Category-Defying Teen Sexuality Goes Kaboom!

01/19/2011 4:00 AM |


Directed by Gregg Araki

In Kaboom, sexually “undeclared” freshman Smith (Thomas Dekker) lusts after Thor, his surfer roommate, but has to settle for no-strings-attached booty calls with a girl who likes boys who like boys. Oh, and Smith also has to figure out why some dudes wearing animal masks want to kill him. After a pair of comparatively mainstream features—Mysterious Skin (2004) and Smiley Face (2007)—underground queer maestro Gregg Araki returns to his lowbrow roots with this surreal goofball comedy about free love and murder on a SoCal campus.

AIDS and gay-bashing jocks used to be the primary threats to Araki’s protagonists, and it’s a measure of how far our society has come that Kaboom‘s characters are not only out, but are humping indiscriminately like it’s 1969. What hasn’t changed, however, is the sardonic nature of Araki’s alterna characters. Whereas Clinton-era contemporaries like Noah Baumbach and Whit Stillman focused on a milieu of privileged, clean-cut post-collegiates, Araki—in films like The Doom Generation (1995)—looked at working-class misfits who still lived at home and who had sex, drugs and music as their only outlets. The rutting youths of Kaboom may be better off financially than their predecessors, but they retain an essential contempt for mass culture, expressed not only in their category-defying sexualities but in their hilariously anomic banter and hedonism.

In a lunatic plot line that reads like a poor man’s Southland Tales, Smith stumbles into a cult conspiracy to end the world involving both his new fuckbuddy and his absentee mom (Kelly Lynch). But you’d have to have a heart of stone not to laugh at Kaboom‘s satisfyingly stupid final shot, a tribute to Ed Wood and Stanley Kubrick all at once.

Opens January 28 at IFC Center