by Jef Burnham
Now available on DVD from MPI Media Group.
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Writer/director Gregg Araki, whose “Teen Apocalypse Trilogy” showed the (figurative) end of the world from the perspective of the youth of the 1990’s, returns with Kaboom to tell another tale of the world’s end as seen through the eyes of a new generation. Starring Thomas Dekker (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), Juno Temple (Atonement), and Haley Bennett (The Haunting of Molly Hartley), Kaboom is a hypnotic, relentlessly-paced comic thriller chock full of angsty, sexually adventurous college students.
Dekker stars as Smith, a sexually “undeclared”college student whose recurring dreams lead him into a mystery involving a cult of animal-masked men. Drawing from Twin Peaks and his own memories of college life, Araki allows the piece to develop organically despite its high concept premise. And just as in Twin Peaks, the comic elements never undermine the suspense of the piece, instead fusing to create an atmosphere all its own. The result is that the film feels at once wholly anarchic, and yet somehow totally natural. Araki’s primary focus is on the characters and their development, proving amidst the unveiling of the cult conspiracy that he retains an intimate understanding of the human condition, specifically with regard to young people. As a result, we only learn more about the cult as an audience as the characters do, and we do so through events that unfold before us as they would in real life, which is to say randomly and out of context.
And although the film has a running time of a mere 86 minutes, careful pacing creates the sense that film is slowly building to its climax, where the film accelerates wildly toward an incredible finale. What’s more, the film is every bit as visually exciting as it is at the screenplay and structural levels, and not just because of the beautiful cast assembled by Araki. The cinematography by Sandra Valde-Hansen is characterized by an amazing, candy-colored lighting palette that comes across so vibrantly on this DVD release that I think a Blu-ray transfer of the film would have almost been too much for the eyes.
The final point I’d like to address here is the depiction of sexuality in the film— more specifically, the sexual identity of the characters. With Kaboom, the 51-year-old Araki shows just how well he understands today’s youth and trends in the sexual evolution of our society by depicting many of his characters as being of an “undecided” sexual orientation. And even the characters who label themselves as exclusively heterosexual aren’t 100% averse to a bit of experimentation now and again. The dual classifications of hetero- and homosexual are rapidly becoming more and more difficult to adhere to as many people in our society, especially those of a college age, “don’t really believe in standardized sexual pigeonholes,” not unlike Araki’s Smith.
Special features on Kaboom include out-takes, deleted scenes with optional commentary, and feature commentary with Araki and Dekker, in which they reveal much about the film’s production, with insights into the picture’s tight shooting schedule.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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