Just north of 50, yet still working through his adolescent penchant for photographing gorgeous young people fucking, former bad boy auteur Gregg Araki has at least settled into a sanguine, humorous mindset with regard to his nihilistic fantasies. Araki’s 2004 breakthrough Mysterious Skin signaled a startling new maturity, and early on Kaboom feels like it might be a depressing return to the cheapjack provocations of his dreadful 90’s era Doom Generation output.
Blank slate Thomas Dekker stars as a perpetually aroused college freshman, constantly trading quips with his lesbian (or in this movie’s parlance, “vag-etarian”) sidekick Haley Bennett on a campus that seems suspiciously short on classwork. As per any Araki movie, there’s no shortage of pan-sexual hanky-panky and weird intonations of the apocalypse.
The big difference here is one of tone, as Kaboom turns out to be even goofier than its title. All the directionless dorm-room rutting turns out to be in the service of a crazy conspiracy plot that unfolds during the film’s second half with giddy, reckless abandon. What at first seemed like trend-chasing exploitation turns out to be more like Southland Tales with a hard-on. One must tread lightly to avoid spoilers, but it’s safe to say that Dekker’s countless male and female suitors are interested in more than just his bangs.
Shot in blinding colors with an eye for artifice and a fixation on flesh, Kaboom is one happy, horny movie, even though it’s ostensibly about the end of the world. Dekker might not offer much, but Bennett knows her way around a tart rejoinder, selling even Araki’s worst Diablo Cody-isms with her air of sexy indifference. Even better is a star-making performance from Juno Temple (daughter of Sex Pistols chronicler Julien,) who runs away with the movie as Dekker’s fuck buddy.
That this loosey goosey movie also has room for a hilariously dim metrosexual surfer dude named Thor (Chris Zylka) and a bizarre subplot involving a Sapphic witch (Fat Girl’s Roxane Mesquida) is emblematic of Araki’s relaxed silliness this time around. Wise enough not to wear out its welcome at a slender 80-odd minutes, Kaboom is a raunchy lark.