Gregg Araki’s dazzling sex comedy Kaboom has an unearthly glow. The reds and blues and violets phosphoresce, while the buildings on the hero’s college campus loom like giant spaceships against the night sky. There are many close encounters of the fourth kind. Slender, dreamy-eyed 18-year-old Smith (Thomas Dekker) has surging hormones and a strangely adjustable eroticism. He can barely contain himself around his shaggy-blond, muscular roommate, Thor (Chris Zylka), yet he surrenders happily to a brusque British femme called London (Juno Temple) in a red cone hat and lavender shawl. He and his superhot lesbian “partner-in-crime,” Stella (Haley Bennett), compare notes on their lovers. Hers is a witchy brunette named Lorelei (Roxane Mesquida) who might actually be a witch, and a violently possessive one. Smith, for his part, is walking through his own surreal wet dream/nightmare, falling in and out of beds while being stalked by men in masks of asses and tigers and apes. Did he witness the murder of a young red-haired woman, or was it a hallucination? He ponders his situation in a voice-over: “To clear my head, I went to a nude beach …”
Kaboom might be borderline camp, but there’s no spillover. Or perhaps it’s the other way around. Perhaps Araki’s vision of human sexuality is so fluid that the borders are always expanding. How can there be camp when there are no hetero, mainstream norms to travesty—when the whole world is unashamedly omnisexual? How can there be camp without irony? The characters’ emotions are pure, the actors straight—at least in the absence of nudge-nudge-wink-wink. For Smith, sexual coming-of-age is mad, madcap, maddening. It whisks him back to his childhood, to the highly sexed mom (Kelly Lynch) with dark secrets and the dad who might or might not have died in an auto accident. The fate of the Earth might hang in the balance, as it often seems to freshman year, when our world is upended every day.
Did I mention that the actors are eye candy? They’re buff and cut and zonked in the way of porn stars, as if every line might lead to the shedding of clothes. Dekker and Bennett don’t fall into bed, but their rapport is the biggest turn-on. In her miniskirts and clear plastic thigh-high boots, she’s all worldly insouciance, musing on Smith’s latest tale of mystery and suspense, or expounding on why straight men are gayer than gay men. (It has something to do with being unable to acknowledge that they like guys.) The movie ends abruptly—too abruptly for my taste—but the gaiety lingers through the closing credits. Not even apocalypse can dispel the sexy vibes.