After confusing critics, fans and detractors with his polar opposite, oeuvre redefining films Mysterious Skin, a mature exploration of abuse and its consequences, and Smiley Face, a cheesy stoner comedy, Gregg Araki is back on more familiar ground with his latest movie, Kaboom. Familiar ground to Araki, however, is a strange, messy and provocative place. Having established himself as a cult director of anarchic, sexually outré, youth obsessed movies such as Totally Fucked Up, Nowhere and The Doom Generation, defined by their day-glo colour schemes, outrageous set pieces, pop culture heavy scripts and nihilistic edge, Araki now presents us with a movie perfectly summed up in one review as 'Twin Peaks 90210'.
Araki's riotous tale centres around sexually confused student, Smith (Thomas Dekker) and his offbeat collection of campus friends, including his Adonis like room-mate Thor (Chris Zylka), promiscuous London (Juno Temple) and wisecracking Stella (Haley Bennett). When bizarre and sinister incidents begin to occur around him Smith is plunged into a paranoid world that threatens not just his existence but that of civilisation as a whole. Taking in a mysterious death cult, attackers in animal masks, comedic exchanges, a typically guitar heavy soundtrack and an increasingly acid-fried plot-line, plus copious amounts of nudity, Zeitgeisty dialogue and oblique, at times almost nonsensical sequences Kaboom will annoy as many as it excites. I'm in the latter camp and fell for it hook, line and sinker. Araki has conjured up an effervescent, genre defying slice of entertainment that is neither multiplex or arthouse fodder, straying as it does between crypto-philosophical musings, science fiction themed sub-plots and porno-lite sex scenes all within a cheesy, teen- soap style visual palette.
There's no doubting that Kaboom is wafer thin, peopled as it almost exclusively with impossibly beautiful characters, hipster fashions and an apparent disregard for a tightly constructed narrative, but that's exactly why it works. Araki is no fool, and love him or hate him, he's an assured director who has chosen to put Kaboom together in this fashion. It's a blackly comic reflection of the ADHD infused entertainment culture we live in - a contemporary society of plastic, tech heavy gadgets, sound-bites, violence, promiscuity and generation gaps as much as it is its own insular tale of conspiracy, youth, sexual awakening and a fast approaching Apocalypse.