Monday, 13 June 2011
There is something infectious and even alluring about 'Kaboom', the latest exercise in sardonic camp from veteran of the "New Queer Cinema" Gregg Araki, best known for his mid-90s "Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy". It's possibly the film's playful tone which knowingly assures the audience that nothing is to be taken all that seriously. There is a deceptive air of effortlessness to 'Kaboom', which could smack as the work of a director barely breaking into a sweat. Above all it's a shameless so-called "guilty pleasure" of a movie - a less kitsch version of the sort of thing you might expect from John Waters - a large portion of which consists of attractive young people having lots of sex, all of which feels somehow explicit, in spite of the fact that it really isn't.
'Kaboom' is one of those movies almost designed to frustrate the film reviewer, in that it isn't especially easy to define along the lines of any given genre. It isn't an all-out comedy, though many of the lines and characters are played for laughs, but it isn't anywhere near earnest enough to be considered so hallowed an animal as the word "drama" would suggest. It's certainly got a toe or two in horror movie genre at various points, though there are also elements of the thriller, the science fiction film and even the police procedural at work here. In fact it often feels like a complete mess. Yet it's fun to sit back and watch something that isn't asking you to congratulate the filmmaker for his vision, or yourself for your discerning high-taste.
Before the snowballing madness of the third act, which culminates in a final shot that more than echoes Takashi Miike's 'Dead or Alive', 'Kaboom' plays out like some sort of hitherto unseen pilot for a 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' style US TV series that never got the green light. It sees a cast of twenty-something actors (Thomas Dekker, Haley Bennett and Juno Temple), playing teenage college kids and speaking in a sort of Joss Whedon-esque high school patois (albeit with a far greater level of sexual frankness and coarseness), as they embark on a serious of casual sexual encounters and discuss, for instance, the practical implications of autofellatio. It's like a bumper episode of a post-watershed 'Hollyoaks', only with a creepy murder mystery dimension and a touch of the supernatural (so in fact it's closer to Channel 4's 'Misfits').
The acting is fairly rotten, the dialogue forced and often clunky, and the lighting looks cheap for the most part. It's crass, exploitative and has all the nutrition of bubblegum, but it's hard not to smile through it nevertheless - probably because of these things rather than in spite of them. And not in some tiresome "it's so bad it's good" kind of a way, but because the filmmaker is so clearly not vying for your approval that it's sort of refreshing. Araki isn't asking to be taken seriously and isn't expecting you to love him. He isn't even chasing box office. Like his sexually liberated characters, he seems comfortable taking his passion where he finds it. I'm not sure it's a film I'll ever return to - and, in honesty, I'm not even sure it's any good - but it does posses a rare amorphous quality all of its own.
'Kaboom'is out now in the UK and rated '15' by the BBFC.