Director Gregg Araki, once considered the angriest, most unconventional, and relentlessly intriguing voices in independent queer cinema made somewhat of a comeback in 2010 with Kaboom, a science-fiction cyber-thriller, and self-aware teen sex comedy. His earlier works, such as The Living End, Totally Fucked Up, Doom Generation, and Mysterious Skin, served to many adolescents as their introduction to independent queer cinema. These movies all played a key role in the “coming of age” of young queer cinephiles such as myself (sexually, intellectually, and politically).
Kaboom seems an amalgam of his entire canon, a mash-up of style and genre, featuring a narrative that includes bi-curious escapades, conspiracy theories, drug trips, mysterious cults, men in animal masks, witches, telekinetic powers, post-apocalyptic visions, and a gorgeous young cast. Yet despite the markings of his “Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy,” this apocalyptic pastiche doesn’t feel as urgent. Kaboom adheres more to the tone and spirit of Araki’s earlier comedies Splendor and Smiley Face. Long gone are the tinges of ironic nihilism, despair, and segments of American youth who consider themselves outside the norm. Gregg Araki’s candy-colored, self-possessed and super-sexed-up, messy clusterfuck of excessive surrealism, is at times amusing, but its charm quickly wears off towards the end. Araki pushes as many elements as he can to the point of absurdity and draws humor from the most unlikely places, but it’s still not nearly as seminal as his earlier works. For a director who dared to be different, Kaboom is sadly a disappointment.
There are a certain naiveté and odd charm to Araki’s films; he’s a director who seems just as confused as his characters and. for that, Kaboom can be entertaining. The winner of the first inaugural Queer Palm Award, Kaboom is a perfect fit for a midnight slot with its dark humour and fearless cast, which includes longtime Araki principle actor James Duval, in a nearly unrecognizable cameo as “the Messiah,” a long-haired hippy stoner. Kaboom is not vintage Araki, but there is something vogue, even audacious about the film’s end result that leaves you wondering if you like it or not.
– Ricky D