Film #14: Kaboom (2010)

director: Gregg Araki
language: English
length: 86 minutes
watched on: 16 Jun

I think this was described in the promotional literature as Donnie Darko with gay sex. Fine, enough to get me in the cinema (along with the credentials of the director who made Mysterious Skin), but it’s a bit worrying when a film is so obviously basing itself on another film. Oh, it could be an homage, I guess, but it felt more like a copycat of some description. Here the visual connection to Donnie Darko is drawn in the form of a strange conspiracy of Scientologists members of an anonymous cult who wear animal masks and chase the main character around. So instead of one scary rabbit, we’ve got lots of scary tigers instead!

As for “gay sex”, it was, for one, all a bit gratuitous, and there was as much M/F sex anyway, since the main character’s bi – or at least, mumbles something incoherent about labels before the girl slaps him in the face and asks outright whether or not he wants to fuck. She, like everyone else in the film, is improbably pretty and has a stupid name, in her case London – because oh look she’s from England. Perhaps it’s indicative of the kind of nicknames people get given in college, but it’s still a stupid name. Her accent kept annoying me, as well; apparently the actress is English but must have spent long enough in America to have an annoying hybrid accent, which makes it sound like she’s putting on one or other of the two accents.

Then we have the main character, called Smith, and the ‘gorgeous’ jocky roommate who we get to see naked trying to suck himself, inexplicably named Thor. I’m sure the other female character, the ‘best friend’ pictured on the right above, had a ‘normal’ name, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was. I suppose at least having stupid names helped me remember them.

Anyway, they’re all meant to be 18 or 19 but are clearly older, and it’s basically all just an excuse to espouse yet again that awful myth that college is the only and/or best age when you can (nay, should) have lots and lots of sex. To that end, the main character drags himself off to a nudist beach halfway through the film for no reason whatsoever. It was a particularly egregious example of the plot having no direction – it was more like a series of unconnected events. I guess that’s not a bad thing on its own, but the film kind of set itself up to have some sort of plot towards the beginning and it just sort of trailed off.

And then there were these odd supernatural moments in the film, such as the psycho lesbian witch attacking the best friend after they broke up, and a telepath – who, interestingly, uses the same pose as James McAvoy in X-Men. I didn’t feel they added anything to the film – indeed, it might have been much creepier and scarier if they weren’t there to remind us that there’s magic in the fictional world and therefore it’s not real. They did at least help to set the tone, though. It just kind of came out of nowhere.

The entire ending was a bit dissatisfying, too; even without it cutting short during the narrative climax, it just got a bit ridiculous. I already mentioned the totally-not-Scientologists – well, apparently there’s a conspiracy surrounding the boy, and the head of the totally-not-Scientologists, who’s a sort of cross between L Ron Hubbard, the Pope and Julius Caesar is like his father or something, and every single character introduced thusfar is implicated somehow, either as an Illuminati/Scientologist or as part of La Resistance, and then the film pulls a cheap trick to invoke incest in a last ditch (failed, in my case) attempt to shock the audience somehow. And then it all cuts short after two minor characters infodump everything about the conspiracy to the main character, in a surprisingly boring way considering that they’re in a high speed car chase, and we don’t get any closure on the story.

Everyone in this film is ridiculously pretty, as well, one of the more annoying Hollywood tropes. Except I do think the main character needed a shave – his stubble is just too painfully “designer” to be taken seriously. He had nice eyes though.

It is enjoyable to watch, though, and the storyline is at least somewhat engaging. There are a few frights here and there, especially the bits that take after Donnie Darko (it’s more effective than Donnie Darko at them, too). I don’t think it was very original, but it does nicely capture the modern zeitgeist with the general apocalyptic/conspiratorial feel. It has enough pretty people to satisfy one’s shallow side, but the characters are all vapid and the ending is rubbish. So I at least wouldn’t expect too much out of it if you do see it. A shame it didn’t live up to the high bar set by Mysterious Skin.

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