Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Reverend's Reviews: Tricks & Treats on DVD
Unhappy Birthday, out October 25 from Wolfe Video, draws inspiration from such classic chillers as The Wicker Man (the 1973 original, not the dreadful Nicolas Cage remake) and Children of the Corn but adds a gay twist. Rick (David Paisley) and Jonny (Jonathan Keane) are secret lovers who decide to surprise their girlfriend, Sadie (Christina DeVallee), with a birthday getaway to the mysterious isle of Amen. Separated from the mainland at night by the high tide, the town's inhabitants are gradually revealed to have nefarious plans for their three visitors.
Written and directed by Mark Harriett and Mike Matthews, Unhappy Birthday is stylishly shot and features nice chemistry between Paisley and Keane. Unfortunately, anyone who has seen The Wicker Man or other movies in this genre will find the plot predictable, and the bloody make-up effects look fake. Better to rent a horror classic such as The Exorcist if you want to get truly spooked this Halloween.
Meanwhile, Breaking Glass Pictures' QC Cinema is bringing out two new releases in which "tricks" play a central role. The Cost of Love(now available) is a British drama focusing on a successful hustler, Dale (Christopher Kelham), who finds himself in crisis as both his 30th birthday and his best friend's wedding draw near. Although he is able to confide in and receive support from his drag performer friend Sean (Michael Joyce, who sadly passed away shortly after filming this), Dale is drawn to increasingly dangerous sex scenes in a misguided effort to deal with his conflicted feelings. It is an engrossing, often sexy -- though occasionally disturbing -- character study.
The label's other new DVD is Rent Boys, a well-made German documentary (available today) about hustler culture past and present as situated at West Berlin's Bahnhof Zoo train station. Both frank and sympathetic, it offers considerable insight into the motivations, struggles and relationships between young male prostitutes and the men who love (or at least employ) them.
Also available today on DVD and Blu-ray is the one undisputed "treat" among this month's new releases. Bette Midler: The Showgirl Must Go On(Image Entertainment) is the Emmy-nominated record of the brassy singer-comedian's Vegas show, which ran for nearly three years. "These are such strange and polarizing times," Midler declares to her audience at the start, "but at least we all agree on one thing: We love me!"
Midler sings her greatest hits, acknowledges her gay fans and leads her backup performers, the Staggering Harlettes and the Caesar Salad Girls, in extravagant production numbers. With a reported budget of $10 million, there is also no shortage of lavish costumes in the show. And what says "Halloween" better than that?
Unhappy Birthday: C-
The Cost of Love: B-
Rent Boys: B
Bette Midler: The Showgirl Must Go On: B+
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Blade California.