Friday, October 30, 2009

Can we gay it up a notch?

"His whole life is a movie!"

As much as I try to be graceful and understanding, I have a hard time with the gays who can’t deal with being gay. Whether it’s the Disney Channel star who pretends to have girlfriends in other countries or the kid on twitter who fixates on actresses (“I’m saving myself for Heather Langenkamp”), this kind of self-hatred is dark-sided and I don’t like it.

The not-gay gays always end up letting their darkness fester until they’re wearing khakis and voting against their own interests. Hard pass.  It’s tough enough to like ourselves after eight years of George Bush telling the nation that the gays were responsible for 9/11 and an election cycle here in California that put our civil liberties up for a public vote, encouraging people to openly discriminate against their gay neighbors (and which may or may not have ended with me throwing a hot coffee at an Evangelical “ activist” who called me a sodomite). 

 It’s impossible to rationalize with these not-gay-gays because their whole world-view is a lie.  Imagine hanging out with Paul Lynde and he’s riding big pink and purple elephant and you’re not allowed to give the elephant peanuts!  That doesn't make any sense, it's impossible! That’s what it’s like being around these not-gay gays. No, thank you. It's not for me. This brings us to Fade to Black (1980).

You ever wonder what happens when a boy refuses to participate in the outside world - choosing instead to live in the land of comic books and horror movies and the rent free confines of his elderly parents' house? He becomes a sociopath. That’s what happens.  Fade to Black explores the dark side of being a fanboy with its tale of Eric Binford who lives in Los Angeles with his crippled aunt, Stella. 

Eric's far too old to still be living at home, but ambition is waylaid by his obsession with old movies. He just sits in his dark, smelly bedroom day after day, night after night, chain-smoking in his underwear and pawning over old videos (taking the occasional break to masturbate to Marilyn Monroe cutouts and Meryl Streep fanzines). It's a lot.

When Eric meets a lady who looks like Marilyn at a diner, he decides that they're meant to live happily ever after together and reality comes crashing in on him. Marilyn can smell the crazy on him from 6 feet away, the rejection of which causes him to go on a killing spree. Conveniently enough, Eric has a degree in cosmetology and begins dressing up to reenact scenes from his favorite movies, whether the Mummy or Dracula or Jimmy Cagney... the movie kind of ends there. Eric doesn't even physically kill most of them, he just happens to "scare" them to death. He shoots Mickey Rourke for no good reason other than Mickey being more attractive and popular than he is. Rude.  Without any keys to Eric's childhood or him having a clear objective, this whole bloodless affair is pointless.

Fade to Black was one of those movies that had such an evocative VHS cover that I felt it must have been really important.  At the end of the day, the movie's poster is better than the movie. A sociopathic loner becomes a serial killer who stages scenes from classic movies sounds great on paper, but it necessarily well executed. It plays like an old movie of the week. Plus, it stars an openly gay actor, Dennis Christopher. When you're a gay kid starved for representation, you can spot that energy a mile off! I can't get mad at a movie with an openly queer actor in the lead role. Talk about versatile!

It bends over backwards in trying to make Eric Binford a sympathetic, heterosexual character - an underdog victim of a culture obsessed with media consumption - and it doesn't work. Aside from a clever finale shot inside the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, Fade to Black is a pass.

I do think there's an important lesson to be learned here, though: when making a horror movie, don't shy away from the fact that losers are losers and they kill people with no remorse. There's a genuine horror in fandom, in people who obsess over strangers and project onto them all their wants and desires. Whether Britney Spears fanatics or that guy who tried to shoot Reagan for Jodie Foster, this happens in real life and this movie misses the mark of all the genuine terror embedded in its premise. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Curious Case of Damien Thorn

"What's the matter, Thorn, don't you like it on your back?"

When you are about to get into your town car and someone runs up, harried, insisting that they talk to you this very instant, then chances are pretty good that you may be the legal guardian of the spawn of Satan.

The Omen films(1976-1981) were the precedent for the Final Destination movies: a series of deadly coincidences kill off characters one by one. Rather than pander to the lowest common denominator audience, The Omen franchise was almost too clever for its own good. These films move at a glacial pace, expounding upon the Holy Land and the Book of Revelation. Its protagonists are rich white people shoulder-deep in foreign affairs. Our heroines are delicate, barren women of discernible age, clad entirely in St John, who are the second wives to CEOs and dignitaries. Sign me up!

Evil kid movies are hard to pull off without becoming unintentionally comical. Somehow, with Richard Donner directing Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, and a stable of brilliant, English character actors, The Omen successfully managed to be a spooky classic - constantly teetering on the edge of good taste and sensationalism. On the other hand, Damien: Omen II (1978) jumps off the cliff of good taste and nosedives face first into the realm of, you guessed it, queer canon! 

An elderly woman wakes up in bed wearing earrings and a full face of makeup to find a raven perched on her bedpost. She begins wailing, throwing herself dramatically to the ground and playing dead. Nothing, at any point actually touches her. Gay Rights!  An English reporter (clad in red fur and wearing several pounds of someone else's hair) finds her car breaking down in the middle of an abandoned highway. She begins saying things like “Oh dear, oh no.” as she is suddenly pecked alive by wild ravens and crushed by a speeding Mack truck. Damien: Omen II is nothing if not tasteful.

Instead of nesting among foreign league ambassadors, this time around Damien is living in Chicago with his uncle, William Holden (continuing in the long line of Network actors who ran off to do the first horror film they were offered). William Holden is the CEO of Thorn Industries. Thorn Industries has a stronghold in electronics and is branching out into controlling the world’s produce supply as well. This is a conveniently evil corporate backdrop for our story and not-so-subtle metaphor for the real evil behind our dependence on foreign oil. 

Life would be a bowl of cherries for Damien if it weren’t for the matter of his cousin, Mark. Mark is heir to the Thorn Empire, not Damien.  Luckily, the son of Satan has many a minion - William Holden’s second in command at Thorn Industries takes a peculiar interest in shepherding Damien from boyhood to full grown Antichrist. There are a lot of pregnant pauses and lingering eyes shared between these two. I’m not saying Damien is gay, but he definitely exerts the powers of evil by giving his enemies a stink-eye that can cause day-players to spontaneously thrash themselves into walls while clutching feverishly at their chests!  I’ve seen that at clubs, it’s a mess.

I never want to be the gay who cried wolf, but there is something queer about Damien: Omen II. Could it be Lee Grant as the female lead, doing her best drag queen impression of a loving mother? Is it the presence of Sylvia Sidney as the most irascible house guest since that lady in Titanic who did nothing but complain for hours and hours until she finally died on the boat, leaving strangers to dispose of her stinking remains and cases and trunks of memorabilia (but not the diamond necklace they were looking for)? Does Damien's smudged eyeliner and standard American falsetto work in conjunction to create an overall impression of homo-eroticism? Call me crazy.

Damien: Omen II is a tricky case to diagnose. For every moment of schlock (Meschach Taylor plummeting to his death in a cardboard elevator set) is countered with something clever (contemporary corporate land ownership as the devil incarnate). Jerry Goldsmith's score is fire and there are scenes at the all boys military academy and in the woods covered in snow that rival anything seen in the first film. Regardless of sexual persuasion, Damien: Omen II is the perfect horror movie to fall asleep to, like a warm blanket on a brisk autumn day.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Silver Shamrock!

Monday, October 26, 2009


“You said you wanted to help me! WHERE ARE YOU?!”

I love Lars Von Trier. I do.

In a Lars film, characters are dropped into the most harrowing and emotionally overwrought situations imaginable (sincere virgins lose their husbands, single mothers lose their eyesight, statuesque women get gang raped by entire towns) and Lars, from a safe distance, laughs at them. He wants us to see their genuine experience as folly – meant to reflect our real lives and how foolish we are to take everything so very seriously. It’s all very Danish and it’s not for everyone. Personally, I love guttural emoting. Give me a woman squatting and bellowing from the diaphragm and I’m a happy boy! So you can imagine my elation when Lars Von Trier made a straight-forward horror narrative, Antichrist (2009).

Above all else, Antichrist is about grief and depression. None of us are truly prepared for grief or its many stages when a tragedy strikes. Polite society insists that we cover up raw emotion as something to be kept behind closed doors. Charlotte Gainsbourg is mourning the loss of her son. Willem Dafoe is her husband. He's emotionally distant and arrogant. He spent all his time working while Charlotte raised their baby boy. The only time they are okay is when they're fucking. But, while fucking, their baby boy tosses himself out the third story window, so now everything is awful! Charlotte is not okay. Despite the fact that he is not an MD and he cannot prescribe medication, Willem believes that he can cure Charlotte better than any hospital. He takes it upon himself to get her off medicine (prematurely) and to confront the things she fears the most in the name of "wellness". For two acts, the film is quiet and steady. What proceeds is a study in psychological and sexual abuse that forces us to examine the fine line between physical and emotional violence.

Antichrist is Lars Von Trier remaking The Shining. Like The Shining, Antichrist strikes a curious, dreamlike tone juxtaposed alongside beautiful images, static pacing, and heightened performances building to a third act that is completely off the rails. The horror here is much more pronounced and graphic than anything that goes on in The Shining. People in the audience screamed, laughed, walked out, cried... I've never seen anything like it and doubt I will again. This film is not dismissible by any means. Shot on film, Antichrist used a real director of photography, Slumdog Millionaire's Anthony Dod Mantle (a nervous breakdown prior to shooting prevented Lars from being able to write/produce/direct/and operate his chest-mounted "Larscam" this time around). This collaboration has yielded, far and away, the most gorgeous looking movie in the Von Trier canon - effortlessly weaving in and out of highspeed-slowmotion photography, black and white, and computer-generated shots that layer contrasting elements in a single image to create live-action paintings in every shot.

Much has been made of the graphic nature of Antichrist's denouement. I find what happens between Charlotte and Willem to be a far more appropriate and resonant use of violence than what we've seen before in film. Movies like Saw depict graphic violence free of character, emotion, or context. Antichrist is a thousand times more powerful and disturbing because it goes to horrifically graphic and gory places only after we are attached to sincere characters functioning in a real place and telling a story. Horror only works when we care about what we’re seeing. No one cares if a big-titted, dead-eyed model/actress gets her arm hacked off in a remake of a remake, but when Charlotte goes after Willem with a monkey wrench, it’s terrifying! I left Antichrist believing in witches, believing in the evil power of nature, and empathizing with Charlotte more than I probably should. Love it or hate it, Antichrist is a horror movie in its purest form and not to be missed.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Remarkable Woman

"I bought a gorgeous new lucite frame for one of your most famous pictures."

When I played the titular role of Pippin in a Boston production of Pippin, I had a fan. A diminutive Fraggle of a girl would leave me poems at the stage door every night. First, she wrote a sonnet about my radiance, which soon turned to a limerick on how I was an icy glacier that she was trying to climb but the sun kept melting her down, and finally a haiku about how she was going to cut off my head and use the blood to write the next poem. I got a restraining order and never made eye contact with anyone at the stage door again. 
You see, once upon a time, there was a thing called a Broadway Star - women who lit up the great white way, entertaining packed houses and holding court at Sardi’s night after night! Despite having a three-note vocal range and fighting a losing battle with her addiction to Virginia Slims, Lauren Bacall was the most glamorous star ever to grace the Broadway stage. The Fan (1981) presents the relatable story of Lauren learning to deal with a stalker on her terms while clawing her way back to the top in a Marvin Hamlisch musical.  Something for everyone!

Lauren Bacall is playing Sally Ross and Sally Ross is going through it. She’s feeling old and alone. She has two friends and both are on her payroll: her assistant and her maid. Sally's love life is stale (James Garner, stale). She has countless devoted fans, but she can’t take a fan home to bed with her because everyone knows that when you do, they invariably want to skin you alive. 
Normally, Lauren Bacall’s midlife crisis coupled with some fabulously atonal musical numbers would be enough to make this movie a gay camp classic, but The Fan has a trick up its sleeve: Michael Biehn (pre-Aliens)…playing a home of sexual! A home of sexual obsessed with Lauren Bacall!

Michael is unlike most real life stalkers in that he is gorgeous. He dresses impeccably (if not a bit preppy), but, like a lot of Queens in the ‘70s and ‘80s, he hates himself for being gay and is deluded into believing that he has a relationship with Lauren Bacall (like when Richard Simmons asked Barbra Streisand to marry him a few years back, only Michael sends Lauren pictures of his ding-dong instead of a diamond ring). 

Meanwhile, in rehearsals for her new show, Sally Ross/Lauren Bacall who, like a lot of stars, has a real hang-up around being alone, becomes fast friends with the dance captain of her musical (indicated to be gay by his hand gestures, big toothy smiles, and preternatural thinness). Soon enough, she is flaunting her new gay all over town, the ultimate accessory to the aging diva. But it’s exhausting keeping Sally Ross/Lauren Bacall propped up all the time and her gay needs to sometimes go off to the bathhouse to let off some steam. Michael Biehn is jealous, so he gets half naked, grabs the nearest box-cutter and slashes his rival right there in the pool! Gay on gay crime is bad news, Michael means business.

"There's some fruitcake out there who, apparently, wants to kill me!"

With her best friends dropping like flies at the hand of a homicidal homosexual, Sally runs off to her Hamptons beach house to pontificate on her own mortality. She stops taking Michael's calls and he gets real down, running straight to the local gay bar for some companionship. Sally's rejection gives Michael the nerve to finally take a guy up to the roof for a quick blowie. If he didn't have this tiresome angst around his sexuality, this could be the starting point for a lovely romantic comedy - but no such luck for the other guy! The Fan (1981) understands that no third act is complete without a gay being sliced at the throat and set on fire on a Manhattan rooftop.  Flamer indeed!

I'm sorry. I know how offensive it can be to have gay characters ALWAYS be the vengeful maniacs or the tragic martyrs serving to advance a story for the heroine...but this movie is a riot. Lock me up because I think The Fan is compulsively watchable. It's got fake blood, old women being chased in sequins and musical numbers involving leather S&M gear and neon lights! If anyone wants to adapt this as a Broadway show (or, even better - a show for high school kids and regional theatres), I'm available - just don't expect me to do meet and greets at the stage door.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tuesdays with Hitler

“This concludes our week on the holocaust.”

Bryan Singer is messy.  Self-loathing coupled with white male arrogance and privilege is never a cute combination and usually leads to public disgrace sooner or later. That said, Hollywood literally has no values and there was a period when he had a lot of power in Hollywood - so much power that he was able to remake Dennis the Menace, only set in 1984 with Dennis played by Brad Renfro (RIP) and this time Mr. Wilson is a homosexual Nazi who lives next door.

Horror movies have always examined the darker side of the human experience, holding a mirror up to society and our fears. When our nation was obsessed with communism, the horror of that period focused on aliens and pod people taking over our collective consciousness. After Dawn of the Dead, it’s impossible to see zombies as anything but a metaphor for our mindless acceptance of capitalism. When hippies like the Manson family threatened the security of our homes, the horror evolved into slasher films of the 1970s (Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper exploited this best with Last House on the Left and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, respectively). The female protagonists (“final girl”) of these slasher films echoed the feminist movement; woman surviving and thriving in a world of abuse and sexual violation. Yet, despite all that horror has been able to touch upon, there have been a few subjects that have been conspicuously verboten. Specifically, the horror of the Holocaust.

Apt Pupil (1998) sets out to examine the holocaust as well its social and emotional ramifications that were felt a full 40 years later. Except something gets in the way of the narrative…Apt Pupil is super queer. 

Brad Renfro plays a boy who has no interest in dating girls because he only cares about the Holocaust. Brad could have been a brilliant documentarian for the Shoah Foundation if he wasn't so darned sadomasochistic.   This sixteen year old boy takes it upon himself to conduct a yearlong series of interviews with his elderly, seemingly retired-Nazi neighbor. Brad's interest, however, is not out of empathy - he is almost gleeful in being regaled with stories of Jewish corpses and suffering. But the roleplay is not at all one-sided in this bizarre little movie (adapted from a 1982 Stephen King novella); the Nazi next door has just as much power in this game. When Brad gets into cosplay, making Ms Mckellan wear her old S.S. uniform, Ian one-ups him by going off and masturbating in it.  I’m not one to kink shame, but Jesus.
Apt Pupil forces us to ask ourselves who is more evil - the man who oversaw the death of thousands or the apathetic little fuck who fetishizes him. They are two peas in a pod, these two. Ian is soon tutoring Brad in his studies, both academic and personal. When things get a bit too intense between them (read: gay), Brad takes a break, goes back to school, starts kissing a girl.  He seems to be on the mend until he's drawn back Ian like a moth to a pedophilic flame. Evil ensues.

"Oh, my dear boy, don't you see? We are fucking each other."

Why is Brad so fixated on Ian? How can so much evil come from a boy brought up with money and education in an all American suburb? How can one feel no sympathy for being the cause of death and pain to thousands? Why do people with all the privilege in the world feel the need to play “devil’s advocate” in the paper and online when people are dying as a result of every election?  None of these questions are answered in this film because none of these questions are answered in real life. Apt Pupil, while much more psychological than physically violent, is as much a horror film as any Saw movie. 
This movie is pervy for sure and does Singer no favors with regard to distancing himself from abuse allegation against minors as his camera lingers on every detail of Renfro's lips and torso. It’s creepy, but the movie is supposed to be creepy so what is the truth?  Apt Pupil is contextually dense, dealing with issues of dominance and submission, masculine and feminine, and good and evil. What a man is capable of doing to another man can be terrifying, just ask Bryan Singer.
(Horror Nerd Alert: Be sure to keep an eye out for Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood 's main gay turned cabaret singer turned Broadway producer, Kevin Spiritas, as paramedic #1!)

babysitter blues

There is nothing particularly queer about The House of the Devil, but I love it. I love it a lot.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Daddy Dearest

"You were in a coma."

Hanukkah came early this year thanks to our good friends over at Screen Gems! Coming out this weekend, like a made for Lifetime movie directed by David DeCoteau: The Stepfather (2009)!

The original Stepfather (1987) was about the baby-boom generation learning to let go of their manufactured American Dream.  Terry O'Quinn played a man who couldn't seem to let go of his fantasy of a demure, loving wife with obedient children; he wanted to have a two-car garage, and all the trappings of consumerism.  When his dream wasn't capable of actualizing itself, Terry went on a killing spree from town to town like a divorcee Goldilocks, trying on different families until one finally fit (maybe the problem is you, Terry).  This meant something in the late 1980s as the country was crawling up from a period of great excess and soberly awakening to a fiscal recession, the age of grunge, and the dawn of the female CEO.  There was no longer such thing as a "traditional family" and  Terry had a right to be upset!  But today, in the post 9/11 recession, this character lacks any and all motivation - so they have him terrorizing the other boy from Gossip Girl, who is playing a swimmer so he can be shirtless the entire film.  Fair enough.

Sela Ward is a woman with three kids.   Sela Ward has no job or husband, but she has a five million dollar home.  How nice.  Sela Ward is lit like Morgan Fairchild and. more importantly, Sela Ward is pumped full of juvederm - so much juvederm that she actually looks substantially younger than her son in most scenes (the other guy from Gossip Girl).  Lucky for us, all the characters in The Stepfather (2009) speak in exposition!  Sela's eldest son has a checkered past.  We don't know why he had a checkered past and he never actually unleashes any kind of rage that would suggest he was once a hood rat (most thugged out kids don't sob in their bedroom over their lack of male role models while his headphones blast an emo-powerballad), but the exposition says he is a tough guy and I take their word.  Sela's son refuses to have sex with his insanely hot girlfriend because he is fixated on his mom's fiancee (the guy from Nip/Tuck and Congo).  He and his mom's fiancee share a bottle of Cabo Wabo in the basement; they exchange long glances, it's deep.  The other kid from Gossip Girl even takes his mom's fiancee's picture to bed with him at night.  Now, Sela Ward doesn't question any of this because she just needs a man.  Yes, sure it's really offensive to women and totally backwards and don't even get me started on Sela's lesbian sister, Aunt Jackie (I'm not being funny, her name is really Aunt Jackie).

The real star of The Stepfather (2009) is Amber Heard as the other kid from Gossip Girl's thankless girlfriend.  I had never seen this girl before and she's EXTRAORDINARY.  She has the hottest body ever and she can actually act her ass off (and her tits and probably her vag', but they never let us see her and the other kid from Gossip Girl do anything but swim).  Why they didn't just remake The Stepfather with Amber Heard in the lead?  Why remake The Stepfather at all?  We will never know.  I do know that I want this Amber Heard girl at all my pool parties and I want to set her up with all of my guy friends and I kind of want to watch her touch herself.  Well played, Amber Heard.

The third act of The Stepfather (2009) is the exact same as the third act from Beyonce's Obsessed.  That's a win!  The film ends on a freeze frame image.  Another win!  This movie is god-awful, but it is good laughs from start to finish.  It's like eating a bag of candy corn in one sitting - you know it's bad for you, but you can't stop yourself.  Most scenes play as though the cast is putting on a high school play version of the original Stepfather - there are even background actors striking set pieces mid-scene!  Go pay to see Where the Wild Things are and then sneak into The Stepfather afterward for free.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Gross Anatomy

"You stole the secret of life and death, and here you are trysting with a bubble headed co-ed!"

For every fabulous gay that can be found regaling his friends at dinner parties with stories of Sharon Stone and sample sales, there is a schlubby and socially awkward gay, holed up in his parent’s basement eating Doritos and looking at internet porn and writing misogynist rants in the comments section of youtube videos for hours at a time until he no longer feels anything. Whether by shame or lack of social skills, I find these gays are to be avoided at all costs! And that’s not coming from a place of elitism, it’s coming from experience.  Even though you saw it on an episode of Will & Grace, don’t think you can help them transform into a Pygmalion Adonis with just a little cetaphil and a gym membership – no, sir. This kind of basement gay is a succubus who won’t be stopped until everyone is as miserable as he. 

This is the Evil Gay.

Take, for instance, the story of Herbert West in Re-Animator (1985).  Herbert is very smart, almost too smart. His intelligence makes him arrogant without merit. He is one of those guys who can only function inside the world of academia, someone who has never had to learn real life lessons or master the keys to social interaction. Herbert West is like those bad kids in middle school who’d light cats on fire and call it an experiment.  While I appreciate his fashion sense, Jeffrey Dahmer is not a role model, kids. 

Sociopaths always have a hard time getting things that require social skills like apartments and grants; this conundrum is what led Herbert West to Dan Cain. Dan is a straight Hot in his third year residency and he is always shirtless.  Dan blows off steam built up from working twenty-hour days with cadavers by having lots of straight sex with his girlfriend, Meg. Meg happens to be the Dean of Student’s daughter. Dan knows what he’s doing. A different kind of sociopath. 

Dan is pretty, he has a spare room in his apartment, and the staff of Misketonic Medical School universally adores him.  Herbert needs Dan.

Is Herbert West a gay? Probably, yeah. But he's not fun about it. He hates women.  He doesn't have sex; he'd rather sublimate all physical needs into his all-consuming “work.”  He only tests his potions on well built men and he has a personal vendetta set against Dan’s girlfriend, killing her cat and making snide comments about her hair and the diameter of her hips.  He even goes so far as to have her father mutilated to drive his point home. You know how bitchy fags can be.

As Herbert West’s appetite for power and carnage grows, he becomes smug, almost hot (but that’s my issue with being attracted to emotionally unavailable narcissists).  Of course, arrogance and homosexuality natrually ends in being suffocated by another man's large intestine, but I digress.

We over use the expression “iconic, but Re-Animator is iconic.  From its score to its poster design to it’s amazing use of physical space and day-glo green slime, It delivers on all counts (and it features gobs of male nudity).  This was one of the films that you’d talk about on the school yard as a test to how hardcore you were (aka: how permissive and absent your parents were). Re-Animator is a holy grail.  It’s got everything: hot boys, zombies, vengeful faggotry and gobs of gore.  

Just when you think the queer subtext is imagined, Herbert West will breaks the fourth wall, as though the audience is part of his fevered psyche along for the ride.  When I was a little boy, I’ve longed for syringes full of glow-stick ooze. I still do.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Beethoven's Massacre

“Over. Done with. Gone.”

I’m probably aging myself, but I like histrionics.  I like a woman in peril who goes through all sorts of hell to wind up overcoming the odds.  Maybe I’m naive but I like to imagine these little moments contribute to a greater whole that will one day topple the patriarchy.  The power of representation. Women are stronger than men - they have to be. To me, this is the great triumph of 1980s horror films - women always come out on top, even if they have to battle a feral dog.

Imagine, if you will, a live-action Disney cartoon shot by Jan De Bont. A bunny rabbit is frolicking gaily through the forest as the camera pans out to reveal a beautiful Saint Bernard playing with her. Butterflies are flying, hummingbirds are flapping their gossamer wings in the meadow and everything is peaceful. Without warning, our happy puppy is attacked mercilessly by vicious, pestilence spreading Vampire Bats! This is the story of Cujo.

Across town, a little gay boy (Danny Pintauro) is trying to go to sleep but can’t stop from pretending to be all the grande dames in British literature and playing out elaborate scenes whereing there are terrible monsters in his closet. His mom, Dee Wallace (formerly Stone), is over it. She has herself embroiled in a bit of a Harold Pinter situation, fucking the neighborhood handyman behind her loving husband's back and she has no time for gay nonsense - not today. 

Mom knows that Danny loves his dad much more than he loves her and she’s looking for a way out! She never really wanted this family or this life that she finds herself stuck in.  I mean, I get it - the whole notion of marriage is a scam, but they also have a six-bedroom home overlooking the ocean. Dee’s husband has a sick body, he makes good money, he’s a wonderful father, and her son delivers line readings as though they are all original thoughts! It could be worse, but some women just love to self-sabotage. 

Much to Danny’s disappointment, Dee finally drives her husband away and the two of them are left alone together with their broken down Chevette.  My mom was always dragging my gay ass on errands with her as a kid. Usually I’d wind up in the back seat talking to myself or singing show-tunes with the windows rolled up for hours at a time until I finally passed out while she exchanged stockings or got her nails done. Dee Wallace (formerly Stone) is much the same.

Meanwhile, that lovable Saint Bernard, Cujo, lives with the white trash family from The Prince of Tides. They’re too preoccupied skinning animals and drinking Mountain Dew and covering up a generations worth of domestic abuse trauma to realize that their dog is now covered in open sores and dripping with novelty machine slime. Cujo has himself a case of the rage and Dee Wallace and Danny are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Way to make good choices, Dee Wallace (formerly Stone)!

Cujo is basically a queer Cassavetes movie.  By today’s standards, it’s an art film, taking its time to establish character and location. By making us care about these people and the minutiae of their domestic lives, Cujo is actually scary and unexpected when it becomes a horror movie - uueer histrionics as seen through the lens of a little gay boy.  

Danny Pintauro is not an actor. Danny Pintauro believes without any question in his mind or heart that the mangy dog outside their car is going to kill him and his mother. It’s electrifying to watch. Danny Pintauro becomes so unhinged, so hysterical that he brings Dee Wallace and the entire film to a level of genius seldom seen before or since. 

Dee's suburban ennui transforms into something primal and raw as she fights for a life that she once took for granted.  Cujo saw what was going on with Final Girls in films like Friday the 13th and it raised the stakes - nothing is more primal than a mother protecting her child.  Despite the ludicrous nature of a monster Saint Bernard, this movie is tight and right. It hits emotional peaks that we wouldn’t expect from a low-budget Stephen King short story adaptation - thus overdelivering and if overdelivering isn’t a queer concept, you obviously don’t know my dog.