Kaboom (2011)

Film Reviews — By on August 3, 2011 at 1:00 pm

With the exception of 2004’s Mysterious Skin there has always been a distinct lack of depth to Gregg Araki’s film output. What he simply does is put a cynical eye on modern youth, their horrible sexual encounters, drug habits, the shitty world they wake up to each day, and then just throws in little bits about pop culture and American life. Sometimes he provides these stories in a cutting edge and interesting way and other times he produces the dullest, most self-indulgent waffle you are likely to see. This latest offering kind of falls somewhere in the middle of his best and worst films, but does succeed in giving a big middle finger to critics who maybe thought that there was more to Araki’s work.

Eighteen year old art student Smith (Thomas Dekker, TV’s Breaking Bad), is a slacker who spends most of his days hanging around with cynical best friend Steller (Haley Bennett), taking drugs and attempting to get with attractive, but dumb roommate Thor (Chris Zylka). His simple world is turned upside down, when he starts having recurring dreams about two women, who then appear to him in the real world, leading him to question what is real and not, as well as if there might be some grand conspiracy. Around this time Smith starts a thing with London (Juno Temple) who as it turns knows a lot about what is really going on.

For roughly half of its eighty six minutes Kaboom is entertaining, and works on the level of a potty mouth post-Bret Eastern Ellis satire, with sharp Twin Peaks like plot turns meeting comfortable murder mystery television. There is also an inventive, surreal colour palette all be it one which becomes very draining quickly. The main problem with all this is that the central idea of whether Smith is just seeing hallucinogens or whether there is more grows tired very quickly. And once you find out that the answer really is not anything to write home about, you may well wish you had stayed home and got high on sugar watching repeats of 90210.

The performances are all sharp and I did find there was sweetness to the Smith/Steller relationship which is one aspect which I would have liked to have seen expanded.

There is something gutsy about being this gross and painting such a bleak picture of students, still it does feel a little behind the times. For all its balls, gestures and ideas the one thing Kaboom sorely lacks is a plot. It has a set up, it has jokes, it has a style all of its own, but it lacks the ability to go from A to Z in a coherent fashion, while nailing all the main points and engaging you in the central characters (even if you don’t like them). For all the fun along the way, the film ends up looking like a collection of pieces from different films/Television Shows/Novels.


Film Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

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  • Even though I thought this film was pretty terrible, I absolutely loved it! One of my favourite cinema experiences of the year – also perhaps the only time I’ve walked out of a film and said “It was good, but could have done without that lesbian subplot”

  • I have this and a couple of other Araki movies in my “to view” pile, no idea whether I will like his stuff or not.

  • avatar Keith Beard says:

    Its not terrible at all, it is just a bit one note and doesn’t tell you anything which Bret Eastern Ellis didn’t in the Rules of Attraction, it is just more touqe in cheek than that.

    Is the Doom Gerenation one of those you’ve got to see Kevin, I remember seeing that years ago on filmfour, and couldn’t believe my luck! It is a true midnight cult classic

  • Yeah, The Doom Generation is in there too. And Totally F***ed Up and Smiley Face.
    I watched The Informers a few days ago and enjoyed that despite the fact it was only an inferior Rules Of Attraction kinda deal (being based on works by Ellis too).

  • avatar Keith Beard says:

    Right didn’t know he did the Informers too, that is one I have not seen.

  • I think I got us talking with crossed wires. The Informers is based on the work of Brett Easton Ellis but is NOT a Gregg Araki film. I just thought it worth mentioning as something very much okay but already done better in Rules Of Attraction. Sorry Keith.

  • I think Kaboom had a lot of negative press because people are still expecting another mysterious skin from Akaki. However its clear that was a one of and I for one am happy that there are still directors with a little nauce still attempting to make cult/midnight films without attempting to cash in on nostalgic grindhouse conventions. I’ve had Kaboom on preorder since I saw it and I’m very much looking forward to watching again come Monday

  • avatar Mike Ewins says:

    I really liked this one. It’s nice to see Araki return to his old-school sex-em-ups without indulging in the antagonistic ‘edginess’ of something like The Living End (1992), which feels far too much like a child reading a political party broadcast while also reenacting Thelma & Louise with his Action Man toy set. Araki has really settled into a style here and I love the frankness of his sexual politics – the way everybody is accepted, no matter their preference, and all get equal screen-time and the chance to be wreckless and hedonistic. The fact that all of this is wrapped up in a slick, silly-as-a-sheep sci-fi conspiracy is all the better, and the visual style and soundtrack make it quite the cinematic treat. Not a masterpiece or anything, but certainly a lot of fun. The Araki that’s really worth mentioning, however, is Nowhere (1997). That’s an underground masterpiece, and one of the best films of the 90′s.

  • Also Thomas Dekker is strating to get some good exposure. Thought he was amazing in Angels Crest, if not a little miscast (far too ‘pretty boy’ to be a believable teenage father living in a redneck town)

  • avatar Keith Beard says:

    Intertesting point Mike, I guess this is not as bleak as some other movies of its irk. I guess another problem I have with it, is that it is neither one nor the other at times, if its a satire then it needed to have a greater balance in the characters[I found them entertaining at first, but after awhile a little annoying and boring], but if it is purely entertainment then it needed to find more ways to entertain us.

    Visually and maybe with some of the language it is a step forward for Araki, the but the story and themes themselfs are not. In the end I don’t see it as being at the higher or lower end of his work, but somewhere in the middle.

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