In all the blockbuster multiplex bravado, there is space for something altogether more unique and challenging. Join GeekChocolate as we experience the lastest film from Greg Araki, starring Thomas Dekker, best known as John Connor on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles as he counts down to Day Zero in this pre-apocalyptic thriller.
The isolation of a college campus dorm high rise, the dark alleyways between the teaching blocks, the endless rounds of drink, drugs and sex. Smith and his endlessly sarcastic best friend Stella already have enough to fill their life, but after Smith receives an anonymous note – “You are the chosen son” – and becomes convinced a fellow student has been abducted, he finds that the lies and deceit that act as currency on the party circuit are matched by the anonymous disinformation on the internet. When the only evidence he has is stolen, he becomes more convinced there is a conspiracy on campus, and he may be next to be targeted.
Greg Araki, enfant terrible of the indie scene, is known for his controversial and challenging films, from The Living End to his Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy, and while his recent films have been superficially more mainstream, and Kaboom certainly has many elements that would appeal to a wide audience, the undercurrent of weird is never far from the surface.
Thomas Dekker plays Smith, an ambiguous character, drifting between his lust for his roommate Thor (Chris Zylka) and the freespirited London (Juno Temple), the Fez-wearing partygirl, his online flirtation with the elusive Oliver, and Hunter, a married man he met at the beach. As Stella comments, “You meet some guy on a nude beach and after five minutes you’re downloading his hard drive in the back of a van. You’re a slut.” But her relationship is no more successful; her girlfriend Lorelei is in fact a powerful witch who does not handle rejection.
As the film progresses, it does become increasingly absurd, but in an entertaining manner: there is internal logic and consistency, it just doesn’t apply to the external world. One of the biggest paradoxes how the entire cast remain unfeasibly slim and beautiful when they appear to be eating in almost every scene – canapés, pie, donuts, macaroni cheese.
Many comparisons have been made to Donnie Darko; both have similar plots, of teenage boys with haunting visions of people wearing animal masks, counting down to a personal apocalypse, and a blurring of reality and dream. Stylistically, both are strikingly filmed, looking far more expensive than their small budgets would suggest, and have a similar style of soundtrack, and in fact James Duval, who played the costumed Frank ten years ago here features as the ubiquitous on-campus stoner, the Messiah.
Although Donnie Darko was caught in a timeloop in the eighties and Kaboom is contemporary, it has many hallmarks of the cinema of that era, with the feel of a teen comedy in some places, and in others the menace of the thrillers and horrors of that decade. Other strong references are the colour saturated destructive relationships of The Rules of Attraction and the shadowy dream sequences of David Lynch. More obscure but very strong is the link to Christopher Rice’s novel The Snow Garden, a tale of a campus based cult converting students uncovered by a gay student in love with his straight roommate with a lesbian best friend. However, none of these ever featured a slapstick comedy voodoo doll attack scene, nor an overt homage to The Wizard of Oz.
The film will certainly not be to everyone’s taste, nor will it win awards for subtlety, but it has style and a lot more substance than many of the multiplex crowdpleasers that will edge it out into the arthouses cinemas this summer, but in many ways, that is a good thing. In the words of the film, “Strange seems to be the new normal.”