That's not to say his latest, "Kaboom," is good, but compared to past efforts like "The Doom Generation," "Nowhere" and "Smiley Face," which verge on the unfinishable, it's an improvement. His work is perhaps best described as candy-coated gay camp — don't complain; he'd take that as a compliment — but he needs to make candy-coated gay camp with an actual point.

It's possible he sees one, but it's buried under his penchant for the impossible and the inexplicable. At one point, his lead character, sexually confused college student Smith (Thomas Dekker, "A Nightmare on Elm Street"), watches the famous surrealist short, "Un Chien Andalou," in film class, and that mind-warper from Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí ultimately says more.

Smith isn't sure whether which team he bats for when between the sheets, but that matters little when he inadvertently gets involved with a cult of animal-masked men, receives cryptic notes, and generally fears for his safety. He conveys as much to his lesbian BFF, Stella (Haley Bennett, "The Haunting of Molly Hartley"), and London, his current bedmate (the rather unappealing Juno Temple, "Year One"), who's like a budding Kinsey. Stealing the show is Chris Zylka (TV's "10 Things I Hate About You) as Thor, Smith's dim-bulb surfer roommate.

These characters and the others spend a lot of time between the sheets, having metaphysical orgasms (don't ask). Well, at least it's a lot of time for some of the time, as London complains to a quick-release gay guy she bedded for study purposes, "I've had pelvic exams that last longer than that."

Dialogue is Araki's strong spot here, even if much of it veers toward being too self-aware, making kids talk in sour platitudes they're not smart enough to do in real life (Diablo Cody, what an influence you have had in such a short time). All this — combine with scads of nudity — may just be a cover to distract viewers from noticing how empty the exercise is.

Just when you think Araki may have matured, you'll count no less than three close-ups of puke, barf and/or things just expelled from one's mouth, presented as visual punch lines. Really, Gregg? —Rod Lott


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