My 2011 notes on Gregg Araki’s Kaboom. Also, an excuse to run a picture of Juno Temple in a fez.
This Gregg Araki film isn’t much more than an entertaining polysexual indie gloss on 1980s-style teen pix, with a lot of goings-on on campus as bewildered, mostly gay hero Smith (Thomas Dekker) goes through the usual ups and downs of student life – crushing on his straight surfer roomie Thor (Chris Zylka), who walks about nude and does weird bend exercises in the hope of being able to fellate himself, and helping his lesbian best bud Stella (Haley Bennett) cope with her genuine witch ex Lorelei (Roxane Mesquida), while enjoying recreational sex with kook London (Juno Temple) and a random stranger on the beach (Jason Olive). However, weird shit is also happening – a red-haired girl (Nicole LaLiberte) either disappears and turns up dismembered in a dumpster as Smith has foreseen in a dream involving his strange cult leader father or is still about (maybe as her twin sister) and sliding into the gutter, and men in animal masks stalk the campus, perhaps at the behest of the millennial cult, who may have stashed enough atomic weapons to bring about their prophesied end of the world. Everyone turns out to be in on something, as Smith realises he is ‘the chosen one’ but wishes he weren’t, and different factions for or against the cult kidnap him and his friends (and his mother, Kelly Lynch) while he sometimes finds he has psychic powers.
It’s a highly-coloured comic book picture with an Araki sensibility – as if Pedro Almodovar were more into X-Men and Dario Argento than Douglas Sirk and Joan Crawford (if Marvel Comics really want to push the boat out, they should hire Araki for one of their more colourful franchises: Runaways or Young Avengers). It has a flip, presumably downbeat ending – a bit like the punchline of Charles Band’s End of the World – but I’d still like to see a sequel pick up all these characters. Araki has a knack of casting fresh faces who ought to be major stars within the next three years – Dekker, who made his debut as one of the creepy kids in John Carpenter’s Village of the Damned, is quizzical, appealing and a little out of it as the understandably discombobulated hero, but everyone around him fizzes with the film’s energy. Obviously a gay-friendly film, it has a surprising amount of straight sex, with Juno Temple – on the brink of big things, I suspect – very funny, sexy and peculiar as the girl who picks up Smith (she turns out to be his half-sister) but also gives a dimwit bisexual jock a lecture on proper cunnilingus techniques that deserves a place in any anthology of frank talk.
Ryan Gilbey Araki directing Runaways is a *great* idea. And glad you dug Juno Temple.
Ryan Gilbey Or did I misread that and you meant Almodovar? Either way, I’m there opening day.
Kim Newman I meant Araki.
Mark Gordon Palmer Wasn’t this the film Araki pulled from FrightFest last year, or refused to be allowed to be premiered at the festival rather, claiming that it wasn’t horror and made some kind of derogatory remark (later denied) that Alan Jones got into a bit of a tit for tat battle with him about before everyone made sort of friends again (takes deep breath and …breathes again,,)? That’s pedigree baby!! Anyway, Kim – this review made me very happy – Araki seems to be back doing what he does best, The Doom Generation is still one of my favourite movies, as are so many of the films Araki has directed, the stars always go on, like you say, to bigger but not necessarily better, things. The world of film would be a little less interesting and fun without Araki’s world to scrummage around in now and then. Same with Argento. Their worlds keep on existing in perfect madness, randomness and a step out of real time – sometimes they annoy the hell out of the mainstream; but without that annoyance; cinema would be dead.
Spencer Hawken Yes it was the same film!
Mark Gordon Palmer I’ve never been to a FrightFest with as many punch-ups and controversies and angry people (at no Serbian Film, at Gregg Araki, at the BBFC, at the price of popcorn) as last year’s one. 2011 will be like My Little Pony compared to that!!
Anne Billson I enjoyed Kaboom because everyone was so pretty.
David Gavin Owen everyone is always SO pretty in ARAKI films. there should be at least one a year just for my sanity. he gave the world JAMES DUVALL !
Mike Sutton I thought Mysterious Skin was brilliant. This seems like quite a contrast, apart from all the pretty people.
David Gavin Owen MYSTERIOUS SKIN was Araki’s closest thing to an OSCAR movie. one of the most honest and brutal things i have yet to see. so, nothing like an OSCAR movie…
Juno Temple is a genius but seems destined to be a “best thing in this” cult star from now on.