Winner of the Cannes film festival’s first Queer Palm in 2010 for its services to the LGBT community, Kaboom is an 86 minute film full of dream sequences, witches, cults, animal masks, drugs, explosions and sex. A lot of sex.
Written and directed by Greg Araki, the story focuses on Smith, an 18-year-old college student played by Thomas Dekker (previously seen gracing our screens in the cancelled witchy teen drama, The Secret Circle). Away from home, Smith is finding out what life as an adult is all about. He has a crush on his surf-god roommate Thor (Chris Zylka), frequently hooks ups with quirky rock chick, London (Juno Temple), and his best mate Stella (Haley Bennett) is going out with the scarily clingy Lorelei. But it’s not just normal college life he’s navigating. He’s also discovering some pretty weird goings-on along the way, and having some crazy dreams to boot.
Sound a bit weird? It is. But I loved it. It’s clearly pretty low-budget, and there’s some unforgivably bad acting from some of the supporting cast (the over the top confrontation between Smith and Oliver, played by Brennan Mejia, is particularly painful). But both Temple and Zylka give quite solid performances, bringing the right amount of alluring quirkiness and gorgeous silliness to their respective characters. As a bit of a fan of paranormal teen dramas, I was pretty excited to see Dekker in a role that pre-dated The Secret Circle, and here he serves a golden turn as the sensitive, open-minded, slightly naïve Smith.
With a rubbish 59% from critics on Rotten Tomatoes (and an even lower score of 41% from audiences), Kaboom never enjoyed the critical acclaim its director and cast may have hoped for, especially given the much publicised Queer Palm. But it’s the film’s open, accepting, almost utopian view of sexuality that really struck me, and that made me think it merited the accolade. Yes, it’s unrealistic. Yes, the characters have ridiculous names. Yes, with a story that veers between comedy, thriller, horror, romance, and coming-of-age, it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. But it’s also fresh, funny and non-judgmental, with the lead character and the ever-shifting tone keeping you on your toes right up to the sudden, silly end.