Some films aspire to be eclectic, unpredictable – even bizarre. They take the audience on a trip down the candy lane just to take a sharp left to monster valley. It is a fine art and can make for some great cinematic moments if done right. Kaboom, alas, is a perfect example of how badly it can go wrong.
Kaboom starts off strongly, displaying all the hallmarks of a teenage coming-of-age sex comedy as we are introduced to sexually undecided film student Smith (Jared Leto lookalike Dekker). He dreams about women he has never met and lusts after his straight roommate, Thor (yeah, like the comic character! That’s funny, right?), while dissecting relationships with his long time friend, Stella ( Bennett). He attends a party where Stella hooks up with one of his dream girls and another, ‘Redheaded Girl’, vomits on his shoe. A strange man is watching him, but these shenanigans and hooking up with a different woman named London distracts Smith. So far, so straightforward. Now…
AAARGH, it’s a psychological thriller! Smith keeps dreaming about the red head girl and having nightmares about them both being attacked by people in animal masks. He eventually discovers she has been murdered, meets her twin sister and a major conspiracy plot involving cults and including some unexpected parties begins unravelling around him. All the while, his friend Stella is involved in a subplot involving a clingy girlfriend and witchcraft. Obviously.
Now, it’s not entirely original, the whole cult conspiracy thing, but it could be intriguing. It’s slightly confused about genre, but hey, The Faculty mixed comedy and horror, right? So, we move along with the film, accepting that it’s more Jennifer’s Body than American Pie. But it can’t control itself. The problem here is that Kaboom starts out as the Generation Y answer to Generation X’s Reality Bites, but, like Smith, it is ‘undecided’ if it’s a comedy, a horror, a sci-fi, an action film or a thriller. What we have is like mixing peanut butter with concrete: one is tasty, one makes a good house. Together, they suck (unless… peanut butter house…).
The script is so stiff and disjointed, it’s amazing the actors give us what they do. I’m a big Thomas Dekker fan (it’s a Terminator thing, I can’t help it), but he comes off as whiney and arrogant. The majority of the cast do their best, but can’t help but be awkward and unreal. Haley Bennett’s gleefully sarcastic Stella, however, is one of the highlights of the film – even if she is wasted in a ridiculous witch plot that seems to have snuck in from another flick.
Director Gregg Araki is known for his LGBT films, but Kaboom is emphatic to the point of being offensive; it casts homosexuality as a trendy lifestyle choice, available as part of the ‘alternative’ bundle complete with post-modern reflectionism and references to obscure bands. You can almost feel the film on its knees begging for indie cred.
The sad thing about Kaboom is that, train wreck though it undoubtably is, there are at least 3 potentially average films here; each might have worked on their own, but when combined they ably demonstrate the dangers of the blender method. Still, at least it’s bad enough to make a half-decent drinking game…