In Search of a Gay Film Review: The Covenant

the covenant movie posterHappy Halloween, Everyone! The film The Covenant broke into theaters in 2006. The film was negatively reviewed by critics, and not taken very seriously by true lovers of the horror genre either. The film would have certainly disappeared into the ever-expanding, lackluster, horror movie black hole if not for it’s one saving grace: copious amounts of sexy, shirtless men. Like A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, another horror film I recently reviewed, the internet and its users have repeatedly accused The Covenant of being one of the gayest horror films ever made. An accusation which, of course, peaks my interest. So, Gentle Reader, light your jack-o’-lantern, grab yourself some candy, and get ready to become excited as we once again ask ourselves, “Is this the gayest horror movie ever made?

Full Title & Vital Stats:
The Covenant (2006)
Rated PG-13
Directed by Renny Harlin who also directed A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger & Deep Blue Sea
Notable Actors: Steven Strait, Taylor Kitsch, Sebastian Stan, Chance Crawford, Laura Ramsey, Jessica Lucas

photo courtesy of outnow.ch

photo courtesy of outnow.ch

Film Synopsis:

Caleb Danvers and his three best friends are handsome, popular and mysterious. Other teenagers in their prep high school jokingly refer to them as the Sons of Ipswich. Everyone knows they are descendants of the five families, which founded their town of, also named Ipswich. What no one realizes is that their families were part of a 17th century witch’s coven and that makes each of them living warlocks. They possess powers, which will drastically increase on their 18th birthdays. Suddenly strange occurrences begin to happen and a battle must be fought to prevent their powers from being stolen and their loved ones from being hurt by an evil force intent on no good.

Jumping right into my Adam film stats. Once again, plot spoilers follow.

Provost HigginsThe Film’s Most Annoying/Worst Character:

Provost Higgins. This character knows things he should have no way of knowing and uses his authority to encourage things he should have no control over nor any interest in; like Caleb and Chase hanging out. He also completely ignores important information like Chase’s student ID being found in a dead student’s car. That seems like important information that a person of authority would want to share with the police. He is obviously a horrible provost and a badly written character.

Sebastian StanThe Film’s Best Character:

Sebastian Stan is having the most fun in this film with his character Chase. He is devilish and diabolical, but at least he is interesting. The motivation for his actions may be oddly intense and a little too crazy for belief, but Stan’s above par acting keeps us watching to see what he does next. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that his eyes kind of twinkle when he smiles.

Film’s Coolest Scene:

Caleb’s car having a head-on collision with a truck transporting logs. He uses his powers to break the car apart piece by piece so that the pieces can avoid the crash and reconnect themselves on the other side. Very well done. An effect that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before on screen. Runner up goes to Sarah’s nightmare scene with all the spiders. It legitimately made me squirm. I hate spiders!

Chase and CalebThe Film’s Worst Elements:

Character realism is lacking in this film. I noticed several instances of background extras, secondary characters, and even main characters acting in ways that real people would not, simply to serve the plot. One example is Caleb’s sudden buddy-buddy feelings towards Chase. One would expect a man with Caleb’s supernatural background to be more suspicious of strangers who suddenly latch on to him and his friends right as new, problematic events begin to happen. (Unless if we want to attribute Caleb’s fast interest in Chase to be a teenage crush.)

Speaking of Caleb warming to new people improbably quick, Caleb and Sarah’s romance feels too intense too fast. The script just doesn’t allow enough time to develop it with everything else going on and certainly contains no stellar dialogue to explain why they fall for each other so hard and so quick. This film’s acting is not awful; the script is just poorly written.

Perhaps the films’ worst offenses were the unrealistically vacant dorm hallways and restrooms. Much of this plot’s action and creep factor depend on the main characters being alone. In order to accomplish this the filmmakers simply dispel realism to create completely vacant environments which on any normal school campus would be busy and almost never devoid of at least one student coming or going. These 7 main characters exist in a impractically lonely and isolated world. 

THE COVENANTHow Effective are the Film’s Special Effects & Gore?

The film’s special effects and CGI are above average. There is one not so impressive CGI scene towards the beginning of the film where Caleb jumps off a cliff and for a second you feel like you are watching a video game character fall. Otherwise, the effects helped support the story and make it more interesting. Barring the final standoff, which I explain in more detail later.

Sets/Costumes/Realism:

The set design and locations that make up these characters’ worlds are beautiful and realistic. The characters dress well and appropriate for 2006. The sets were obviously of a decent budget and entertaining to look at. The film has a dark blue and gloomy feel to it most of the time and it works well to create an intense yet somber backdrop.

the covenant guysMale Eye Candy: Almost every man in this film is fun to look at. This cast reads like an Abrecrombie and Fitch catalogue. The film’s creators know this and use the beautiful flesh to their advantage. Even when the men are not shirtless they, for some reason, find it logical to wear wife beaters and sleeveless shirts to drink at a bar in autumn. Realism is once again sacrificed, but this time in order to better display the gun show.

Steven Strait is sans shirt in multiple scenes and he obviously spends time at the gym. Luckily the plot places the warlocks on the swim team so we get several scenes of each guy in sexy speedos. Perhaps most notable is a shower/locker room scene with ample amounts of male flesh on display. Strategically placed fog keeps us from seeing ‘the goods’ but the entire scene still feels deliciously homoerotic.

sarah towelFemale Eye Candy: Both Laura Ramsey & Jessica Lucas spend a ridiculous amount of air time walking around in skimpy nighties, revealing sleepwear, and tiny undies. Laura spends several scenes wearing just a towel and while she is in the shower we see her bare back to just above her ass. We see a full silhouette of her body from the back but only through foggy glass.

the covenant final battleThe Final Standoff Between Good & Evil:

Subpar. Though the visuals were well done for 2006, they were boring. Caleb’s ascending, which the entire film is building up to, turns out to be undistinguished and unimpressive. Even the battle choreography barely entertained me. It was like watching the same shot over, and over, and over. There is nothing ‘climactic’ about this final battle.

Do I recommend this film?

The Covenant has plenty of faults, especially with its script. This film is obviously more about eye candy and looking good than about plot and character development. Many characters are pigeon holed, predictable and one dimensional. Like Taylor Kitsch’s hot headed character Pogue, who places himself in a dangerous situation even though he should know better than to do so. But I guess his temper is just so bad that it throws all logic out the window in order to serve the underdeveloped plot.

However, if you lower your expectations just a little, all in all the film is kind of fun. I do not hate it. It was pretty to look at. Also, the Wiccan style magic was intriguing. But I must admit, I do find myself wondering, if everyone wasn’t so amazing to look at, would I still revisit the film every so often?

stan absIs The Covenant the gayest horror movie ever made?

In my opinion, The Covenant may not be as explicitly gay as A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, but it is a solid runner up. Caleb’s fondness of his stunningly handsome, male friends, and his aversion to wearing shirts, does appear very homosexual on the surface. Any man who is constantly half naked with his male friends will eventually raise an eyebrow or two.

But in all honesty, if I delve deeper into the relationship symbolism within this film I find The Covenant to be more bisexual than gay. The character of Caleb is experiencing many internal and external changes. He is on the brink of adulthood and ascending. In the midst of these young hormones and supernatural forces coursing through his veins he is presented with two enticing and possible mates: Sarah and Chase.

It is the oldest story in the book. Caleb, on one hand is attracted to Sarah’s simplicity and safeness, and on the other hand he is drawn to Chase’s complexity and danger. Both Sarah and Chase are drawn to Caleb’s extreme life force and both even end up kissing him at some point (though Chase and Caleb’s kiss is short and arguably seems to have a mocking nature to it).

Notably though, there is no sex between Caleb and Sarah. Perhaps he must decide which team he plays for before he can make that kind of commitment. In the end, The Covenant falls somewhere between an examination of bi-curious college exploration and a voyeuristic scanning of a really hot issue of Men’s Health magazine.

the covenant gay kiss

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10 Horror Movie Hunks Who Greatly Affected My Impressionable Years

As I mentioned in my earlier post – 5 Reasons Why Horror Movies are Some of My Favorite Things– horror films provide an extensive variety of handsome, shirtless men in all kinds of homoerotic situations. They are guilty eye candy for the homosexual eye. This titillating truth is just one of the many valid reasons that myself, as a gay man, loves to watch them. Of course each film’s monster loves to push his way to the front, but first he has to make it past the leading man’s pecs. I have been watching horror movies for a long time and lusting after their male protagonists for just as long. Here, Gentle Reader, is a list of the 10 Horror Movie Hunks who had the greatest effect on Adam during his most impressionable years of development as a gay man. (Warning – slight, plot spoilers may exist below)

David Naughton10. David Naughton in An American Werewolf in London (1981) – Many people may feel that David was an atypical leading man and an odd choice for my number 10, but something about him always intrigued me. He may have been smaller in stature than the other men on my list, but he was very likable and sexy in an almost dorky way. The transformation scene where he becomes a werewolf for the first time is legendary. I give him props for spending so much time in this amazing film naked. He pulled those scenes off very nicely, and his superior acting skills made me sympathetic towards his character’s unfortunate fate.

Jesse Williams9. Jesse Williams in Cabin in the Woods (2012) – Granted, this film came out only 2 ½ years ago so it did not have an effect on me in my younger, more impressionable years. But have you seen Jesse Williams’ abs? He is such a presence in this film that it is almost difficult to decide whether he looks hotter in his adorable glasses or without his shirt on. The gorgeous Chris Hemsworth is also present in this film, but for me, the sex appeal is all about Jesse in this above par horror movie.

John Sheperd8. John Sheperd in Friday the 13th: Part 5: A New Beginning (1985) – John Sheperd is not an actor who’s career reached many impressive heights after his part in Friday the 13th: Part 5, and his mediocre acting in Part 5 helps to explain why. But his body left a lasting impression on me forever. His shirtless scene in the film lasts only for a minute, but the view we get of his abs, his shoulders, and his arms, helps explain why he was cast in the first place. Otherwise, let’s just say it’s a good thing that his character barely speaks through the entire rest of the film.

Nick Stabile7. Nick Stabile in Bride of Chucky (1998) – Nick Stabile is a horrendous actor. His dialogue delivery only has one uninspired level and it always comes out sounding flat. To add insult to injury, his characters always seem to look like pouty little boys even though they are in their mid-20’s. But in Bride of Chucky his biceps are certainly not flat, and his chest certainly does not make me pout. When this film is on cable TV I do end up focusing on Nick, and I think we have established that is not because of his stellar acting.

HW-02866. Chad Michael Murray in House of Wax (2005) – I developed a crush on Chad Michael Murray during his stint on season 5 of Dawson’s Creek. Over the years his upper body held up well, and when he took his shirt off for the big screen in House of Wax, viewers were not disappointed. House of Wax was a decent horror remake with an absorbing plot and decent suspense from beginning to end. Though I liked Chad better with his longer, feathery, yellow/white, Dawson’s Creek hair, he still had something worthwhile in his presence here. Perhaps it is his intensity on screen. And his nipples. Show me a more beautiful set of nipples on an actor. I dare you.

Mike Vogel5. Mike Vogel in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) – We live in an age of horror movie remakes; some good and some horrible. Still, as a long time horror movie fan, I was thrilled about this 2003 Texas Chainsaw re-envisioning, and it did not disappoint. I loved this movie’s suspense, it’s gore, and it’s thrills. But imagine my added surprise when it introduced me to the stunning Mike Vogel. The way his sweaty body commanded the screen in that dirty wife beater filled me with extra sadness when he advantageous character disappeared from the plot. I have followed his handsome career ever since. Has anyone else seen him in the 2009 thriller Across the Hall? God was he hot in that movie, as well!

Chrisitan Bale4. Christian Bale in American Psycho (2000) – In honor of full disclosure, I find the Christian Bale of the last ten years to be extremely annoying. He has become too over exposed and every time I turn around I am being forced to hear his same gruff voice that ruined the new Batman trilogy for me. So, personally, I’m about ready for him to go away. That being said, his physique in the film American Psycho earns him any fame and fortune that life has brought him since. I am hard pressed to think of a horror movie leading man whose body ever looked this sculpted. He resembles an ancient greek marble sculpture. Patrick Bateman is the role I prefer to remember him for. Besides, American Psycho is super fun and Bale really has a great time with this insane and eccentric character. His Huey Lewis speech before he murders Jared Leto is marvelous!

Kevin Bernhardt3. Kevin Bernhardt in Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth (1992) – The Hellraiser films are in a league of their own. So many layers of meaning exist below the plots and within the characters. Clive Barker is one of my favorite movie directors, and the fact that he is openly gay does not hurt his case at all. Though Barker did not direct Hellraiser 3, and though it is an inferior film to the first two, Barker’s presence and dark sexuality are still present and intoxicating to those who think outside of the box. Kevin Bernhardt’s marvelous body and spot on portrayal of the narcissistic night club owner J.P. Monroe is sexy for all the wrong reasons. J.P. is selfish, self-centered, and evil, but his sexual darkness feels right at home in a Hellraiser film. His 90’s hair cut, his muscles, and his large, black undies are forever etched into my brain, for better or worse.

Bradley Stryker2. Bradley Stryker in The Brotherhood (2001)The Brotherhood, directed by David DeCoteau, is one of the worst horror films I have ever seen. In fact it can barely be considered ‘horror’. It takes bad filmmaking to a new height. The film barely has any plot at all and the characters spend more time aimlessly walking or jogging around through long, pointless, slow motion shots than they do talking. There is no suspense and nothing of relevance here; except for Bradley Stryker in his black boxer briefs. Visually he has stuck with me since my first viewing of this otherwise pathetic film. Bradley has one of those unrealisticly, muscular builds that reminds me of my old He-Man action figures. His waist seems too small for how wide and beefed up his chest is, yet the disproportion is sexy as hell and breath stealing.

Ryan Phillippe1. Ryan Phillippe in I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) – There is not a single scene in any horror movie that has excited me more completely than Ryan Phillippe’s locker room, towel scene in I Know What You Did Last Summer. This places it, with no contest, at my number 1! I can still remember watching the film for the first time in the movie theater. A female friend had dragged me to see it and I was unenthused. I thought the film looked dumb and I had no interest in watching Jennifer Love Hewitt‘s gigantic breasts bounce around for 2 hours on the big screen. Most horror movies have shower scenes with busty females. I remember my heart jumping into my throat when I realized that, this time, Ryan Phillippe was the person in the shower right in front of me. And when his tight, defined body walked on screen wearing only that towel I thought my heart was going to officially explode. I remember being so excited that horror movies were finally starting to place men’s bodies center stage for longer periods of time than they had in the past. A part of me fell in love with Ryan Phillippe during that movie. Just like that, he became one of my favorite male actors’ bodies ever, and he remains so to this very day.

In Search of a Gay Film Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 Film PosterIn 1985 when A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 hit theaters, it was just another mainstream horror film. At the time, it was only the world’s second encounter with Freddy Krueger. The film starred mostly unknown actors and ended up performing very well by box office standards. However, almost 30 years later, most fans of the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise consider Part 2 to be one of the worse, if not the worst, of the series. Still, bad does not necessarily equal boring; and if you Google search the film, you do not need to dig very deep to find one interesting accusation. Many accuse A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 of being littered with blatant, homosexual themes and not so subtle undertones. So today, Gentle Reader, I would like to not only review this film, but to explore the question ‘Is this the gayest horror movie ever made?

Full Title & Vital Stats:
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)
Rated R
Directed by Jack Sholder who also directed Wishmaster 2 (1999) and Alone in the Dark (1982)
Notable Actors: Robert Englund, Mark Patton, Robert Rusler, Kim Myers

Film Synopsis:

Five years after the events of the first film, teenager Jesse Walsh and his family move into 1428 Elm Street. Jesse begins having nightmares and soon discovers that Freddy still exists in Nancy’s old house, and wants to escape the dream world by possessing Jesse’s body. Now Jesse, and his girlfriend Lisa, must figure out a way to stop Freddy’s evil plan and send him back to hell.

Be warned, if you have never seen this film, plot spoilers are included in this review.

Mark PattonJesse Walsh – A Man Possessed:

The opening scene of this film shows our protagonist Jesse riding on a school bus. Jesse sits alone; obviously uncomfortable, awkward and different from the other more relaxed and carefree teenagers. Two pretty, blond schoolgirls even being making fun of him, and this becomes our first impression of our leading man.

By pure coincidence, the character of Jesse Walsh was played by the then closeted, gay actor Mark Patton. Patton plays Jesse as whiny and distant, with a constant, wannabe pensive look on his face. Though Jesse’s road in this film is noticeably stressful, with the psychotic Freddy Krueger constantly taunting him, I still found his character to be very unlikeable. Jesse snaps at his friends constantly when they are simply trying to be helpful and kind, and yet he does nothing personally progressive to solve his own Freddy problem. He just spends the film complaining and screaming like a whiny coward.

Mark Patton is not typical leading man material, thus you have to question this film’s casting. Jesse is a character of contradictions. He appears to be an unlikeable dork, yet his best friend is a handsome jock and a popular, beautiful girl is actively pursuing him (though he continuously rebuffs her advances). So why would the director cast a physically awkward actor with no screen presence for such an important role? Is this director an idiot or was he insightfully trying to relay a message through Jesse as Freddy’s chosen victim? Perhaps a character such as Grady (who is more typical leading man material) would not have been as easily susceptible to Freddy’s influence. Does the blatancy of Jesse and Grady’s differences make a powerful statement about this leading man? If Jesse is a closeted gay character, lusting after a masculine, physical specimen like Robert Rusler would make sense.

LisaLisa Webber a.k.a. The Beard:

Lisa is probably my favorite character in this film. She is the most rational and intelligent. Annoyingly, the character of Lisa does all the grunt work and research on how to destroy Freddy while Jesse just stands around whining. Her character is the only one with any real sense.

Kim Myers plays Lisa as sweet, patient, and likable. I give Kim further props because she does the best work possible here with a weak script, novice dialogue, and a less than impressive male lead. A male lead who she can muster no sexual chemistry with. Does this lack of sexual chemistry contribute to the Internet dubbing this film the gayest horror film ever? I would say yes. In many ways, Jesse could not be less interested in Lisa. So, who does Jesse seem to have his eyes on?

Jesse and GradyRon Grady – Best Friend or True Love?:

Jesse and Ron Grady’s relationship is homoerotic right from the start. Jesse seems smitten with Grady from the first time Grady teasingly caresses Jesse’s face during a baseball game. The two begin pushing each other and fighting exactly like when a little boy pulls the pigtails of a little girl because he secretly has a crush on her. In Grady’s case, he pulls down Jesse’s pants right in front of their entire gym class, exposing his pasty, white butt to the world.

For some unknown reason, Grady even seems to be slightly more enthralled with Jesse than Jesse is with him. Why is everyone so hung up on this odd kid? Grady could do so much better. But, Grady constantly wants to spend time with Jesse. He seems to have no other friends to hang with since this new kid moved into town. He even plays pranks on Jesse to get his attention if Jesse is paying him no mind.

Their relationship literally seems to be a budding romance, and to be honest, I find their flirting sort of adorable. Jesse obviously wants Grady’s admiration and Grady seems to be intrigued by how different Jesse is from himself. It’s just a shame that their love never stands a chance. In 1985, no mainstream horror film would ever have integrated gay, teenage love and self-discovery directly into its plot. These star-crossed lovers were doomed from the start, though the moment where Jesse shows up in Grady’s bedroom is still very exciting.

So do the gay relationship undertones stop there? As if this film didn’t already sound gay enough, there is Jesse’s relationship with Freddy Krueger to consider.

Jesse and FreddyJesse & His Sugar Daddy Freddy:

At one point Jesse describes Freddy’s tormenting him with the sentence, “Something is trying to get inside my body!” Nuff said.

Let’s take a look at some additional Adam film statistics…

AngelaThe Film’s Most Annoying/Worst Character:

In my opinion, this film has plenty of annoying characters to choose from, including Jesse himself. But this award must go to the character who is the most offensive to watch every time he or she is on screen. So my vote goes to Angela: Jesse’s annoying little sister. The little girl portraying Angela is a horrendous actress and I cringe whenever her character needs to recite a line.

Coach's DeathThe Film’s Best Moment:

My vote goes to the killing of another extremely homosexual character, the gym teacher: Coach Schneider. Could this film be any more explicitly gay? Freddy attacks the coach with his own balls (tennis balls, basketballs, etc.), strips him naked out of the leather S&M outfit he was wearing, and repeatedly slaps his bare ass with wet towels till it bleeds. This is after the coach finds Jesse in a late-night, gay, leather bar, forces him to get sweaty by running laps, and then physically pushes him towards the school showers. I mean come on! Anyone else picking up on some not so subtle hints?

The Film’s Worst Moment:

There is nothing I hate more in a movie than when characters do and say unrealistic things solely to serve shitty screenplays. Well, Gentle Reader, this screenplay is pretty shitty indeed and the characters have no idea what they are doing. This plot has more holes in it than a block of Swiss cheese, which I think we can safely blame on its’ writer David Chaskin. But blame must also be placed on this film’s moronic director, Jack Sholder, for completely misunderstanding his source material, for unconditionally disrespecting the character of Freddy Krueger, and for creating some of the most uninspired and boring scenes of any major horror franchise.

All of this being said, my vote for the worst scene in this film is a toss up between the horrendous dance routine that Mark Patton performs when he is supposed to be cleaning his bedroom (How could no one have known that this actor was gay during filming?), and the backyard scene where Freddy leaves the dream world and literally breaks up a teenage pool party.

Freddy Pool PartyWes Craven has been quoted expressing his total disgust at director Sholder’s decision to pull back the curtain and publically display his ‘wizard’. There is nothing scary about Freddy Kruger throwing lawn chairs at teenagers or about hot dogs exploding on a grill. Why is this monster hopping around in a yard filled with 50 young adult film extras? This scene was a horrible directorial decision and Freddy’s threat is reduced to popping lights, boiling water and malfunctioning circuitry. Throughout this film Sholder continuously brings Krueger’s hijinks out of the dream world and into the waking reality, which is confusing and feels sloppy.

Honorable Mention goes to the ridiculous and laughable scene featuring a possessed parrot from hell. Whose idea was that catastrophe? I only wish that the demon parrot had finished off Angela.

How are the film’s special effects & gore?

At one point Freddy scares the crap out of Jesse in the middle of the night and rips the top layer of skin off his head, exposing a detailed and pulsating brain underneath. That was pretty awesome. But Freddy tearing out of Jesse’s body and discarding it in Grady’s room is by far the best special effect in the film. The way Freddy tosses the empty shell of Jesse aside is priceless.

Freddy Bursts Out of Jesse

There are some cool special effects in this film, and some pretty huge misses (like the demon dogs with cabbage patch kids’ faces). Unfortunately the successes’ impacts are lessened by the director’s inability to decide if the world we are watching is a dream or reality. In the hands of a more talented filmmaker this blurring of the two worlds could be scary and effective, but here the direction is boring and the special effects end up feeling like brief glimmers of hope in an otherwise barren landscape.

Robert RuslerMale Eye Candy: In my opinion, Robert Rusler is the real eye candy of this film. We get a shirtless Mr. Rusler in two locker room scenes and we get a scene of him running, sweaty in a wife beater. Later in Grady’s bedroom we get a glistening, tanned and shirtless Mr. Rusler wearing only a tiny pair of green, running shorts. If, for some reason, you prefer the bumbling Mark Patton, he is shirtless and sweaty in several scenes. We are gifted with Mark’s bare behind at one point. There are also numerous shirtless men in bathing suits visible at Lisa’s pool party

Nightmare 2 tongueFemale Eye Candy: We get one scene of Kim Myers beautifully filling out a one-piece bathing suit while she is dripping wet. There is also one very odd and awkward scene where Jesse is licking the skin between her breasts, but we see no actual boob action. There are also several pretty girls wearing swimsuits at the pool party.

Kissing FreddyAfter all of this, do I recommend the film?

I do. Mind you, not as a worthwhile horror film to scare you, but because the film’s ridiculousness is so fantastic! In this film, Freddy Kruger’s scare factor is drastically handicapped. The character of Lisa is in no way threatening or physically strong, yet somehow she manages to overpower the supernatural Freddy in a mild scuffle on the floor. Then later, she kills him simply with her love for her homosexual boyfriend Jesse. In fact the creepiest thing in this film may be Lisa’s twisted love for Jesse even after he has apparently murdered at least two people: a fact which is completely ignored in the ending of this film. And speaking of the ending to this film, it is clumsy, confusing, and without resolution. If you can get past all these things, and even find the humor within them, then you will have a great time with this movie.

Is A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 the gayest horror movie ever made?

I will leave the ultimate decision up to you, Gentle Reader. I have presented the facts as I see them. As a final note, perhaps the original poster’s tagline will help you decide. “The Man of Your Dreams is Back.” The man of whose dreams? Jesse’s? Sounds pretty gay to me.

Leather Bar Nightmare 2

In Search of a Gay Film Review – Bridegroom (2013)

bridegroom-movie-posterBridegroom is a documentary film about the relationship between two gay men: Shane Bitney Crone and Thomas Bridegroom. The film introduces us to both men, explains their childhoods, and examines the romance that blossoms followed by a tragedy that later befalls that romance. It is a film about love, forgiveness, acceptance of self and acceptance of others. The need for marriage equality in America and the LGBT community’s ongoing fight against injustice is excellently highlighted in the film.

A Project Forged with Love:

This documentary’s very existence is a testament to the power of love. In May 2012, Shane Bitney Crone created and posted a video titled “It Could Happen to You” on his YouTube page. This powerful, less than 11-minute video introduced the world to Shane and his boyfriend Tom. Through text, music, still photographs and home video clips, Shane displayed the life and love the couple had experienced together.

The video informed that on May 7th, 2011 Tom suffered a tragic, accidental fall from a building’s rooftop and was killed. Shane’s video depicted not only the heartbreak he suffered from this tragic loss, but also, in the aftermath, Tom’s parents’ continued rejection of the gay couple’s love and their eventual refusal to include Shane in Tom’s funeral. All of this helped to highlight an issue that has unfortunately been plaguing gay couples for decades: the lack of legal rights for LGBT couples for which marriage is not an option. Shane’s video called for all its viewers to fight for marriage equality, tolerance and love.

This YouTube video, with its heartbreaking and truthful message, went viral, and as the result of a hugely successful kickstarter.com campaign, the love story of Tom and Shane was amazingly made into a feature length film directed by Linda Bloodworth-Thomas. In an act of strange, universal alignment, the resulting 80-minute documentary was adorned with Tom’s last name as its title, which ironically brought further focus to the idea of gay marriage and equality: Bridegroom.

ShaneShane: Fear & Longing:

In any film, the audience is introduced to characters that they will hopefully relate to and recognize themselves in. In Bridegroom, the ‘character’ of Shane is the more wounded and frightened of the eventual couple. Shane suspected he was gay at a young age and, because of this realization, was prone to panic attacks throughout his childhood. Though Shane’s family was always very loving towards him, he grew up in a small, Montana town that encouraged a manly, ‘cowboy way’ ideal and was not very welcoming of homosexuals. Shane existed as somewhat of an outsider. In the documentary, Shane explains that the one thing he really wanted was to have someone he could talk and relate to and who would accept him for being himself.

TomBridegroomTom: Charming & Afraid:

Tom grew up in Knox, Indiana and, unlike Shane, is presented to the viewer entirely in flashbacks and second hand accounts from friends and loved ones (Tom’s parents wanted nothing to do with this documentary). The character of Tom is confidant, always singing and dancing and always the center of attention. In high school and college he was described as a leader in sports and at the top of his class academically. His friends describe him as popular and charismatic. One friend even describes Tom as ‘magic’. Perhaps most importantly Tom was described as all-inclusive and non-judgmental of others. He respected and admired others for their differences and loved everyone for who they were.

Tom came from a simple blue-collar family. His father was described, as very stern, the ideal of manhood and masculinity. Tom did not connect well with his father, a situation that worsened as he grew up and become more of who he really was. Tom’s mother was described as having loved her son deeply, even taking a job as a janitor so that Tom could attend Colbert, a prestigious military academy, for high school. But as Tom began coming out to close friends of his in high school, he seemed worried that his conservative, religious family would reject him. One friend stated, “Tom was worried that his dad would literally kill him if he knew he was gay”.

Tap, Tap, Tap:

Bridegroom raises the issue of gay men not ‘living out loud’. This stifling of our love and passion for one another seems to be forcing us to subdue who we really are and to place the comfort level of others before our own.

For example, while Tom had no problem with showing affection in public, Shane shied away from it. But they loved each other too much to not show each other any signal of their love in public. Shane explained,

“I never really wanted to say I love you in front of friends or anyone, so we developed this little code. Whether at like dinner or a party one of us would find a way to tap the table three times just to say I love you. So, that became a very special sound for both of us.”

Shane later states that, as he stood over Tom’s dead body, he did one final tap, tap, tap as he said goodbye. In the aftermath of Tom’s death, Shane is filled with regret for having not been more affectionate with Tom in public while he was still alive. Thus raising the question, “at the end of your life is it more important to remember that you made straight people comfortable by your not acting openly gay or that you lived a life that made yourself comfortable in how you acted?”

Spotlight on Injustice: Marriage Inequality in the United States:

After Tom’s death, Shane was not initially allowed to see his body. The hospital staff told Shane that non-family members could not see the body until Tom’s parents arrived. Shane and Tom had been together for 6 years. They lived together, owned a dog together, ran a business together and yet, without being married, had no legal connection to one another. Though the nurses did eventually show Shane kindness and let him see Tom one final time, Shane’s lack of legal rights was brilliantly highlighted.

This legal lacking continued when Tom’s mother visited California to bring Tom’s body home to Indiana. Shane had no say in any decisions related to Tom’s belongings and burial, and after it was all said and done, Shane was not invited to Tom’s funeral and even threatened by one of Tom’s relatives to stay way from the service.

It is so tragic, that even in the face of such a tragedy, people will draw imaginary lines in the sand to separate themselves from those who are different from them. It’s such a shame that even with death and mortality staring us right in the face, segregation and hate can still be so prevalent.

Bridegroom-LoveImaginary Lines in the Sand:

Still days after watching Bridegroom I found my mind continuously returning to two thoughts. First, I kept thinking how sad I was for Shane’s loss of love. My heart broke for him because he no longer had Tom and I found myself longing for the kind of love Tom and Shane had shared. Second, I kept thinking of how disgusting I found Tom’s parents to be. The way they had treated both Tom and Shane turned my stomach with distaste. Did they even deserve to have such a beautiful son in the first place? Do they feel ashamed now that it is all over? And I found myself wondering if either of them had watched the documentary since its release. I wonder if either of them realizes that universally they have become symbols of bigotry and intolerance. I am so thankful that they are not my parents.

Perhaps Shane summed up Tom’s parents’ injustice best when he said,

“I guess I’ll never understand why the ones who are supposed to love him the most, fight the hardest to keep him from being who he was. Maybe the greatest thing about Tom is how much he loved them anyway.”

And at this point Bridegroom encourages forgiveness. The film hints at the importance of forgiving those who do us wrong or who do not accept us for who we are. Tom is said time and time again to have been a forgiving person. And so I choose not to be discouraged by Tom’s parents’ hate, but encouraged by Shane’s love. As I stated earlier, the very fact that this film exists shows that love prevails and concurs over hate. No one can take our love away from us. No one.

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If you are interested in learning more about this real life love story, here are some related links…
Bridegroom‘s IMDB Page
An article written only a week after Tom’s death discussing him and the accident
Interview with Shane at Collider.com
Worst Parents in the World? – article discussing Tom’s parents

In Search of a Gay Film Review – Weekend (2011)

weekend-movie-poster

Here it is, Gentle Reader, my first movie review. As a lover of movies and analysis, please, I welcome your feedback. So without further ado, today I would like to discuss the 2011 film Weekend. Weekend is a film about two gay men who find each other through a one night stand, but are soon surprised by their instant connection and by what this connection helps them learn about themselves.

The film is written, edited and directed by Andrew Haigh, who I am sure is about to become a lot more famous for his directing and writing on HBO’s series Looking. (If you are interested, you can find my review of the series Looking here) Weekend stars Tom Cullen as Russell and Chris New as Glen, each superb in their role. Weekend had its world premiere in March 2011 and has since gone on to acquire much critical acclaim, including several award nominations and wins for the film’s director and actors.

If you have not yet seen this film, I strongly recommend it. Its performances are wonderful, the plot is heartfelt and the emotion is relatable. It should be warned that this review does contain some spoilers so beware. Below are my thoughts, for better or worse.

weekend tapesSetting the Scene:

We begin the film by watching Russell bathe, dress and attend a party at his straight friend Jamie’s house. While at the party Russell appears to be disconnect and lonely; distracted and wanting to be somewhere else. He makes an excuse to leave early, ends up at a gay club and eventually meets Glen.

Jump to the next morning, where instead of awkwardly and quickly parting ways, like the end of many gay one night stands, the two men do something rather unusual: they talk about their hookup. Glen, an artist, is working on a project where he tape records people talking about sex, life, etc. and he begins to tape Russell. This rare, morning after reflection on the time they spent together leads both characters down a road of self-reflection that neither saw coming.

Sit Back and Observe:

This film has very few edited cuts within scenes. We, the audience, watch the characters talk, eat, walk and lie in bed for lengthy, uninterrupted shots. These lengthy shots place us as silent observers sitting in Russell’s apartment or the bar simply watching them interact across this three-day affair. All of this creates a calm, real-time feel to their interactions filled with dialogue that feels more like improvisation than pre-written words (It has been noted by the director in interviews that much of the film ended up being improvised by the two leads). The film doesn’t even have background music for setting tones and moods. The only music we ever hear is situational, like at the club.  

russellRussell – The Quiet One:

Russell is more of a watcher than a talker. Mostly he seems lonely, set apart from the world around him and a little sad. His world is quiet, boring and mundane. At one point I found myself wondering, “Do I have as much silence in my life as Russell does?”.

I enjoyed the insecurities he displayed because they were relatable. I could find myself in his awkwardness and shyness, especially in relation to his budding sexuality. He is not necessarily closeted, but he is still ‘trying on’ being gay, like a new suit. He’s still stiff and afraid that he’s not wearing it right. Straight people mostly surround him, and we can feel him longing for a gay outlet.

glenGlen – Not So Quiet:

Glen is the opposite of Russell. He is spontaneous and loud; very outspoken and confident in his sexuality.  Gay people surround him in his daily life, and although his gay friends can annoy him, he seems mostly happy to have the gay company. Glen, like Russell, is searching for meaning and something better in life.  He wants to escape his current location and has plans to move to Oregon in two days. Glen wants to create a new version of himself so he will feel free and not get stuck in ‘old friend concrete’.

Repetition Leads to Change:

This film uses repetition, with slight variance, to display character arches.  Glen leaves Russell’s apartment three times in the film. Each time Russell stands at his window and watches Glen far below as he walks away. The first time Glen simply walks away. The second time Glen looks back as he walks, showing he is thinking about Russell. As Glen walks away the last time, he moves noticeably slower and at one point completely stops and turns around to look back at Russell’s window before he continues on. The variance is subtle but effective in conveying how the characters’ connection is growing.

One final act of repetition worth noting: At the beginning of the film Russell brings Glen coffee as he wakes up, then towards the end of the film, in an almost identically shot scene, Glen brings Russell coffee in bed. This may seem too slight, but it shows their time together has come full circle.

togetherGay in a Straight World:

Weekend opens an important discussion about what it is like to be a minority, homosexual man in a majority, heterosexual world. After their first night together, Glen and Russell hesitate and end up not hugging or kissing as they say goodbye in Russell’s hallway. A straight couple is hovering nearby and the two gays censor themselves because of this.

At several points in the film, Glen verbalizes his frustrations with gay censorship in a straight world. Below is one such expression…

Glen: “Gay people never talk about it ‘sex’ in public unless its just cheap innuendo. I think it’s cause they’re ashamed.”

Russell: “Maybe it’s just they’re a little bit embarrassed.”

Glen: “Isn’t that the same thing?”

This movie raises the question, “How much do straights repress gays and how much do we repress ourselves?”. Regardless, different people react differently in the face of repression. Glen responds by constantly yelling his gayness and individual rights at the world, trying to shock straight people with his voice. Conversely, Russell turns inward, becoming quiet and respectful, not wanting to make himself or straight people feel uncomfortable. At one point in the film, as Russell and Glen are walking around the city talking and flirting, I did find myself wishing they would hold hands.

My Favorite Moment:

After their second night together, Russell and Glen discuss the act of ‘coming out’ to parents. Russell keeps a journal dictating people’s coming out stories as told to him by various gay men he has come across. As an orphan Russell never came out to his biological parents, and Glen thinks that Russell collects other people’s ‘parent’ coming out stories since he does not have one of his own. In a moment that at first feels silly, Glen pretends to be Russell’s dad and Russell tells him he is gay. I was so moved by Glen’s reaction that I would rather show it to you than describe it.

Love Yourself First:

Perhaps this is Weekend’s real message. Russell and Glen seem perfect together, but neither seems completely ready to give themselves fully to someone else. Both characters need to learn to love and accept themselves more fully before they will ever be able to fully love and accept someone else. Love Yourself. A theme that keeps presenting itself in this blog, and I guess in life for anyone who is truly paying attention. Who knows, perhaps after a few years, Glen will return to Russell and they will finally be able to complete each other. We should all be so lucky.

weekend kiss

To learn more about Weekend please check out its page at IMDB or it’s spot at Wikipedia.