Movies

Ten Critical Thoughts About… Kaboom

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Highly specific observations on Gregg Araki's surreal sex comedy.

Kaboom, the latest from noted queer filmmaker Gregg Araki, revolves around a group of sex-crazed college freshman. The teens attempt to come to terms with their various identities by having lots of sex but are interrupted by a series of freaky, supernatural events.

1. "Kaboom" is right.
It's hyper, it's bright, and it is highly stylized. Think of what'd it'd look like if a somewhat regular indie movie went to a party, drank a bunch of Four Loko, and exploded while dancing to New Order's "Blue Monday" — but in a good way. Oh, you can't picture that? That's because you haven't seen Kaboom yet.

2. Forget Mysterious Skin.
That's the movie Araki is best known for, mainly because it was awesome. But it turns out that Araki existed before 2004, and that most of his early work consisted of very alternative queer cinema. So, yeah, keep that in mind.

3. But do remember the nineties, in general.
If you don't, you will when you see this. Kaboom — its spirit, its mannerisms, even its characters' clothes and hair — feels thoroughly capital-I Indie, like the free-spirited jaunts that people called movies back in those heady days.

4. Speaking of the characters…
There are a lot of them (this is college, after all), and they're all filled with more hormones than they know what to do with (again, college). This means everyone's shacking up with everyone, because in Gregg Araki movies, defined sexual orientation is for squares. It's like Blur's "Girls & Boys" turned into a feature-length film.

5. There is no such thing as a Thor.
Is there? Smith, our plainly named bisexual hero, lives with a straight, blond surfer dude, Thor. "Like the comic!" he tells Smith. Thor is a ridiculously buff bro who color-coordinates his many pairs of flip-flops, prefers to roam naked through the tiny dorm room, and openly tries to fellate himself, as if it's just a thing guys do. Of all the surreal, imaginative things in this Kaboom, Thor struck me as the most fantastic.

Thor6. Oh, there's also a witch, by the way.
Kaboom is brimming with vivid insanity, so much so that you almost forget that there's an actual witch in the mix, just hanging around campus. I don't know about you, but I like odd movies that are so odd that even witches aren't considered extraordinary.

7. And then things get weird.
Smith is already living in a strange, hormonal dream-state, but shit really hits the fan when he thinks he witnesses a murder involving animal-masked villains. And just like that, the movie shifts from soapy sex-fueled campus romp to old-fashioned murder mystery.

8. And then things get even weirder.
Kaboom is giddy in the way it sprints through so many worlds in its intense, colorful ninety-ish minutes. Take, for instance, how the last quarter turns into an apocalyptic acid trip, lending the movie's title its umpteenth layer of meaning.

9. You might need a constant.
And a good one, like Desmond from LOST, so that you don't get too disoriented. Or I guess a totem would do, a la Inception. Point is, try to keep your head straight.

10. And that's why you should never let your child major in cinema studies.
Smith is supposed to be in college to study film. I get the feeling that none of this nonsense would have happened if he'd majored in engineering, like a good son is supposed to do.