While I may not have seen Gregg Araki’s previous films, I am aware of them. I have seen Smiley Face and it is definitely one of the better “pot head” movies. All of his films seem to be on drugs themselves while also featuring either wild violence or lots of gay and hetero sex. I guess maybe this is why he has now had five films play the Sundance Film Festival.
After The Living End, Splendor, Mysterious Skin, the already mentioned Smiley Face and now with Kaboom, the content seems to be made up of exactly what lots of art house film goers are looking for. Something another film at this year’s festival managed to do the complete opposite of (Uncle Kent). While none of these would be considered even close to mainstream, Araki seems to have a cult following and as such, it was of no surprise to see John Waters thanked during the closing credits.
While being described as “A sci-fi story centered on the sexual awakening of a group of college students” on its IMDB page, the sci-fi elements are actually kept to a minimum. However, the sexual awakening on the other hand is out in full force. Smith (Thomas Dekker) lives in a dorm and doesn’t consider himself to be heterosexual, homosexual or even bisexual. As my wife pointed out, he definitely seems to be more trisexual as in he’ll try sleeping with anyone.
Smith crushes on his roommate Thor (Chris Zylka) when not meandering around campus or eating in cafés with his sarcastic best friend Stella (Haley Bennett). This is of course when he’s not taking drugs at a party, having bad trips involving a Red-Haired Girl (Nicole LaLiberte) getting stabbed in the head by animal mask wearing men or having orgasmic sex with London (Juno Temple) and eventually birthday threeways with her and Thor’s best friend Rex (Andy Fischer-Price).
Meanwhile, Smith is having weird dreams involving people he’s never met (but eventually does of course) and a red dumpster. He also keeps receiving weird notes consisting of things like, “You Are the Chosen Son.” Smith’s mother (Kelly Lynch) also seems to be keeping secrets from him about his “dead” father and London finds it coincidental that her father abandoned her as a child because he was an “alcoholic.” If everything seems too coincidental of course it’s not. Everything leads up to a crazy showdown between the animal mask wearing kidnappers and witches who melt when sprayed with water. Welcome to the wacky, kaleidoscopic world of Kaboom, oh what a world.
Araki seems to be channeling early Kevin Smith and brings a fun sense of style while showing that his tongue is placed firmly in cheek. It’s only when the film gets to the exposition that things start to go awry. Suddenly the film seems to be in hyperdrive to a conclusion that doesn’t make anymore sense than anything else that’s gone on before, but for what it’s worth, the titillatingly porno-structured storytelling and laugh out loud dialogue will keep you enthralled if you’re not too close minded. This is definitely a film you’ll be more comfortable watching next to your wife than say, a co-worker.
A final screening for Kaboom will take place Saturday at 9:30 p.m. at the Holiday Village Cinema II in Park City.
Photos courtesy IFC Films