Tagline 1: "You can't check in without getting checked out!"
Tagline 2: "Some things should stay in the closet!""
I have a few healthy fears in life: heights, drowning and drag queens, an extension of my discomfort around clowns. Years ago, a friend forced me to go to a restaurant in the Adams Morgan area of D.C. for a "drag brunch"--a term that both confused and frightened me. The buffet breakfast was frequently interrupted by jarring musical numbers where divas strutted the "stage" (i.e., the narrow walkway from the bathroom to the hostess table) and shoved microphones into the faces of quiet types (namely me) desperately trying to avoid their attention. I focused my gaze on my eggs, but it didn't work, much to the delight of my straight friends--who got a kick out of my embarrassment (and those crazy trannies...what a novelty!).
So I was already a little scared as I popped in Gay Bed & Breakfast of Terror, a low-budget indie effort as campy as it sounds. Ample amounts of blood, boobs and beefcake fill the screen as five cranky couples make their way to the Sahara Salvation Bed & Breakfast, a loony bin run by religious fanatic Helen (Mari Marks) and her dopey, arrested development daughter Luella (Georgia Jean), whose lesbian tendencies have mom on a mission: "We are going to find you a nice handsome man to marry, who we will convert and save from Satan. Then you won't have your digressions any more!"
Into this tinderbox walk five couples (three gay, two lesbian) comprised of mostly vapid people who are, for the most part, interchangeable: flirty Dom (Vinny Markus) is the reining Mr. Leather, headed to the Blue Party with sometimes drag queen boyfriend Alex (former gay porn star Michael Soldier); grumpy prep Mike (Derek Long) sends hot boyfriend Eric (Robert Borzych) into the arms of another man as their fag hag pal Lizette (Lisa Block-Wieser) chomps on chips; older Rodney (Jim Polivka) is as irritable as his disinterested boy toy "trainer" Todd (James Tolins); lipstick lesbians/edible body paint entrepreneurs Deborah (Shannon Lee) and Gabby (Denise Heller) bicker as they get attention from fellow dyke Brenda (Allie Rivenbark, who appeared in the equally kooky Socket with Long and Marks), who is bored with aspiring folk singer girlfriend Starr (Hilary Schwartz).
The couples fight, fret and cheat, not knowing they're being stalked by the demented duo (what's in their homemade mincemeat muffins, anyway?!) and Manfred (Noah Naylor), a mysterious member of the family who doesn't show up for a while. It's all as ridiculous as it sounds, and a horde of hammy performances leave no doubt that this is campy comedy, not horror--especially when we get repeated back stories that shed light on the demented family's past.
It sounds fun, and I really wanted to like this kitschy effort--and with characters credited as "Bear #2" and "Lead Republican", you'd think this was a hoot. But Gay Bed & Breakfast of Terror suffers from painfully predictable punch lines and quips that just aren't funny. The characters are all extreme stereotypes, which might be forgivable if the acting (what's with all the exaggerated facial expressions?!) and writing had some spark. Instead, we're given poorly constructed sexual innuendo and plotting that can't support the level of camp the film aims for. We're left with an odd mash of comedy with horror, the film note quite sure how to blend the two elements effectively.
Even worse is the film's pacing--just when the mascara starts to hit the fan, things slow down, ruining the mild buzz that was starting to build. At 105 minutes, the film is at least 20 minutes too long, with the aforementioned flashbacks--while providing some moderately amusing moments--halting the film's main story. The ending in particular has too much going on and takes forever; a sharper focus, vision and editing would have helped the film tremendously. The characters (all of them pretty loathsome) and script often don't make sense--scenes don't always flow together smoothly or logically, leaving you with mild head scratching.
But the biggest disappointment is how the movie wimps out on some potentially powerful parallels, as the fight for gay rights/survival is mildly linked to oppressive views and institutions--but nothing unique is done with it. The film flirts with deeper meaning and purpose, but ultimately opts for the easy out--missing the chance to make a clever statement with its goldmine of material, ignoring its dark satire potential. Instead, we're left with lines that don't do the story or characters any favors: "More jewelry, Lizette?! Where ya gonna put it? You clit?"
There's nothing I love more than homosexuals and horror films--and it's clear writer/director Jaymes Thompson has the same passion. This film presents a cute idea, but just can't execute it effectively. Gay Bed & Breakfast of Terror pulls its punches when it should go for the jugular--just like Manfred, the most empowered of all the characters. Considering that loud-and-proud gay activists did so much for the movement, it's odd that here--in a story about oppression and survival--their voices are silenced in favor of mediocre material that doesn't do their struggle (or the story) justice.
The disc provided for this review was a non-anamorphic widescreen screener that has some issues, but nothing you wouldn't expect from a low-budget indie. I'll refrain from critique until a final product is provided.
I'll also refrain from commenting on the 2.0 stereo track until the final product is available.
The screener disc provided didn't have a menu, much less any extras. The final product will supposedly have director Jaymes Thompson's short film Fruitcake, an audio commentary with Thompson and a behind-the-scenes photo gallery.
I love homosexuals and horror films, but this campy effort about a blood-thirsty religious fanatic running a loony B&B is too predictable to please fans of either. Writer/director Jaymes Thompson clearly has passion, and this is a cute idea. But the acting, pacing and writing here are filled with cheap innuendo and punch lines that don't do the story, characters or viewers any favors. Even more disappointing is how the script wimps out on a potential goldmine of dark satire--material that would have drawn powerful parallels to the fight for gay rights and those who oppose them. The film takes the easy way out on all fronts, leaving our lust unquenched in the process. Skip It.