Thursday, September 27, 2018

vanessa is terrible

When I was in high school, there was a Halloween theme park in Massachusetts called Spooky World that I was obsessed with.  The man on the radio said we could collect soda cans from the supermarket and get a discount ticket - how amazing!  If this wasn't peak 90s, nothing was.

I have a lot to complain about, but my childhood was never lacking in Halloween festivities.  I remember going to Salem in my best Alf costume - screaming bloody murder three feet from the entrance to a spook house because someone invaded my personal space - having to be escorted out before the tour even began. 

I remember the House of Seven Gables and the Witch Museum with its spooky red floor and downstairs dungeon and I remember Laurie Cabot's shop with its crystals for success and protection.  I remember the crisp fall air and the cobblestones and the CVS aisles of Halloween goodies.  But there was Spooky World - somehow untenable.

I remember, specifically, the afternoon in 1995 when school was out for some reason.  A special occasion if there ever was one!  I was wearing my R.E.M. Automatic for the People shirt and I had made the trek to my best friend Vanessa's house on my yellow huffy bicycle.  There was a crisp fall chill in the air.  I was basically one of those kids from Stranger Things.  After hours of trying every tactic I knew - from whining to scrambling to find newspaper coupons, Vanessa's mother FINALLY agreed to take us to Spooky World.  My dreams were real.  Anything was possible.  The world was beautiful and full of potential!  I raced to call my mom at work to tell her I'd be coming home late, but it was already too late.  Faced with the reality of Spooky World, Vanessa changed her mind.  She was "too scared."

So I never went to Spooky World and now, along with my hairline and collagen, it's gone forever.   It was shut down by the board of health in 1998.   Maybe it's for the best - I probably would have been gay bashed.  Or I could have met my bashert there, stumbling among the forest, splashed with fake blood. Who knows?  I never will.

If there's a point to any of this, it's that y'all should go and do stuff!  The stuff won't be there forever and then you'll be sad you didn't do it and you'll have to relive moments you didn't have via 24 year old youtube videos uploaded by Kane Hodder from the Friday the 13th movies.

Monday, September 24, 2018

dick on the brain

Admittedly, I have a type.  Whatever.  I'm human.  That said, feel free to skip this post because I cannot be trusted when it comes to Brain Damage.

Horror nerds love Frank Henenlotter's Basket Case, but Brain Damage is better.  It's better because the male lead in this film is, to quote Claire Danes, so beautiful it hurts to look at him.  That's enough for me.

Brain Damage is a movie about a gorgeous man named Brian who thinks with his penis who he's named Elmer.  I think that's relatable.  The movie starts innocuously enough, Brian wants a night off from his girlfriend and his roommate so he pretends to be sick.   The girlfriend and roommate wind up falling in love with each other and Brian wakes up with blood all over his sheets.  A blackout moment!  One minute, Brian's throwing his sheets in the laundry and, next thing you know,  he's in an alley behind the whole foods, throwing his soiled panties in the trash.  Dick will make you do crazy things - we've all been there, sis!

Getting older, you start to know yourself.  For example, I know that I can't have chips in my house or apps on my phone because three weeks will go by and I'll be seven hundred pounds, still clicking on the same torso picture from someone 2378 feet away who I wouldn't have looked at twice in real life.  It's better (for me) not to go down that road.  A little self-awareness could have helped Brian, but instead he went down the dick hole and never came out again.

Sex addicts are a slippery lot.  They're like phallic sponges, they'll fill you up, but they also take all they can get and then leave you alone with a nasty smell on your fingers.  Gay, straight, they don't care.  They'll do anything.  I've seen Shame, I know.  When Brian has dick on the brain, it's all consuming - colors seem brighter, people seem interesting - he winds up in places with no clue how he got there.  Like an after-school special, Brain Damage shows us Brian's descent into addiction through the lens of 1980s grind house horror cinema.  If you're like me and have a fetish for  hot brunette tall men who look like vampires and who carry around anthropomorphic brain-sucking penises, pop a PrEP and go watch it on Shudder.  You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair...

"You want me to do what?" - Susie Garret, probably.

I've talked at length about the power Punky Brewster had in teaching me how to navigate beyond my caste in society, but I completely neglected to mention the time the Punky Brewster writers got ravaged on hallucinogens at Burning Man and wrote the most horrific hour of television ever made - THE PERILS OF PUNKY.

"The Perils of Punky" was an episode of television, made for children, where Punky, her friends, the old man who found her living in a supermarket and Marla Gibbs' sister all go camping together in a national park haunted by the malevolent spirits of massacred Native Americans.  

My understanding of the finite nature of human existence was cast in stone by watching helplessly as Punky Brewster's friends were trapped in a cave and slaughtered one by one.

Not only were the children brutalized, but they return mangled and monstrous to haunt Punky.  Like all the final girls before her, Punky had to decide whether she was going to give up or fight through the pain of abandonment.  Dogs die.  Friends leave and you never see them again.  Everything ends.  Extreme horror demands us to confront the kind of person we are deep down.  Are we a person who gives into sadness and despair or are we Punky Brewster, a person who leads with love despite the horror of living?  Heady stuff for a Sunday morning!

Today, it's exactly thirty three years later and lingering questions abound.  I'm choosing to believe that Punky is half Native American and this journey into the cave was her reconciling her personal heritage and responsibility to a people maligned and abandoned by history.  By losing her friends and then having their ghosts taunt her to the verge of suicide, she comes close to experiencing what the Native Americans experienced.  

Or, you know, the writers got bored. 

Monday, September 17, 2018

so that's how it is

Apparently I'm the only gay who loved the new Predator movie where Jacob Tremblay joins the ranks of Sanaa Lathan as the second person ever in human history to be accepted among Predator Society.

Apparently I'm the only gay who is old enough to remember that Olivia Munn is a living, sexting LEGEND who deserves our respect and adoration and financial support at every turn - especially when she plays a scientist who runs and jumps and shoots stun guns and falls off buses and exists without a romantic interest.

Apparently I'm the only gay who appreciates watching the hot mustache guy from Narcos who isn't Dixie Carter's son struggling to maintain his lean muscle-mass despite the fact that he likes to drink and the people at the craft services table are nice to him and Trevante Rhodes was good in Moonlight and he's genetically perfect so he can drink and eat all he wants and that's not fair, but here we are anyway.

The lead-up to this movie was, justifiably, a horror show.  But I have AMC Stubs A-List and they have one of those machines there with the fancy Coke Zeros, so I guess this is the kind of person I've become.   But hey, it's not often that we get a big-budget franchise horror spectacle set at Halloween (except, you know, the new Halloween movie where Laurie Strode has a Ben Franklin wig and is a gun nut for some reason, but it's a whole month away still and we could be dead by then). 

The Predator is a mess.  Characters appear and disappear from scenes.  Action scenes are muddled and confusing and they barely take advantage of the "Halloween" of it all, but I still liked it. 

This is a movie where the little boy from ROOM winds up as the head of NASA.  This is a movie where Olivia Munn magically has a microscope in an RV for some reason.  This is a movie where Alfie Allen was apparently unavailable for the bulk of shooting and then reappears eating a jar of sliced pickles.  This is a movie with giant Predator dogs like the giant Hulk dogs that attacked Jennifer Connelly in Ang Lee's Hulk.  It's fun.

Friday, September 14, 2018

I'd like to strap you on sometime

Now that we're back in business, it's time to reinstate everyone's favorite recurring feature... 

"That Gay" is where we pay tribute to the out and about legends who came before us.  These are men who were openly gay and thriving during the slasher movie boom.  I would be remiss not to discuss the poster boy of hot queers, Tom McBride.

We all know Tom McBride as the hot in the wheelchair from Friday the 13th Part 2, and that's honestly enough.  He's great in that movie.  He's shockingly handsome and his death scene is still gnarly as hell.  If that were Tom's sole accomplishment, we'd still talk about him at our weekly mimosa brunches, but that's not Tom's sole accomplishment.  At the height of the AIDS crisis, Tom filmed a documentary that chronicled his struggles called Life and Death on the A-List (below) that acts as a fascinating snapshot of early-90s New York gay life.  The documentary is leap years ahead of its time, dealing directly with body-shaming among the Chelsea set, femme-phobia, sex addiction and narcissism among tops - all issues that are still prevalent among gay men.  Throughout these conversations, we see Tom progressively falling more and more ill, preparing his things and himself for the inevitable.  Tom McBride should be studied in our history books.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

back to school shopping

L'Shanah Tovah!  It's finally September, but it's still hot outside and I can't go to Target until next week because I just know they won't have their Halloween business up yet and I can't face another disappointment.

When I can't go to Target, anything's on the table.  I've been known to blackout in Bloomingdales, emerging from an Orange Julius stupor hours later with a collection of overpriced tops and a shredded Amex Gold Card.  I guess there's a reason it's called the Chopping Mall (no one calls it that)...

Chopping Mall is an important film because its characters live out my now and forever fantasy of getting to have a sleepover party in a 1980s mall.  That's what I want a time machine for.  That's it.  All I want is to be able to buy vintage Nikes and action figures for pennies on the dollar while enjoying a vanilla frappe from Brigham's.  Couple that with the thrill that only comes from running away from homicidal security robots???  Nothing's better!

This is a movie about a bunch of twenty-something kids who spend the night inside a mall and die at the hands of robot security guards who come to life after the mall is struck by lightning.  Genius.  Chopping Mall is genius.

This movie also features one of my favorite tropes: the slutty short guy.  I don't just say this because I struggle to maintain my 5'8" stature (thanks, Boniva), but it has been scientifically proven that short guys have more sex than tall guys because we have something to prove.  Chopping Mall isn't afraid to go there.

The cast of Chopping Mall is a veritable who's who of 80s horror - Barbara Crampton from Re-Animator - Gay Russell Todd from Friday the 13th Part 2 - Kelli Maroney from Night of the Comet.  Keep your eyes peeled and you'll even see Joey from the Nightmare on Elm Street movies shoplifting records.  But you don't have to take my word or even wait for a repertory screening, Chopping Mall is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Monday, September 10, 2018

thoughts on The Mummy (now on HBOgo)

We're not even three minutes into The Mummy and Gus Kenworthy's boyfriend (who's really good in Gayby) is pretending to be a British reporter!

The fat guy from gladiator who threw a phone at a receptionist and ruined the Les Mis movie is wearing a wig and introduces "the mummy" by saying she's "beautiful and cunning" - accordingly, this movie posits that all women are evil.  It's been three minutes.  I don't like casual misogyny.

"The mummy" has bangs and she's straddling a really hot guy - this guy is much hotter than Tom Cruise. who I can presume will be the man she's going to try to straddle later in the film, so The Mummy has already betrayed us.  If "the mummy" is so seductive and genetically fit that she could straddle this man, there's no dark universe in which she would lower her standards to straddle Tom Cruise.  This is a bad movie.

We are introduced to Tom Cruise in "Iraq" where locals are shooting at ancient artifacts with guns - making this film both misogynist AND racist.  Great take, Universal.  Tom is playing this part like Faye Dunaway during that section of Mommie Dearest where she takes over her much younger daughter's role on a daytime talk show.  

It's very bizarre that the hot friend of Tom Cruise who goes to my friend Julia's husband's parties wouldn't be the male lead. He's got a good haircut and clearly did one of those crazy Bradley Cooper "I only ate three grapes and two almonds a day and worked out for six hours" diets for this.

A Maxim cover girl wearing a pashmina and a full face in the desert just showed up because that's how scientists look on assignment and I'm out.  

There's a really good essay on all the ways that the movie Elizabethtown lies to us as an audience - it explores how the moment something tracks as untrue, we tune out - we no longer trust the narrative and the movie becomes camp.  This movie's a liar.  The Mission Impossible movies are smart because they desexualize Tom Cruise.  They don't ask him to be funny or charming - he's a vessel to move the story forward.  This movie wants Cruise to do bits, but he's just manic.

One thing I've learned from working in TV and film is that straight men feel like they're not doing their job if they're not giving arbitrary notes on a project.  That's how we got The Mummy.  Like Catwoman before it, this was a movie based on a beloved IP - made only to sell Mountain Dew and to keep the lights on at Universal - it's a cynical amalgamation of seven different scripts that doesn't care about why we love Universal Monsters for a second.  It's neither atmospheric horror nor is it a ribald action film like the Brendan Fraser movies.  At least Catwoman had Sharon Stone!

Friday, September 7, 2018

queen of versatility

You ever notice how Hollywood bends over backwards to redeem monsters like Mel Gibson and Matt Lauer (men), no matter how horrific their behavior, but Meg Ryan got banished to the Phantom Zone with Alison Lohman for living past 35?   Well, I won't have it.

We must respect our Queens.  Too many have been left behind.  I've touched on my love affair with Return of the Living Dead: Part 2 before, but since it's finally been released on Scream Factory blu-ray, I think we need to dig deep and pay respect to one of our truest Queens, Suzanne Snyder.

I was profoundly affected by Suzanne Snyder's performance in Return of the Living Dead Part 2.  I must have been 8 or 9 when I first saw it at the neighbors house and something snapped!  My imagination unleashed in all directions, filling in the gaps, creating my own story for weeks to come.  Those were the years when I went to a Catholic School and the nuns had to call my Nana in to talk about my affinity for pretending to be Suzanne's character in this film on the playground.  I'd run around pretending to be looking for my boyfriend in a myriad of bangles while there were zombies everywhere around me.   The other kids would throw rocks at me and steal my accessories.  It was bad, but also fabulous.  I've never felt so alive.

8 year old Jeffrey LOVED her performance for the same reason I worshipped Capshaw in Indiana Jones 2 - her performance trades in histrionics.  Both Snyder and Capshaw operated on a vulnerable, happy/sad frequency that only gay boys can hear.   My elders had Judy Garland and Ethel Merman, I had Suzanne Snyder.  It wasn't until years later that I pieced together that she was also in Night of the Creeps - another classic cable rerun gay horror film from my childhood.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I hadn't seen her work in Killer Klowns from Outer Space until a couple years ago when it was playing on one of the TVs at Halloweentown in Burbank.  I had to put down my scented candle so I could stand there like a crazy person, taking in every moment. 
What a star!

Whether obsessing over pop stars or actresses, having a female avatar has always been a milestone in gay adolescence.  I'm glad that Suzanne was my Gaga.

PS: she still looks spectacular and works as a life coach/yoga instructor.  Forget sending Nikki Blonksy cameos - this fall, have Suzanne fix your entire life.  She certainly fixed mine.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

less than zero

Remember how Punky Brewster had a rich girl friend named Margo and Margo was always perfectly done until the day her parents got divorced and she was completely inconsolable despite the fact that Punky's mom left her for dead in a supermarket, leaving her to be raised by an elderly gay man in a shitty apartment above a TV repair shop?  Their bestie Cheri almost died in a refrigerator and their friend Alan had to move away, but god forbid Margo got so much as an infected cuticle - the world would end!    Well, this was my earliest lesson in the fact that all pain is relative to experience.

While Punky was able to forage for food in the dumpster and still have a great day, to Margo the slightest inconvenience was earth-shattering.  Perspective is everything.  That lesson did me well as a poor kid growing up among the rich.  My mom was a secretary and my dad was a Vietnam Vet who tried to kill us a bunch, so we had to move around a lot with little to no money.  Things were never easy, but Mom always make sure we moved someplace in a good school district and, with that access, I eventually out-caste her.

While I didn't have a savings account or any inheritance, I had access to the same books and museums as rich kids.  That's thanks to Mom.  All these years later, little has changed.   If anything, I've become my mom - paying bills every month, barely making ends meet while my friends go on exotic vacations and buy second houses, but whatever.  It could be a lot worse.   But, no matter how good my therapist is, with such proximity to wealth, I can't help but feel like an outlier and, as hard as I try to remember the lessons from Punky Brewster, rich kids still get under my skin.  I can't help it.

No matter how many accomplishments I rack up - no matter how many copper pots I have in the kitchen or how many Keanu Reeves brunches I attend, I will never really fit in.  You can't manufacture being a rich kid - it's something you're born into.  I'll never be invited to Williamstown the same way that, as a gay man with a tummy, I'll never be invited to a Roland Emerich gay-for-pay pool party and that's fine.  Like Punky Brewster, my hardship has provided me a perspective and keen fashion sense.  You can't buy that!

"You know i loathe anybody that has a dime.  I can't stand them." - Edie Beale, jr

Part of the joy of exploring gay horror movies is the comfort I find in how analogous they are to real life.  A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 is a movie about how hard it is to come out of the closet in high school when you're the only gay kid in town.  Society is a movie about how you can't fake being rich and you shouldn't want to.

On paper, Society sounds too good to be real, but it's real.  It's a movie that posits that rich people aren't human - they're monsters that exist to feed off of poor people, literally draining them of their life force and tearing apart what's left - similar to how the GOP has tricked poor people into handing over their health care and livelihoods in favor of tax cuts to the top 1% of corporations.  Naturally, it's set in Beverly Hills - one of the only MAGA enclaves in Los Angeles where people value cars and real estate over basic empathy.

Society is about a short man named Billy who lives with a very rich Beverly Hills aryan family.  It's never really explained how he's of relation, but he's clearly different than everyone else.  He's brunette and he has a jewish best friend, so obviously he'll never really be accepted at the yacht parties no matter how many debate team trophies he scores.  The movie takes place entirely in Billy's the "wokening"moment when he realizes that all his peers act like Gwyneth Paltrow in Great Expectations and that capitalism is a gag.  Rich people are set up to win, no matter how awful they are or how many people they kill.  Scary AND relevant!

The last couple of years have taught us that rich white people can be evil.  This movie was onto that fact 30 years ago.  It's also super pansexual.  The actor playing Billy makes no sense, but he's porny as all get out and he wears great underwear (I do NOT understand why or condone how briefs appear to be going out of fashion!).

Long out of college, I'm still a outsider living among a caste I wasn't born to.  Even though I can't afford to dye my hair this year (like Billy, I'm a brunette), I'm not complaining.  If I was born rich, I wouldn't be here today, home alone in my rent controlled one bedroom ranting about a movie from 1989 that only 1/4 of you have seen.  I wouldn't have it any other way (except the brunette part, I'd literally kill to see colorist).

Because I had the privilege of not being raised among a cabal of flesh-eating monsters in Beverly Hills, I'm still here.  Over time, I've even learned to enjoy being different.  Being gay is an outlier in some circles the same way being poor is an outlier in others - the same way not being a drug addict can be an outlier at Lindsay Lohan's gay Mykonos circuit party .  I can't change any of that, but you know what...?

Society ultimately reinforces Punky Brewster's message that we have to be at home wherever we are and, if we're not appreciated, move on.  You don't want to go to parties where you're not welcome because if you do, you'll probably end up shunted and I don't wanna see that!