If one had to put Gregg Araki’s latest film into a finite box then it would be fair to call it a queer apocalyptic stoner religious cult horror comedy. Not content to just make a movie about the end of the world, or the bisexual frolics of American collegegoers, or masked cult devotees murdering students on campus, Araki has gone and merged them all together in the form of Kaboom. Whether the title is a direct reference to the sound the world would make if it was suddenly blown apart or if it’s the metaphoric noise a young person makes upon entering the sexually confusing world of post-high school education, either way Araki has crafted an entertaining, violently funny movie that’s amongst his best work yet.
Gregg Araki has always been a deviant of cinema, erring closer to John Waters’ style of queer filmmaking than Ang Lee’s. His arrival with films like The Living End and The Doom Generation signalled a voice synonymous with the New Queer Cinema movement of the early 1990s that saw gay stories told by gay artists. They were films not about “homosexuals – they’re just like us!”, but were instead about the different ways gay men and women looked at the world. They were radical, angry, shocking and powerful.
With Kaboom, however, Araki continues his trend towards less angry filmmaking. He has mixed the mature issues of sexual discovery that explored within Mysterious Skin and combined it with the wacky paranoia of his stoner comedy Smiley Face. Nothing is as it seems beneath the surface of oozing kaleidoscope colours as conspiracies and ultra-hip soundtracks; dreams and underground cults mix with a rather traditional story of youth experiencing their sexual awakening.
To describe the plot of Kaboom would be pointless, but everything you need to know has already been said; burgeoning sexuality meets the possible end of the world (literally) mixed with murderous religious cults. Plus the prerequisite cast of young, nubile hotties willing to get their clothes off for the camera – Thomas Dekker (The Sarah Connor Chronicles), Juno Temple (Atonement) and Haley Bennett (Marley & Me) amongst them. Araki’s direction, as well as his screenplay, may feel overtly crude at times, but his bold tackling of queer themes is always refreshing. He puts everything he has out there and wrangles in plenty of laughs from his forward, dirty-minded dialogue (one line about eating spaghetti nearly had me falling out of my seat).
Kaboom may or may not actually end with the end of the world as we know it, but first-time Araki watchers may find watching it is akin to a whole new world opening up. Meanwhile, those who are already well versed in the man’s vision will find themselves right at home.
Kaboom opens in limited release in Melbourne on March 24th and in Sydney on March 31st
Director: Gregg Araki
Cast: Thomas Dekker, Juno Temple, Haley Bennett, Kelly Lynch, James Duval,
Chris Zylka, Roxane Mesquida