Look, Gregg Araki. You can’t duplicate Donnie Darko. Richard Kelly can’t even duplicate Donnie Darko because Donnie Darko was a fluke, a one-shot half-accident by an otherwise mediocre director who inadvertently stumbled upon greatness. Mysterious Skin is the closest that Araki will ever get to that greatness, and after Smiley Face and Kaboom, I’m convinced that Skin was as fluke-y as Donnie Darko was.
Kaboom explores Araki’s usual themes: Homosexuality and drugs, but this time, he takes it further. Like, Dude! Where’s My Car further, without any of the nonexistent charms of Ashton Kutcher. Kaboom begins innocently enough as a run-of-the-mill freshman experience film. Smith (Thomas Dekker, “The Sarah Connor Chronicles”) is a cock-craving teenager in love with his college roommate. But he’s also sexually curious, and when the opportunity arises, he has a few casual sex encounters with London (Juno Temple), who — I shit you not — is actually from England, because obviously. He also has a lesbian best friend, who is fucking some weird witch-like woman, Lorelai, who apparently has a tongue or an extra arm in her vagina or something.
For 45 minutes, all the people in this movie do is drugs, fuck, and speak like a numb-tongued Diablo Cody circa 1996. At 51, Araki should probably stop trying to mine his dialogue from Mean Girls sequels.
Perhaps recognizing that his freshman experience movie was balls-achingly dull, in the second act, Araki veers off into Donnie Darko territory. Smith has these visions, see. Visions of bad men in animal masks who want to take him away. And there’s a mysterious redhead he first met in his dreams, but who subsequently pukes on his shoe. And then she is killed in his dream, and he starts getting strange messages, and then he has a threesome on his birthday because, why not? As a brain-damaged straight-to-DVD rip-off of Darko, the second act is somewhat effective, if you’ve never seen Darko and if your brain is made of gravy and pixie dust.
But when the third act arrives, Kaboom jumps off the rails, skips over the second track, levitates briefly, turns into a pumpkin and brains you with it. It’s like Araki realized he couldn’t duplicate Darko, so he was like, “Fuck that, here’s some government conspiracy, a secret cult, and — hell, why not — nuclear holocaust.” And here I thought it was just going to be 90-minutes of bad soft porn. I wouldn’t want to spoil the ending for you, in case you one day lose your nerve impulses and find yourself strapped to a chair in front of this film and are left incapable of leaving the room. Besides, you’d never believe me anyway. Oh, and look! Shiny penny. Oh, wait. Nope, that’s Juno Temple’s breasts again.
Kaboom screened at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. It opens in very limited release today.