in a completely unexpected way makes for an admittedly compelling and memorable viewing.
Kaboom has its drawbacks—dialogue that tries too hard to be funny, a few too many sex scenes (which I didn’t think was possible), some stilted performances—but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy myself. Everything (and everyone) was just so pretty! It gets weirder as it progresses, and it’s better for it, and the brash, unexpected ending definitely has a special effect on audiences (there was a good mix of “Huh…”, “Ha!”, and “What the hell?!” at my screening). It is riddled with twists and turns, and is sure to keep anyone with a libido somewhat interested, but I’m still not quite sure just what to make of it.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“Araki lets his absurdist imagination run wild, and ‘Kaboom’ takes the time-honored gambit of gradually revealing that nothing is as it seems to delightfully cockamamie extremes.”–Kevin Thomas, The LA Times (contemporaneous)