Social Commentary

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The Creeping

Published November 24, 2018 by biggayhorrorfan

Creeping 2.jpg

This fall I discovered, once again, how effectively the things that haunt you can be made into art.  The revelations of the predatory status of multiple priests in such areas as Western New York, Philadelphia and Indiana definitely triggered something deep within me – and with the help of the horror genre and my writing background, I was able to parlay these emotions into a creative project.

Thankfully, this exploration quickly found a home. My short play, The Creeping, debuted this October at the UWWFest at The Goodman Theatre in Chicago.  Thus, I was not only able to explore the ever tangled tendrils of my past, but I got to watch a small cast of actors grow, immeasurably, throughout the process. That the director of the event, Davette Franklin, is a young black woman was also an incredibly encouraging development. As I care, less and less, about the straight white male take on what haunts us, it was a beautiful feeling to be a part of an event curated by a young, strong female who chose pieces that spoke, in some way, to her experience in the world.

In gratitude, I present The Creeping here for anyone who may be interested in reading it.

(Marlene is sitting at the kitchen table, cutting articles out of a stack of newspapers. Christian enters, sleep bleared and hesitant. He stops and watches Marlene. She notices him and points to a plastic thermos on the table.)

Marlene: Orange juice mixed with a generic sports drink will not make one’s stomach erupt. Contrary to popular belief, that little kid from the cereal commercial is still alive and well and selling insurance in Minnesota.

Christian: I know. I slept with him when I was touring with those Tennessee Williams one acts. Remember?

Marlene: Hey, that’s right!

Christian: And that wasn’t meant for you.

Creeping 4.jpg(Christian grabs the thermos from the counter, walks to the sink and empties it.)

Marlene: I hope not. (She contemplates as she cuts and then she laughs out loud.) You always were such a little star fucker. Even as a teen you used to moon over all those daddy types on the soap operas. You’d rush in all sweaty and out of breath just to catch the last 15 minutes of Guiding Light or General Hospital or whatever the hell you were watching at the time.

Christian: Thanks…mom…for the memories. You do know I wasn’t sprinting home from school just to partake in Michael Swan’s abs. I was trying to avoid being slaughtered by Mick Finney and his gang.

(Christian eyes something outside the window. The Creeper slinks into view. The two look at each other and Christian gasps. The Creeper disappears.)

Marlene: What?

Christian: Nothing.

Marlene: Well, why are you looking around so nervously? (She starts to catch his nervous energy.) They’re not still out there…are they?

Christian: No

Marlene: Stop making me so anxious then. Hell, I don’t know why I’m worrying. Finney died in a motorcycle accident years ago…or was it testicular cancer that got him?

Christian: How could you confuse the two?

Marlene: They both have the same outcome.

(Christian moves closer to Marlene, pacing and keeping an eye out for movement outside the window. The Creeper emerges and disappears throughout their conversation, circling closer and closer to them.)

Christian: How many of those are you cutting up?

Marlene: 25…or 50! Hell, there may even be 100 here. We have been vindicated. Lou and 25 other priests were named in this newspaper. I’m just letting certain people know.

Christian: Facebook’s not good enough for you?

Marlene: There’s just something about the fucking stamp fairy that does my heart good, you know? Hey. Instead of just pacing back and forth, you could clean up some of that wax and glass in the spare bedroom. It’s just like you’re in high school again. What the hell were you doing in there, anyhow?

(She goes to put her breakfast plate away in the sink. She and Christian face each other, awkwardly.)

Christian: Why, Marlene?

Marlene: What?

Christian: Why did you have to pursue this? Why couldn’t you just let it stay in the past?

Marlene: The truth deserved to be told, Christian.

Christian: Sure. Names should be named. The villagers need to know about the monsters in their midst.

Marlene: C’mon! The church put those perverts back out into world without letting anyone know. They were living next to schools and dog parks and…

Christian: But sometimes the monsters aren’t just flesh and blood, mother. You know that.

Marlene: Oh, please. Unless you call on them, other monsters aren’t real. You haven’t called on them have you, Chris?Creeping 5.jpg

Christian: You know that I walked in on them – Dad and Father Lou. Before Lou started with… well, you know.

Marlene: Of course I knew. Then there was everyone who doubted you, me…for years.

Christian: I don’t care about them. I cared about you.

Marlene: Oh, I know you did, honey.

Christian: I cared that you wouldn’t listen to me, wouldn’t let this drop. So, I –

Marlene: What?

Christian: Oh, mom. You always say you understand.

Marlene: I do.

Christian: But you couldn’t possibly. The things you brought up again with this quest….the twisted memories. I couldn’t sleep at night. They warped my mind. I wanted to send them back to the dark place, that land of vaporous, slightly out of reach nightmares. I needed to.

Marlene: Chris? What the hell are you telling me?

Christian: All those years of avoiding sidewalk cracks, ignoring neighborhood taunts about your eccentricities…I didn’t want to hurt you…then. But after these past months of your insistent questioning… this invasive preoccupation of yours… You had to know exactly what went on in the rectory, detail by brain curdling detail.

Marlene: It was the only way to get the courts to believe us.

Christian: No.

Marlene: Please! Besides, it had happened so long ago. It shouldn’t have affected you like this. Always flittering off on some artistic journey…it was important for you to man up and stick around, make sure all the new charges would stick.

Christian:  Don’t you see? No matter what good you were trying to do, all I wanted to do was get away from you. Then, after awhile, all I wanted was for it to take you away from me…take away the past, everything you dredged up. I wanted to be free of you, finally free.

Marlene: No.

(The Creeper circles ever closer and closer to Christian. They become more and more aware of each other.)

Christian: So, I called to it again…bled myself…offered up that wine you got from Italy last year…the cheese from that Amish farm in Pennsylvania. I gave it gifts, chanted in chalk circles, for hours, while you canvassed the suburbs and led rallies on street corners.

Marlene: But that’s just a myth. It’s just a myth, a legend. And…what do you mean? Called to it again!?

Christian: Haven’t you wondered why there have been so many sudden disappearances over the years? What about the other members of Finney’s gang? They weren’t scholars. They didn’t scamper off to high paying jobs and distinguished tenures at heady, far off universities.

Marlene: I just thought they caroused themselves to death. Hell, I thought maybe even the sicko that had pestered you had gotten to them, as well. Made ‘em sink ship and drown…and good riddance!

Christian: You can’t blame every tragedy on organized religion. Some things you have to blame on me. You see that don’t you?

(Marlene begins to sense the presence of The Creeper and begins to buy into Christian’s story.)

Marlene: Looking at you, now I do. Yes.

Christian: They hurt me, mom. Even after I thought I escaped. So, I had to make them disappear. It helped.

Marlene: Now, I’ve hurt you, right?

Christian: Yes.

Marlene: Damn you. (She contemplates the situation for a moment.) Fine!

(Marlene begins to gather up the newspapers and paper scraps and begins to throw them away.)

Christian: So, what are you doing?

Marlene: Throwing these out, forgetting this madness. Get your things together. Pack just what you need. We’ll go to the lake house, escape for a few days. We’ll call your aunt. She’s always messing around with those tarot cards, metaphysical yoga techniques…all that crap. We’ll figure out a way. She’ll help us.

Christian: It’s too late. I’ve been feeling it get closer and closer for days.

Marlene: So, we run…far, far away.

Christian: That won’t work. Look. Look at me.  It’s like I’m fading away. It’s invading me…filling my pores. It’d find me anywhere we went.

Marlene: No. I’ll protect us. I’ll really protect you this time. I’ll…I’ll go clean up that room. If I destroy the evidence, wipe away its connection to us, it’ll disappear. It’ll find someone else to haunt.

Christian: No. (Christian grabs Marlene and stops her.)  I thought it’d be drawn to you…to your overwhelming energy…all that grasping, desperate need. But I didn’t realize how much despair lived on in me. Marlene, I discovered the truth about myself…and I’m lost.

Marlene: No, you’re not. Creeping 3

Christian: I am. You’re not. But I am. My soul is a yawning pit of quivering tar and it wants to wallow in all that misery, that dank fear. It’s here for me. Not for you. It tricked me. Can’t you feel it…there at the door!

(The Creeper draws closer and closer to the two of them.)

Marlene: Yes. Yes, I can.

Christian: But, mother…

Marlene: What?

(Christian and The Creeper lock eyes. They move towards each other.)

Christian: I think it’s going to be okay. Maybe…just maybe…in time, it’ll suck everything away…coat my synapses with its sticky webs of neediness…and maybe, just maybe…when I’m tucked somewhere in its yawning grasp, I will finally…finally be able to forget. Wouldn’t that be good?

Marlene: What? What, Chris?

Chris: To let all of this go – to be finally able to forget.

(The Creeper reaches his hands out to Christian, beckoning. Christian nods and moves toward him as Marlene, helplessly, watches. The lights go black.)

The Creeping by Brian Kirst premiered at The UWWFest at The Goodman Theatre, in Chicago, on October 27th, 2018. Director: Davette Franklin. Marlene: Kathryn Berghoff.  Christian: Shane Malecha. The Creeper: Jade Lun.

Creeping 1.jpg

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

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Great Performances: Linnea Quigley in Night of the Demons

Published October 6, 2017 by biggayhorrorfan

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linnea night

All horror fans bemoan the lack of respect that their favorite performers receive in the world at large. For every Frederic March (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), Kathy Bates (Misery) and Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs), there are hundreds of wonderful performances overlooked.

What is even more amazing is when one of these incisive portrayals comes from an unexpected place. One may expect a lot of fun and vibrant energy emanating from the young actors in Kevin S. Tenney’s beloved original Night of the Demons, but for the sharp eyed, the legendary Linnea Quigley actually gives a masterful, dual toned performance as the flirty Suzanne here.

Quigley, in her mid-twenties at the time of her casting, has admitted to feeling uncomfortable with playing another teenager – especially as she was surrounded by cast mates that were barely out of high school themselves. But in this tale of a group of friends encountering demonic mayhem at a Halloween party, Quigley delivers with confidence and a surprising duality. In fact, her reluctance in playing another stereotypical sexpot actually gives her work here an almost Meta quality.

She hits all the right comic notes, for sure. Her flirtatious dialogue is delivered with aplomb. But her heightened real life awareness also brings a sense of commentary to her work. She does everything the role requires while giving it a wink. She seems to know that her lines are ridiculously sexual and that, while her character is the ultimate, over-the-top male fantasy, she is not buying into herself. Thus, she almost delivers a dialogue on the predictability of the role while staying true to it, as well. It’s a remarkable feat and one she, seemingly, accomplished unknowingly. She simply followed the mark of her true instinct and natural artistry.

Nicely, those in Chicago will be able to experience this phenomenon on the big screen on Friday, October 6th. Quigley, herself, will be present for a showing of the film at the Davis Theatre in Lincoln Square at midnight. More information on the free event is available at https://www.facebook.com/events/1418103908296624.

Naturally, I hope to see you there…and until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE,

Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Vincent Price and Pride

Published June 23, 2017 by biggayhorrorfan

vincent price

Its Pride Week here in Chicago and my mind keeps going back to Vincent Price.

On a press tour a couple of years ago, his daughter Victoria told reporters that she was certain that this macabre matinee idol had sexual relationships with both men and women. Honestly, it’s not something I really care about one way or other. But anytime an icon of horror is put in proximity with the queer community, there is reason to celebrate. The terror crowd, by and large, is still a very straight and, even more surprisingly, an often right wing one. More than anything, though, it is a silent one.

This makes me love Vincent Price even more. Not because of his bedroom proclivities, but because, even in an era when it was much more dangerous to do so, he spoke out. In that (fairly recent) round of press statements, the thing his daughter stressed more than any romantic suppositions was that Price was a true activist for the LGBTQA community. He spoke out against Anita Bryant’s anti-gay platforms in the ‘70s. He joined PFLAG as an honorary member and did an AIDS PSA in the ‘80s.

 

Vincent Price Oscar Wilde

Price as Oscar Wilde

This makes me sad about some of the people I know (and don’t know), though. A few years ago, I was asked to write for a site, but was told that they didn’t do “gay” content. This, in essence, meant that I was supposed to take a straight white perspective when composing for them. What the person who contacted me didn’t realize was that, even with news items and film reviews, he was reacting to them with his own learned insights and background and interests. Of course, that was the style I was supposed to adopt. He thought it was a neutral one. It isn’t. How could it be? He will always react to things the way a straight male would. A Latinx woman will react to them another way. A transgender person, meanwhile, will focus on another aspect of the same story. As will I.

That was more about quieting my true voice, though. What concerns me here is that, as rights are threatened more and more by the current powers-that-be, I still have ‘friends’ in fright circles that look at me and tell that they are “fiscally conservative, but socially liberal”. They say they will speak out when the time comes. Instead, I see them sharing news items from Breitbart that mock celebrities for speaking out on social justice issues. Breitbart, by the way, is run by Stephen Bannon, a man who would like to obliterate me (and so many others I know) from the planet. So…thanks!

But they are giving a nod to something, at least. There are others who say nothing, at all. Perhaps, they believe human rights are politics and that where one stands on that side of the curtain is a private affair. Maybe they are afraid. Maybe they have become resigned and wearily complacent like me. I couldn’t tell you the last time that I picked up the phone to protest something to some senator or public official. But 40 years ago, Vincent Price, a hero for many of us, wasn’t scared or tentative or let his thoughts grow muted. He got down in the trenches with the underdogs and stood proud. Let’s hope that his truly distinctive voice raised, all those years ago, can bring others out into the open now. Let’s hope it can reawaken mine. We need it.

Feed That Frankenstein: Goldengirl

Published March 10, 2017 by biggayhorrorfan

goldengirl

(Feed That Frankenstein focuses on the many pictures that use variants on the themes that the underappreciated Mary Shelley began writing about all those thunderstruck evenings ago.)

Estimating that the evilest of scientists are from a European descent, the creators of Goldengirl naturally went full Neo-Nazi with Curt Jurgens’ experimenting Dr. Serafin. Or did they?

Focusing on the Olympic ascension of the magnificent Goldine (Susan Anton), Serafin’s stepdaughter, this 1979 science fiction piece replaces Mary Shelley’s elegantly stitched together monster with a sporty, statuesque blonde. Of course, being beautiful is a curse here. Goldine is treated to electroshock therapy to increase her speed and those pesky injections (administered by her father) may increase her stature and stamina, but they also leave her diabetic and predisposed to a twisted, violent streak. Meanwhile, a series of backers wanting a payoff means that she has to achieve an unheard of three gold medals in track and field. Add in the fact that her fledgling romance with legendary sports agent Jack Dryden (James Coburn) appears as if it will never get past the tentative stage…and a girl could just go completely bonkers! original_goldengirl2

…and she does…a little bit. Goldine subjugates Jack to a bit of humiliation, here and there, and she has a diva meltdown on a fellow Olympian, but there are no huge monstrous altercations in this fun celluloid jumble. Instead, the powers-that-be decide to concentrate on the almost nonexistent romantic elements of the plotline. Thus, revealing, at the fadeout, that the worst thing that can happen to a chemically and socially manipulated femme fatale is… heartbreak.

The lack of oomph in the production is most likely attributed to the fact that the producers had a change of heart during its troubled genesis. All original allegations of Dr. Serafin’s master plan and deviant ties to the Third Reich were stripped from the narrative. Instead he is portrayed as a flawed (and slightly crazed) humanist who wants to increase the possibilities of the biological form.  Therefore, a whistle blowing associate, played by the always intriguing Jessica Walter, is totally cut from the proceedings. (Although, she is briefly glimpsed in a scene in which Goldine’s benefactors first arrive to check out their potential client.)It’s a strange move that leaves the film in a never world. It’s a bit sports movie and a bit Jekyll and Hyde monster flick. There are glimpses of a science fiction thriller and a smidge of tepid May-December romance. All in all, it’s a gelatin take on celluloid intrigue – slightly shimmering with nothing too caloric to stick to the viewer’s senses at the end mark.

goldengirlinsertAnton, meanwhile, in her major motion picture debut, does her damnedest to register assuredly. She manages it at times, always appearing physically magnificent, but sometimes the pure awkwardness of the setups causes her to strain a bit unconvincingly. She might have been helped a bit if she had been paired against someone other than Coburn. Always a master of low key manliness, he is just too cool a cucumber to truly sell the more seductive elements of the plot.

Still, this hodge podge affair has its charms. Particularly, it is nice to experience a feminine focus point in a variation on a narrative that Mary Shelley, a young woman herself, created all those many dark and stormy nights ago.

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

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Viewing with Father Lou

Published August 20, 2016 by biggayhorrorfan

Priest

“Be faithful to me tonight,” he cooed, prettily, wrapping himself around my leg as I tried to retain my concentration on Traci Lords and her notoriously notable, legitimate acting debut in the remake of Not of This Earth.

It was the spring of 1988. I was home, on a quick break from college, and the “he” in question was my first horror movie buddy. He had a tendency to annoy me with such requests, over the years, as we watched such outrageous fare as Bloodsucking Freaks, Creepers and Friday the 13th, Part 4 together. I knew him as Father Lou and I think, despite our family’s closeness to him, that is what I always referred to him by. I can’t ever remember just calling him “Lou”. Due to my dad’s insistence, he gained a position as “favorite family uncle” during the latter part of my freshman year of high school. My father, a determined social achiever who was running a huge school district by the end of his career, was hot to make his way into the upper reaches of our local parish and a friendship with the new priest was a sure way to do it.

Father Lou endeared himself to us all, though, with his outrageous wit and sense of fun and cookie jars full of peanut M and M’s and red licorice. Most importantly, he embraced my love of all things terror related, something my parents thought made me a bit mentally unbalanced, and we were soon trading paperback novels with each other and, excitedly, rhapsodizing over our favorite films. While he made inappropriate comments, here or there, in my early teen years, it was once I hit 17 and he began to suspect that my friendships with other men in summer stock companies and various theater programs might be sexual in nature, that his efforts to seduce me tripled.

Once or twice, I would give in.

Questionable teen hormones and pure frustration allowed me to grant him a quick rendezvous or two in which his smooth rotund stomach and firm yet stubby penis were the primary participants. Both times, he would weakly ejaculate before I even had to touch him and he would quickly pull up his impossibly large tighty whities and run upstairs to clean up before my parents arrived to indulge in church gossip with him or just to simply visit.

Honestly, I’ve never quite known where to place him on my personal sexual registry. Inappropriateness aside, I was already 18 and in my final year of high school by the time, worn down from repeated advances, I allowed him a first, furtive dalliance. In many ways, I suppose my experiences with him are akin to the relations that I had with various men that I slept with, out of last call desperation, in my younger days in the city.  He’s just another example of bad, instantly regrettable sex – a bizarre and off color story of my youth. He haunts me only in these dusty nostalgic ramblings or in those midnight hours as I bike the city streets, worn out from a work shift at the rib joint, and recollections, distant at first and then furtively prying, such as this overtake me. Otherwise, therapy and distance have reduced his foothold in my life, long ago.CREEPERS

More than anything, as a fully fledged cine-maniac, what I am most thankful for, I realize as I devise this, is that these woeful encounters did not color my love for the films we viewed. Many of  them were indicative of the more sordid excesses of the genre – making the fact that my first viewing of them was with him all the more interesting, I suppose – and I still revel in that juicy freedom. Talk to an ardent fan of any type of media and oftentimes who they were with and the positivity that surrounded said creation are highly indicative of their devotion to it. Here, I am glad that sometimes celluloid itself is enough. That art, in whatever form it may arrive in, does indeed prevail.

I still adore Creepers (and Phenomena, its more legitimate rendering). It was my introduction to Italian horror cinema just as Bloodsucking Freaks was my first, very uncomfortable witnessing of an extreme form of grindhouse cinema. Both were bold and unconventional, aspects that I have wished for in my own life. These characteristics have, naturally, informed me more than anything else and I am fortified in the knowledge that they peek through at the most appropriate moments. Most especially, I hope, when recounting moments like this.

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

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Clemency for David Barren

Published May 14, 2016 by biggayhorrorfan

david

Truth: One of my biggest fears is the thought of being locked up in prison for something I didn’t do or for some unimaginably minor offense.

Therefore, I just had to sign the petition for clemency for David Barren, a man given life for a drug conspiracy charge. If you’re someone else who feels a bit of a twinge whenever a cop car slows down in your vicinity or feels compelled towards simple human justice, you might want to take a look at the petition and sign it, yourself.

https://www.change.org/p/president-barack-obama-clemency-for-david-m-barren-serving-life-without-parole-for-a-non-violent-drug-offense

Thanks in advance, and as always, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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The Cowardice of Bullying

Published June 19, 2015 by biggayhorrorfan

bullyingWow.

So, I know with the name and my slavish fan boy enthusiasm that I put myself out there for criticism. I’ve had comments on my video interviews that have ranged from the homophobic to the simply bizarre. One recent statement, disbelievingly, referred to me as “a real 3 dollar bill”. U-m-m…no shit!

The Backside of Horror, my look at male nudity in terror was even, recently, called out as the reason that “horror fans get a bad name”. That one I can even understand…but even when I can’t, I just roll with it.

Yesterday, on my personal Facebook page, I gave a quick shout out for an upcoming film event that I am a part of. It involves the appearance of one of my favorite horror queens, whose bio I, enthusiastically, laid out in the announcement.

The post.

The post.

This morning, I woke up to a burst of scatter shot private messages from an individual who had “friended” me three years ago. We’ve had no contact since. Basically, he linguistically gutted me for being nothing more than a wanna-be fan boy and stated, in a variety of ways, that I was living a worthless life. He then blocked me and/or disappeared from Facebook altogether, mooting any chance I had of a response. Not that I would have…

…but it did get me to thinking. What remains with me the most about this experience is the total and complete cowardice of those who bully. This guy, basically, slammed me in the back of the head with a grapheme hammer and then ran off with his tail, tucked firmly, between his legs. I am sure that he is feeling very bold and self righteous and powerful – if not a little crazy – right now but, in reality, he is the complete opposite.

H-m-m…I guess it’s a good thing that I am a white faggot writing about genre movies and not a black Christian right now, huh?

Before you all throw up your arms, I know this is a small, small thing compared to the tragedy that took place in Charleston yesterday. In fact, it’s not comparable.

But, I do truly believe that this is where the germ of such terrible, true life horrors begins.

Let’s stop this now.

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

http://www.facebook.com/biggayhorrorfan