Sunday 19 November 2017

REVIEWS: 'Kaboom' by Paul Whittington

Paul Whitington

For those familiar with the work of American filmmaker Greg Araki, Kaboom will feel like a welcome return to his roots. Although his recent films, such as the interesting Mysterious Skin, are relatively serious in tone, Araki made his name making gleefully debauched comic dramas that turned frantic hetero and homosexual promiscuity into a life-enhancing badge of honour.

In one sense, Kaboom is grandly ambitious: a sci-fi thriller, murder mystery and jokey sex romp all rolled into one, it's set on a prosperous southern Californian college campus and stars Thomas Dekker as an 18-year-old student called Smith.

Smith's best friend is an exceedingly handsome lesbian called Stella (Haley Bennett), and together they endeavour to adopt an attitude of ironic distance to the world.

But this is not easy: Smith is having lustful thoughts about his dumb but winsome surfer-dude roommate Thor, and he's also been having a disturbing, recurring dream about a strange woman and a dumpster.

This later turns out to be prophetic, and after Smith takes drugs at a party he sees, or thinks he sees, the woman from his dreams being attacked by men in animal masks.

A thriller is afoot but there's no point in getting excited about it, because Araki's interest in his own storyline is minimal. Sex engages the director far more, and in Kaboom everyone sleeps with everyone, and when they're not doing it they sit around aimlessly talking about it.

At times Kaboom comes across like bad David Lynch, but mostly it feels like a kind of frantic gay porn comic, no bad thing per se, but a little tedious after an hour or so. It's positively packed with one-liners that were no doubt intended to be witty, but somehow this is a joyless, mirthless little film.

It's deliberately glib and superficial and no harm in that, and the way that Araki toys with mainstream cinematic convention might have been interesting.

But, in the end, it isn't, and Kaboom's frantic rushed ending suggests that Araki simply abandoned his story because he couldn't be bothered to resolve it.

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