As Halloween approaches with its goblins, ghosts and ghouls, there’s also an increasing number of horror films geared to the GLBT community being released. This sub-genre in GLBT cinema and literature has been dubbed “homo horror” by some wags. I love a good scary movie but, as may be expected, separating the genuinely horrifying entries from the just plain horrible is a growing responsibility for us critics.
The first movie of note in the homo horror sub-genre was 2005’s Hellbent. Impressively produced on a shoestring budget, it mimicked the Halloween and Friday the 13th slasher series in depicting a group of gay hotties being stalked by a remorseless serial killer during the West Hollywood Halloween street carnival. The killer, clad in leather and devil horns, attacks when least expected and is seemingly unstoppable. Hellbent isn’t a great or even a particularly good film, but its success in theaters and on DVDprovided initial evidence that there is indeed a market for homo horror movies.
Gay director David DeCoteau has also discovered this. His homoerotic, direct-to-video productions including The Brotherhood and Voodoo Academy, which feature scads of young men often wearing little more than boxer briefs, have been very successful. DeCoteau’s more recent, more overtly gay adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe stories (such as The Raven) have garnered theatrical release and positive reviews. His latest bisexual thriller, Playing with Fire, was released September 19 and is playing on the here! network.
One of the best horror movies — gay, straight or otherwise — I’ve seen in recent years is Cthulhu, which recently played in Los Angeles and is now being released nationwide. Based on the works of esteemed horror-fantasy writer H.P. Lovecraft, it is everything the author’s best stories are: creepy, cool and classy. What’s more, screenwriter Grant Cogswell and director Daniel Gildark have given their thought-provoking adaptation of what is referred to as Lovecraft’s “Cthulhu Mythos” a gay twist.
When gay history professor Russ Marsh (a very good, nuanced performance by Jason Cottle) returns after a long absence to his Oregon-coast hometown for his mother’s funeral, he encounters several unexpected and potentially sinister forces. First is the apocalyptic religious cult led by his father. Next is Russ’s former crush and high school-era j.o. buddy, Mike (Scott Patrick Green). Last, but not necessarily least, is the seductive Susan (Tori Spelling) and her allegedly physically disabled husband.
These are all secondary, however, to the primary threat of a supernatural uprising that human beings have unwittingly laid the groundwork for through our abuse of the environment. Gildark and Cogswell give their film an eerily prescient doomsday aura, with global temperatures rising dramatically and the oceans receding. Russ, long an embarrassment to his father and others in the town due to his homosexuality, unexpectedly finds himself in a position of power and may just be the world’s savior.
From the sublime to the ridiculous: The Gay Bed and Breakfast of Terror is scheduled to open at a theatre near you on Halloween, and will be released on DVDin November. An assortment of ill-prepared gay men and lesbian women fail to make advance hotel reservations for the “Blue Party” in Palm Springs. Since beggars can’t be choosers, they all end up at the remote Sahara Salvation Bed & Breakfast. The inn is run by Scripture-quoting Helen (Mari Marks) and her odd daughter, Luella (Georgia Jean, who gives the only reputable performance in the film). Then there’s the whispered-about Manfred, who is billed in the movie’s press notes as “perhaps THE most terrifying creature ever created for film!” Having seen it, I certainly wouldn’t agree.
The Gay Bed and Breakfast of Terror doesn’t try to be a serious horror movie, despite the buckets of blood thrown around the set. But neither does it succeed as a satire or spoof, with most of the jokes falling to the theater or living room floor with a thud. The best part of the film is its opening credits, which are accompanied by a hilarious song, “Watch Out for the Straights!,” sung and danced in true 1960’s go-go girl-style by Juliet Wright. If you do go to see this film, don’t be late!
Writer-director Bruce LaBruce is the gay auteur behind such memorable movies as Super 8½ and Hustler White. Not one for subtlety, his latest creation is the outrageous but very good horror-comedy Otto; or, Up with Dead People. It is scheduled for US theatrical release this November, after well-received screenings at numerous film festivals including Sundance and Outfest.
Otto (portrayed by the charming Jey Crisfar), recently risen from the dead, is discovered by underground filmmaker Medea Yarn (the very funny Katharina Klewinghaus). She has long been at work on her celluloid magnum opus, a pornographic attack on the political establishment that has defeated past zombie insurrections entitled Up with Dead People. As one character says, “Medea’s underground movies put her on the map … if the underground has a map.”
Medea is taken with Otto, even though she refuses to believe he is an actual zombie, and turns her camera on him in an effort to uncover his past. In the process, she details the emergence of “a new wave of gay zombies” which the horrified populace terms “the Purple Peril.”
Otto; or, Up with Dead People, is a movie within a movie within a movie that takes the zombie horror genre in welcome new directions after the lifeless (no pun intended) Diary of the Dead, by zombie-master George A. Romero, earlier this year. It is a clever satire, a sexy gay romance and a traditionally gory horror flick all at once. There’s also a theological critique of the religious right’s response to the AIDS crisis thrown in. LaBruce cleverly employs what could be termed “zombie vision” and “zombie audio” in what is, to my knowledge, the first cinematic attempt to gain a zombie’s literal point of view.
Something tells me the rise of Otto, as well as homo horror movies in general, is just beginning.
Now it's your turn ... pick your favorite "homo horror" movie in the latest MD Poll (located in the sidebar to your right). Results will be revealed two weeks from tomorrow.
UPDATE: The poll is now closed; click here for the results, and click here to vote in the next MD Poll.
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.