What do you get when you cross a Hollywood-style college sex comedy with a bizarre sci-fi-demon-cult adventure mystery? You get the latest film from Gregg Araki, Kaboom. Returning to the form of his earlier films such as The Doom Generation, Araki takes the audience on a strange ride through one teenager’s search for his sexual identity and investigation of a possible demon cult.
Smith is a typical outcast teenager, starting his first year of college. He has a crush on his straight-dumb-surfer roommate, occasionally experiments with girls, and is supported by his dyke best friend, Stella. While at a kegger party one evening, Smith eats a drug-laced cookie and hallucinates the murder of a young girl by men in animal masks. But was it a hallucination? Is there a satanic cult on campus? And can he maintain his gay identity while being attracted to a nympho English girl? Stella has problems of her own when she begins dating a crazy witch with superpowers. This may all sound a little confusing, but as with most of Araki’s work, you just have to grab it by the balls and fly with it.
This is a bright and crazy film, literally and figuratively. While Smith is usually dressed in black, the rest of the cast is adorned in reds, greens and yellows. They have secured their identity while he has not. When Smith goes to a nude beach to “think”, he ends up in the arms of a strange but gorgeous man. Mind you, even Stella has trouble breaking up with her witch-girlfriend. The film contains a few great performances. As Smith, Thomas Dekker walks a fine balance between comfort in being mostly gay and discomfort with the rest of his identity, and Haley Bennet is the perfect mix of bitchy and loyal as Stella.
This is perhaps not as well-polished as Araki’s previous work; it seems somewhat of an excuse to show a little soft porn, and Araki throws a lot of information at the audience in the last 15 minutes to explain the demon cult subplot, and it feels ill-planned and ill-matched to the preceding story developments. The story does seem to meander; but then, so does the mind of a 19-year-old whose hormones are raging while investigating Satanism while trying to find his way to class. Araki is nothing if not original, and the film goes to some very strange places. This is not a film to read too deeply, but rather as a strange trip much like the one Smith finds himself on. Call it Scooby-Doo on animal nitrate.