Like an episode of Buffy made by David Lynch, queercore US indie auteur Gregg Araki’s new movie wires up a teen sex comedy, a murder mystery and a supernatural thriller into one weird, wonderful curio.
The plot is a fizz: college pretty bi Thomas Dekker lusts after his hot hetero roomie, screws his straight BFF Juno Temple, wisecracks with his lesbian BBF Haley Bennett and suffers terrifying hallucinations of a red-haired girl who’s been kidnapped by men in animal masks. Being a student should always be this much fun.
How exactly can you sum up Kaboom? Well, to sum it up for you in six words, I just call it, ‘a bi-sexual Twin Peaks in college’. That’s the idea of it.
Where did that title come from? Kaboom? The pop-reference of it is just something I love and it’s short and catchy. It’s a comic-book kind of word and the movie to me does have a level of comic-book stylisation to it. And isn’t it the name of a Roy Lichtenstein painting too? At one point, the movie was titled The End Of All Things, which I also thought was a really cool title, because it was so big and epic-sounding.
What’s your feeling about sex in cinema? I personally feel there’s not nearly enough sex in American movies. And whenever there is sex, it’s always so badly done that it’s really, one, not sexual, and two, not interesting. I’m really fascinating in those private moments, those intimate moments between characters. Because to me, that’s when you really find out about people. There’s something that’s shared in that moment that’s so secret.
How do you feel about the queer cinema label? I don’t mind it. I’ve got so used to it over the last fifteen years. I’m definitely very proud to have been part of something that had such an impact on culture. I mean, I do think it’s little bit of a misnomer in a sense, in that it’s not really, it’s not really a movment. It was just this thing at this time. Four or five of us filmmakers, all the same age, same generation, all working in indie film and all reacting to something as huge and devastating as the AIDS crisis. Since then, all of us have gone on to explore different things. But it’s not really about that ground zero point, which is what it was in 1991.
Pretty much everyone is bisexual in Kaboom. Do you think teen attitudes to sexual are changing dramatically? I think that that sort of sexual fluidity is actually more prevalent today. It’s more common than even when I was making movies about it in the mid-90s. I think this next generation of kids are even more blasé about this sort of sexual experimentation. In the way the main character Smith is: ‘I’m not really gay, I’m not really straight, I’m just sort of who I am.’
Why is Twin Peaks such a big influence here? Twin Peaks was this groundbreaking revolutionary thing that changed not just television but culture in general. I was in college when Twin Peaks came out and I remember seeing it on network TV and it was so shocking. I remember me and my friends being so thrilled and excited about it. It’s hard to imagine now, but at the time TV was really a wasteland. And to here was this thing that was so unapologetically weird and followed its own logic and it didn’t really have any regard for people’s expectations. It was so exciting. For me, it had a profound and lasting influence. And with this, obviously, I’m not saying this movie is Twin Peaks, because that’s a huge masterpiece of culture, but this movie aspires to that level of creative freedom. Having this spirit that is not about ‘what do people want’ or ‘what do other people expect’.
Could Kaboom have been a TV series? I’m very interested in doing a TV show and there was a time when Kaboom was a TV pilot, in the same way that Mulholland Drive was a TV pilot. I love Mulholland Drive, but I’m sad that it wasn’t a TV show because I’ve seen the hour-long pilot and I actually think it worked better. The part of the movie that gets completely crazy is the stuff he added to it. The last shot of the pilot is the scene where they look in the mirror and she says, ‘you look like someone else…’ Fade out. Oh my god. What’s going to happen next? Then in movie, in the next scene, they’re having lesbian sex for absolutely no reason!
You’re 51 now. Do you still feel in touch with youth culture? I think I will always be young at heart. In a way Quentin’s Tarantino’s never grown up either. We’re both single, have never married, don’t have kids. It’s not like I don’t want to grow up, it’s just my life. I have friends that are younger and older. I just hang out with people I have stuff in common with.
How do you think you’ve changed as you’ve gotten older? I’m in a different place from the Nine Inch Nails-y place I was at. One of the things about Kaboom is, for a movie about the crazy recklessness of youth, I think this movie is much more wise because I’m more wise. For a movie that has such dark content – a horrible murder, this weird cult and disturbing things – it has a weirdly effervescent energy to it. It’s a celebration.