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Kaboom -- Film Review

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CANNES -- Strange is the new normal, one character says in Gregg Araki's "Kaboom," which is a case of a movie giving itself a little too much credit. This is mostly a sophomoric exercise in black comedy, supernatural excess and apocalyptic silliness mixed in with straight/gay/bi soft-core porn. All that's truly strange here though is that Araki gets so few jolts or laughs from this hodge-podge of genres. Looks like "Kaboom" will play to Araki's fans without significantly expanding his base.

The movie starts out in college-life mode with a freshman named Smith (Thomas Dekker) getting used to his surfer-dude roommate (Chris Zylka) while majoring in partying and exploratory sex, indeed doing everything except hitting the books.

At one memorable party, his best friend Stella (Haley Bennett) hooks up with a lesbian witch named Lorelei (Roxane Mesquida) while he winds up with London (Juno Temple), another sexual adventurer. Coming home that night and apparently tripping on a hallucinogenic cookie, he thinks he sees a redhead being chased and murdered by guys in animal masks.

Investigating this "incident" with Stella, and sometimes London, Smith plunges into a world where the real and unreal get increasingly mixed up.

 

Horrific things happen and then Smith wakes up. Oh, it's only a dream. Or messages flash on his computer screen, keeping him up half the night on an end-of-the-world website, only for all links to disappear by morning. Meanwhile, Lorelei begins to stalk Stella through voodoo and body possession, you know, the usual witch stuff.

Ah, but what's real here? And what's not? Is there a conspiracy from out of Smith's past? Does any of this really matter?

Araki himself doesn't seem to think so as his mind wanders back to sex every few scenes. Smith eventually beds down with just about every character in the movie except for those guys in animal masks. The sex never has much to do with the story, but at least these scenes beat the lame sci-fi/horror sequences for pure vitality.

Shot on a modest budget with actors who are game but no match for unrelenting silliness, "Kaboom" plays more like an extremely polished student film than a movie by a veteran making his 10th feature.

Venue: Festival de Cannes -- Out of Competition (Midnight Screening)
Production companies: Why Not U.S. Prods./Desperate Pictures in association with Wild Bunch and Super Crispy
Cast: Thomas Dekker, Haley Bennett, Chris Zylka, Roxane Mesquida, Juno Temple, Kelly Lynch
Director/screenwriter/editor: Gregg Araki
Producers: Andrea Sperling, Gregg Araki
Executive producers: Sebastien K. Lemercier, Pascal Caucheteux, Jonathan Schwartz
Director of photography: Sandra Valde-Hansen
Production designer: Todd Fjelsted
Music: Ulrich Schnauss, Mark Peters, Vivek Maddala
Costume designer: Trayce Gigi Field
Sales: Wild Bunch
No rating, 86 minutes