First or second viewing?: First
Gregg Araki is one of those directors I’ve judged for years without seeing his work; titles and brief plot descriptions of early films Totally Fucked Up, The Doom Generation and Nowhere led me to believe that his work was part of the hyper-self-conscious, fashionably nihilistic, post Repo Man teen films of the ’90s. “Not my bag,” I decided fairly early on. But this format of reviewing, I think, lends itself to analyzing my own prejudices about films and their makers as much as the films themselves. And Ka-Boom looks like it has, if nothing else, pretty colors and good-looking naked actors going for it, so why not?
It’s starting off every bit as melodramatic and obvious as I’ve always imagined/dreaded his films would be. I’m trying to focus on the vaguely Suspiria-esque color scheme in order to remain interested.
Disaffected college kids having casual sex and getting off not-quite-witty acerbic one-liners. The Rules Of Attraction, only less funny. Even the gay themes feel like ’90s attempts at controversial hipsterdom. Performances are obnoxiously stylized; characters are as archetypal as any slasher film I’ve seen.
The protagonist’s dormmate attempts to suck his own dick in an absurdly casual, conversational setting. Sorry Gregg, I’ve already seen Shortbus, but thanks anyway.
Protagonist eats a strange cookie at a club; an obvious precursor to the obligatory hallucination scene. Finally!
Meh. Even the hallucination is low-rent and uninspired.
20 minutes in it turns into a “suburban Wicker Man” style horror movie–as in the protagonist and a damsel-in-distress get chased by knife-weilding cultists in animal masks. And one of the secondary characters turns out to be a witch. Araki has named the witch Lorelei, exhibiting even less subtlety than Von Trier or Noe.
The Voodoo nightmare is so ridiculous it had to be intentionally funny, right? But even if it were meant to be funny, it’s not funny in the way in which it was meant to be.
Uh, yeah, this does seem to be going for funny after all. Or at least irreverent and snarky. But it feels like the makers of Scary Movie and all of its ilk decided to make ‘90s Movie. Its vision of hip is as self-congratulatory as a Poppy Brite novel.
Quoth my girlfriend, “It’s like a cell phone commercial with sex.”
You’ll notice how little of the plot I’m describing. That’s how little it matters. Every plot point feels completely arbitrary.
Protagonist’s presumed-dead father turns out to be the leader of the cult. I still have yet to give a fuck.
And now…a five-minute montage–nay, a blitzkrieg–of ridiculous expositional dialogue. The background music sounds like Ulrich Schnauss, so I’m focusing on that in order to maintain interest. I’m blissfully tuning out the dialogue, hearing only every fifth word or so, confident that I’m missing nothing of importance.
“I reserve the right to plug their face-holes. With my cock.”
“What the Jesus are you waiting for?”
I’m having serious Dreamcatcher flashbacks.
It ends with the world blowing up, as Natural Born Killers, SFW and Strange Days probably wanted to, but were afraid it would come off as far too pretentious.
Nothing about the film–not even its ballyhooed “New Queer Cinema” agenda–feels remotely cutting edge. It’s all so 1995. I imagine that Araki felt that, like Cronenberg did with Crash, the plot was intentionally arbitrary, secondary to the sex scenes, which are supposed to be where all the interesting character development takes place. But Araki is no Cronenberg or Lynch. To his credit, I do hear that Mysterious Skin is quite good, so maybe I’ll visit that next.