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Cannes Review: “Kaboom.”

Cannes Review: “Kaboom.” (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.

“It’s nuttier than squirrel shit,” says college student Stella (Haley Bennett) at one point in Gregg Araki’s latest film, “Kaboom,” a back-to-his-roots, candy-colored cult thriller that is best described, in a similar vein, as “totally fucked up.”

Araki’s 1994 movie of that same name as well as the following years’ installments in his “Teen Apocalypse Trilogy” — “The Doom Generation” and “Nowhere” — loom large over “Kaboom,” which follows the sexual exploits and eerie adventures of one perpetually horny film student, the handsome icy blue-eyed gay-inclined Smith (Thomas Dekker).

Set in Southern California’s “College of Creative Arts” — a hyper-stylized campus of black-walled eating halls, blue-lit dorms and postmodern-windowed structures — Smith’s days are filled with pining for his hot, frequently naked and very heterosexual surfer roommate Thor (Chris Zylka) and hanging around with sassy lesbian gal-pal Stella.

One night, they go to a party, where Smith eats some hallucinogenic cookies, and nothing is ever the same: He meets and screws (multiple times) the sprightly London (Juno Temple), and then, while walking back home, is attacked by three men in black wearing animal masks who stab and kill a red-haired female student. Was it just a bad trip, or is something truly horrible going on in Araki-land?

To clear his head, Smith decides to go a nude beach. As narrated in the film, this is actually pretty funny. The story proceeds along lines of alternating scenes of sultry sex and comedy — both gay and straight — and the unfolding of the film’s ominous, though with tongue firmly planted in cheek, conspiracy plot. While Smith tries to track down the real identity of the red-haired victim, Stella finds herself in a heated romance with Lorelei (Roxane Mesquida), a vampy French beauty with supernatural sexual powers.

05142010_ArakiKaboom4.jpgWhen Stella tries to extricate herself from Lorelei, who may be some sort of witch, weirder shit happens — a mix of frights and humor that work sometimes, and even when they don’t, it doesn’t matter much because Araki isn’t taking any of it too seriously. Like some perverse mix of ’30s screwball comedy and po-mo Gen Next webisode, comic zingers and metaphors continuously fly fast out of the character’s mouths: i.e. “as gay as Clay Aiken” and “it’s a vagina, not a bowl of spaghetti.”

So what’s it all about? Araki drops some hints: the Kinsey Scale that suggests sexual definitions are loose; absent fathers; beautiful young bodies having sex; the curious way snacks are let loose from vending machines; the irony of collapsed grand narratives.

For all of “Kaboom”s silliness, it never transcends it. Sure, some of it’s fun, and the way all the plotlines converge in a ludicrous way suggests knowing parody as opposed to contrivance. But there’s something anachronistic, even irreverent, about the film’s end-results.

That’s part of the fun, like we’ve stepped into a time machine or unearthed a ten-year-old Araki movie. But today, this apocalyptic pastiche doesn’t feel as urgent — or as subversive — as it once did. Perhaps the amusement with which we once imagined the end of the world has lost its luster in our post-9-11, post-economic-collapse epoch. Whatever the reason, “Kaboom” may end with a bang, but it feels like a whimper.

“Kaboom” is currently without U.S. distribution.

[Photos: “Kaboom,” Crispy Films, 2010]


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.