Juno Temple and Thomas Dekker in Gregg Araki's "Kaboom." (IFC Films )
Gifted, idiosyncratic writer-director Gregg Araki has revealed the profoundly alienating impact of AIDS in "The Living End" and, in "Mysterious Skin," how pedophilia can devastate and scar its victims. Even in those serious and powerful films he never lost his dark, antic sense of humor or his highly original way with a story.
In his latest, "Kaboom," he is having a blast — in more than one sense of the word — that harks back to his cult films such as those in his Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy, which includes arguably his most famous early film, "The Doom Generation." The story here centers on a good-looking college freshman named Smith (Thomas Dekker), who becomes tangled up with a stunning brunet (Roxane Mesquida) named Lorelei and an elusive redhead (Nicole LaLiberte).
The ambisexual Smith also is happily seduced by the beguiling London (Juno Temple), while his best pal since ninth grade, Stella (Haley Bennett), an edgy, smart lesbian, gets lots more than she bargained for when she becomes involved with the insatiable Lorelei.
Like many college comedies, "Kaboom" serves up plenty of sex and graphic language played for erotic thrills and laughs. Araki lets his absurdist imagination run wild, and "Kaboom" takes the time-honored gambit of gradually revealing that nothing is as it seems to delightfully cockamamie extremes.
At the same time, Araki plugs in to those free-floating feelings of paranoia and that sense of loss of control over one's destiny that permeate life today. He thus makes it possible to connect with a very dark vision and still find humor in the human calamity.
"Kaboom." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes. At the Nuart, West Los Angeles.