Queer Issues

All posts tagged Queer Issues

On Judy Garland

Published June 24, 2016 by biggayhorrorfan

THE WIZARD OF OZ, Judy Garland

Honestly, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Judy Garland.

As a kid, I totally adored her. In fact, as a very theatrical kindergartener, I even decided that we’d marry, one day, and do countless summer stock productions and films together. If I recall correctly, I announced this, with gusto and determination, at a family dinner one Sunday. The shock I felt upon being told of her death had me reeling, from room to room, asking various relatives, over and over again, if this life altering news was really true. Sadly, they all confirmed it was.

As a teen, though, I eventually discovered the grittier charms of artists like Marianne Faithfull and Nico and Ronnie Spector– whose lifestyles, coincidentally, echoed some of the more addictive excesses of Garland’s -and soon began to find her go-for-broke performing style a bit too forceful and bombastic for the ever expanding subtlety in my tastes. The fact that she was a gay icon also didn’t sit well with me. There is no self-hate like the self-hate of a gay man and I was determined not to fall into the trap of being some skinny, over-effeminate lover of the traditional female diva. As I grew older, I did, begrudgingly, begin to appreciate the older Garland’s more subtle, raspy take on poignant Noel Coward numbers and the like, but I have never been able to regain my early fascination and devout appreciation for her as a performer. But, on this week, which marks the 47th year since her passing, I feel I must pay her homage and grateful thanks.

The-Wizard-Of-Oz-1939-216593You see, my love for horror began with Garland. For many, her iconic portrayal of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz meant a world of hopeful fantasy and countless concert renditions of Over the Rainbow – a song I simply cannot stand, by the way. But, she introduced the four year old me to a world of evil witches and terrifying flying monkeys. She transported me to an environment far beyond the commonplace dangers I witnessed in my small town – brawling factory workers, drunken farmers, angry parents – and gave me something far more exotic. I knew the characters that she faced as Dorothy Gale were scary, but they were colorful and…imaginary. And…they were survivable.

For years now, I’ve credited Garland’s Dorothy Gale with being my first final girl, but only now, upon hitting another anniversary of Stonewall and still spinning from the fallout of Orlando, do I feel the true, magnificent significance of that. As a young man, Garland opened me up to the worlds of Laurie Strode and Chris Higgins and Sally Hardesty and so many other gruesomely fun cinematic creations. This bountiful gesture is still paying off to this day. Every time I discover some rare slasher on a dusty VHS tape in a thrift store and meet another previously hereto unknown terror actress to adore, I have her to thank. When I bond in restaurants with strangers over our various obscure horror film t-shirts, she is at the heart of it. When I gather with sleep worn friends for B-Movie Marathons and we become family because of it, her essence is somewhere in that room.

Many years ago, her death inspired a group of courageous drag queens to stand up for the rights of the LGBT community in an incredibly inspiring and visible way. But, her life – at least her performing life – inspired me to my own rebellion. Every time my parents grumbled over me reading another horror novel or purchasing the latest issue of Fangoria, I was standing my ground, for the first time, for something I loved. Something that was sparked in me by watching her perky, pig tail sporting adventuress, all those years ago, and, from this moment on, I will never downplay the significance of that starting point.

So, viva, la Garland! May you rest in peace upon every laurel that is, deservedly, thrown your way!

Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan –

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Screaming Queenz Podcast

Published May 13, 2016 by biggayhorrorfan

screaming queens

You can gasp. You can shout. You can even loudly exclaim, but please leave the shrieking up to Screaming Queenz Podcast, the latest entry in horror talk with a homosexual bent. Described as “three gay guys and a token straight boy taking on the horror genre with a queer eye on the camp, the trashy and the downright scary”, this new audio adventure already has 9 episodes available for downloading.

Be sure to check them out here:

http://screamingqueenz.podbean.com/

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Re-examining Prom Night 2008

Published January 16, 2016 by biggayhorrorfan

Prom_Night A number of years ago, I grabbed a huge movie theater size poster of the 2008 Prom Night remake off of the swag table at a film event. Now, I couldn’t tell you if I still have that poster, rolled away, in some corner of my ever expanding memorabilia filled closet…but I can tell you that I will never forget the look of pure surprise that came over a dear friend’s face when he saw me snatch it off that stack of terror filled goodies. There was no derision in his glance, as best as I can recall, just pure shock.

Recently, I was reminded, again, of how disdained that reimagining was upon reading Rue Morgue’s look at the Golden Age of Canadian horror, Horrorwood North. The original Prom Night, featuring Jamie Lee Curtis, filmed in 1979 in Toronto, is considered one of the original slasher classics, and, naturally, is covered, lovingly, in the volume. On the other hand, the 2008 version was mentioned at the end of that cherished terror’s profile as being “much despised”.

The original film, as many know, focused on the revenge fueled slayings of a group of high school students who had, unwittingly, killed a young girl through their cruel bullying, years before. Alongside the expected sex, drugs and…disco, the film also spent some time exploring how the young girl’s death had affected her family – particularly her extremely fragile mother and her sensitive older brother, who had actually witnessed her death throes and, eventually as the film’s dance fueled finale reveals, become’s the film’s vengeful (yet sympathetic) killer. These layers have endeared the film to horror sophisticates for decades.prom night 2

The 2008 version told the tale of Donna (a sweetly effective Brittany Snow), a teenage girl whose family had been slaughtered by her (Hollywood handsome) teacher, Richard Fenton, three years previously. Now living with her uncle and her aunt, she, hesitantly yet happily, prepares for her senior prom with her adorable boyfriend, Bobby. But, after Donna and her friends settle into their hotel rooms and begin to celebrate, Fenton emerges and begins to slaughter them. Donna is rescued by the police and taken home, but the ever resilient Fenton tracks her down and murders Bobby, who is trying to protect her. After a final battle with Donna, Fenton is finally dispatched, leaving the young woman safe but further traumatized, echoing the devastating emotional fate of Kim Hammond, Curtis’ character in the original.

Despite its critical drubbing (with extremely low ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic), this revamped tale took in nearly $57,000,000 on its original release, ultimately making it the 16th highest grossing slasher.  Perhaps, more importantly, there are a couple of elements in its plotline that speak directly to the homosexual heart. (Well, at least, mine!)

Reflecting on the film’s appeal to me, an image popped into my mind of myself at 16 or 17 watching a popular girl, at the small Catholic school I attended, arriving with her handsome, college age boyfriend for a Homecoming Dance. I remember wishing with all my might that I could do the same. But, I definitely wasn’t of the “in crowd” and there was no way that a guy was going to ask me to a dance in mid-80s farm country. Thus, I believe a thread of appreciative sorts is formed by myself with the reimagining’s heroine, Donna, who is doing exactly what I always dreamed of doing. (The fact that her relationship is ultimately thwarted is, perhaps, even another reminder of all those young crushes and sexual dreams that never quite played out, as well.)

prom night 3Even more so, queer men (including myself) have notoriously been preyed upon by older men – whether in the form of teachers, clergymen or family friends – adding another layer of understanding and connection to this character. While, thankfully, many of the predators who shaped our younger selves were not as murderously insistent as Fenton, they have still left their mark. This bittersweet resonance is something that especially connects me (and possibly others) to the vulnerable Donna as the film fades to its jauntily strained credits.

On a purely fan boy level you, also, can’t fault the film for its cast, many of whom are besotted with genre pedigree. Firstly, we have the preternaturally attractive Jonathon Schaech who essays the evil Fenton with a black intensity in his eyes. Schaech who had, sexily, burst onto the scene with Gregg Araki’s gonzo The Doom Generation, has also made a name for himself in such spooky fare as The Forsaken, Living Hell and The Washingtonians episode of Masters of Horror. Linden Ashby, who brings a kind glow to Donna’s uncle, is familiar from such projects as Werewolf, The Perfect Bride, Night Angel and Resident Evil: Extinction, as well. Meanwhile, Jessica Stroup, who flamboyantly fills in the shoes of the film’s doomed sexpot, is most familiar to terror enthusiasts as the female lead in 2007’s The Hills Have Eyes II, but her other roles include ingénue parts in Left in Darkness, Pray for Morning and Vampire Bats (with Lucy Lawless). Most importantly, perhaps, in one of the film’s best scenes, The Blair Witch Project’s Joshua Leonard appears as a hotel bellhop who is slaughtered as part of Fenton’s vicious revenge campaign. Fun!prom night 4

But more than that, Prom Night 2008 shows that even the most reviled celluloid can resonant as art and fulfill viewers emotional needs when viewed in the right context. Or, more simply, as another friend has stated, “There are no guilty pleasures. Just pleasures!”

Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Blacula and the 1970s Gay Male

Published November 19, 2015 by biggayhorrorfan

Blacula 5Some gays just can’t catch a break. They move into a neighborhood, fix it up and then are forced out when prices rise. Or like Blacula’s Bobby (the fluid Ted Harris) and Billy (an almost appropriately exaggerated Rick Metzler), they rescue a monster from centuries of imprisonment…and are, ultimately, killed for their troubles.  As purchasers of the estate of the notorious Dracula, these two interior decorators break the seals to the coffin of Mamuwalde (the Shakespearian William Marshall), one of the count’s erstwhile victims, and find themselves on the receiving end of his long delayed, very toothy hunger.

Blacula 4Soon, Mamuwalde is making a banquet out of a sassy female cab driver (the animated Ketty Lester) and buxom bar paparazzi like Nancy (the gorgeous Emily Yancy). Of course, his main attention is given to the beautiful Tina (a straight forward Vonetta McGee) whom he believes to be the reincarnation of his lost love. As her sister Michelle (the voluptuous, no nonsense Denise Nicholas) and her pathologist boyfriend, Dr. Thomas (an authoritative Thalmus Rasulala), begin to suspect that a vampire might be prowling the streets of Los Angeles; Tina falls further under Mamuwalde’s spell. Thomas and a police lieutenant (a flustered Gordon Pinsent) eventually track Mamuwalde to the warehouse where Tina is accidentally killed. Naturally, the terminally romantic, totally distraught Mamuwalde decides that he can’t live without her and allows himself to be burned up by the sun’s destructive rays, proving, with fiery impact, that heterosexual love has its downfalls, as well.

Blacula 2This classic example of blaxploitation made sweet with the money, spawning a sequel the following year, but it is, also, redolent with that era’s hatred and ignorance towards the queer community. Even the hero of the piece refers to Bobby and Billy as “two faggot interior decorators” and when the undead Bobby begins scouring the streets for necks to chew on, the police men trailing him, also, refer to him as a “fag” and remark on how all homosexuals look alike. Thankfully, the fact that this movie was made 43 years ago lends these comments an almost historical quality. Prejudice like this is definitely present today, but not often in such a focal quantity (especially in urban environments), and that, along with the film’s mention of Black Panther activity, its leveled looks at urban decay, and its music and costumes, give it a surprising social perspective. (Although, the fact that campaigns like “Black Lives Matter” are of vital importance today and that the transsexual community is under an ever present threat of violence proves how prescient this piece is, as well.)

Blacula 3Granted, one could imagine film historian Vito Russo, who examined the treatment of the GLBT community in film in such respected tomes as The Celluloid Closet, taking umbrage with Billy and Bobby’s stereotypical limp wristed antics. While actors Harris and Metzler definitely embrace the lighter sides of this duo’s personalities, it is, perhaps, just as significant to note that writers Joan Torres and Raymond Koenig, also, show some acceptance for that effeminacy, as well. Tina and Michelle are first introduced as they visit Bobby at the funeral home and make preparations to offer comfort to his grieving mother. This shows that Bobby, in particular, had a nonjudgmental community of family members to support him despite his perceived difference. It’s a small moment in the film, but pays homage to the characters’ real life counterparts whose kindness and strength meant the world to lavender blessed men and women the in those perilous decades and is still a comfort to many outsider types in too many parts of the world, today.

Blacula and its sequel Scream Blacula Scream were recently released in (crystal clear) remastered versions (with special features including interviews, commentary and photo galleries) by Scream Factory. More information is available at www.shoutfactory.com and https://www.facebook.com/ScreamFactoryDVD.

Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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