An outlandish, if otherworldly vivacity latches onto the anomie and yearning of young adults in Japanese/American Gregg Araki's latest feature presumably aimed at the college set. It may be based on his own experience at USC back in the 1980s. A spirited, wild one indeed if all of the amusing, eerie contradictory stuff on view is any indication.
Kaboom features an attractive ensemble including Thomas Dekker, Chris Zylka, Haley Bennett and Roxane Mesquida, as what appears to be another of the helmer's coming-of-agers has radical tonal shifts, passing from science-fiction into horror. It has more of an experimental verve to it, more episodic and less dramatically assured than his provocative Mysterious Skin.
What is pretty watchable, thanks in part to an empathetic cast who embraces the director's path through reality and the subconscious, may be appreciated by those who lean more towards transgressive cinema. Yet, even with plenty of palpable struggles for modern youth on view from the capricious to the intense, nothing seems to delve beyond the obsessions and frustrations told mainly in surface terms.
Dekker could be Araki's surrogate as 18-year-old student Smith studying film who seems to be confused about his sexuality. The lifestyle of his roommate Thor (Zylka) would indicate the opposite of what he professes. Smith has a bond with Stella, a scornful Bennett, smitten with a girl (Mesquida). So, the opening passages centering on Smith shares an understanding as well as the complexities facing a variety of types in his orbit.
Later on, more of an odd nightmarish thriller pervades as Smith has encounters with a red-head femme-fatale type (Nicole LaLiberte) and with men in animal heads. It's all part of cults and assorted aspects of witchcraft managed for the most part handled with a light touch.
An involving examination of older teen life may be intentionally muted through its chameleon-like nature even with a vivid affinity with the culture itself. A variegated visual glitz elucidates high anxiety and hallucinogenic glee to a greater understanding of one's self, often detached from a societal normalcy. In the end though, a gradually futuristic, ominous tale of awakening maybe conspires against itself with too many strange invasions.