Cornerhouse Visual Arts Programme Manager Bren O’Callaghan reviews Kaboom
Buckle up for the end of the world (again) with Gregg Araki’s Kaboom, from the director more than a mite obsessed with poly-sexual mattress gymnastics and the ever imminent arrival of the apocalypse. Our own tabloid glamazons are positively prudish by comparison to Araki’s teen characters, although such hyper-horniness and a colour palette to match a Crayola multipack means they remain fantasy figures; varnished with a glitter glaze of disease repellant Teflon.
Smith (Thomas Dekker) is a college student joined at the hip to best pal Stella (Hayley Bennett), refusing to identify as gay but erring on the side of neither-nor. Quicker than you can drop your own underwear, the pair are embroiled in a series of torrid but always cartoonish trysts with their campus cohorts, all while Smith is troubled by the meaning of a recurring dream involving a mystery red-head and a receding corridor leading to an ominous dumpster. Does any of this hold further significance? Well, yes and no… as Stella interprets, “Dreams are your brain taking a dump at the end of the day”.
What passes for an opening narrative is propped up by Dekker’s exfoliated grunge appeal, Bennett’s apparent reincarnation as MTV’s bitter cartoon hipster Daria, and a ballsy performance from British actress Juno Temple as London, the Euro-chick who gets what she wants, when she wants. As the daughter of Julien Temple, the director of such guilty pleasures as Absolute Beginners and Earth Girls Are Easy, it seems a fitting blessing to bestow upon such lurid, next generation lunacy.
Just when it seems to be settling into a punkish, disaffected rite of passage, in come the conspiracy theories by the cart load. Just who is the mysterious red-head, and why are her eyes so far apart? Are the figures prowling the grounds clad in black boiler suits and animal masks for real, or the legacy of some LCD-laced cookies? Is Oliver’s hair for real, or a wig worn backwards?
Reality is swiftly trampled underfoot with the disdain it deserves as Stella’s spurned squeeze Lorelei casts a supernatural spell upon the movie, apparently wandering on set from the Twilight franchise and destroying any last vestige of serious intent.
But ask yourself this: if given a budget, a crew, a fine lookin’ cast and a reputation for doing what the hell you like, why bother sticking with convention? The final half hour of Kaboom doesn’t so much as flick the finger as drop a lit match at a leaky gas station, causing such an eruption of disaffected, absurd, nonsensical, outrageous and rainbow-hued spatter that the climax will have you chuckling or feeling like the victim of an elaborate prank. Winner of the inaugural Palm Queer at Cannes, it would seem the former bad boy of New Queer Cinema is creating a marketable niche in nihilistic sex-romps.