Thursday, April 1, 2010

Reverend's Reviews: March Madness

Here at Movie Dearest, we try to champion films of GLBT interest even though many are far from perfect. The month of March, however, brought a pair of gay DVD releases that I, at least, feel an obligation to warn our readers away from; "Beware the Ides of March," indeed!

I've been a fan of gay director David DeCoteau's prior works: low-budget but stylish, general-interest horror flicks like The Brotherhood series and Voodoo Academy that feature undeniable homoerotic elements (he also directed 1997's blatantly-homo and sexy Leather Jacket Love Story). The filmmaker's contemporary spin on Edgar Allen Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum was released on DVD by E1 Entertainment on March 9.


A very loose adaptation of Poe's literary classic, the movie follows a group of nubile, mostly male young adults who converge on a country estate one weekend. They have been summoned by an alleged psychologist, JB Divay (played by an alleged actress, Lorielle New). Divay is interested in overcoming pain through hypnosis and other, more questionable techniques like stripping down to one's skivvies followed by lifting weights and/or wrestling one's buddies until somebody dies.

While these scenes and a central same-sex romance makes The Pit and the Pendulum DeCoteau's most overtly gay mainstream movie yet, they are also ludicrous. Man-flesh is abundant even as full male nudity is avoided (props to hottie Michael King, though, for eschewing DeCoteau's trademark boxer-briefs in lieu of more minimal briefs). The script makes absolutely no sense, so if you ignore my advice and end up renting or — heaven forbid — buying The Pit and the Pendulum, just turn the volume off and watch the pretty pictures.


Just out on March 30 is a "retail friendly" re-edited version of Raging Stallion's pornographic hit, Focus/ReFocus (from Breaking Glass Pictures). Directed by Tony DiMarco, it is a simplistic wanna be-thriller set in San Francisco that follows a porn-obsessed guy, Joe (Cole Streets), who finds himself trapped in a gay serial killer's web.

While not nearly on par with the oeuvre of Brian DePalma, whom DiMarco seems to be emulating, or even the woeful Basic Instinct, Focus/ReFocus boasts gory killings and steamy man-on-man sex scenes that include several porn stars (including my new favorite, the tattooed and muscle-bound David Taylor). It's periodically sexy but mostly dreary.


Anyone anxious to see these guys in their unbridled, unedited glory will want to check out the X-rated version, which leads me to question why they re-edited Focus/ReFocus at all. Is there that big a market for gay-interest movies neutered of their graphic sex scenes? Or is this version intended to serve as a feature-length trailer for the original?

If viewers haven't figured out who the killer is by the midway point, they should stick to fast-forwarding through the dialogue and just watch the awkwardly-edited sex. Focus/ReFocus may be a good movie or at least stimulating in its original form (I haven't seen it), but sitting through this is an exercise in futility.

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.

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