Some people may appreciate 1978’s The Boys from Brazilfor its mad scientist Frankenstein-ian themes. Those who feel revulsion for the Three Men and a Baby films may enjoy this dark conspiratorial yarn for its swift deposal of Steve Guttenberg’s nosy do-gooder in the opening sequence. Musical theater buffs meanwhile might dive into this horror hybrid because one of its main themes, We’re Home Again, was sung by Elaine Paige, one of the multi-talented, undisputed queens of the ever glittering boards.
Paige has won countless awards for her work on shows like Evita, Cats and Anything Goes. Along with Barbara Dickson, she also introduced the pop world to I Know Him So Well, a powerhouse duet from Chess, co-written by Tim Rice and Abba’s Benny Andersson & Bjorn Ulvaeus.
I sometimes forget who I’m talking to in the middle of a conversation. U-m-m…sorry, mom!
Thankfully, Keegan Dark, the enigmatic hero of Jody Wheeler’s recent thriller The Dark Place, doesn’t have that problem. His ability to conjure up images of his life, within the texture of video-like flashbacks, helps save him when his mother mysteriously falls into a coma and he, ultimately, becomes the primary suspect.
Wheeler’s script, here, reads like a Lifetime Television mystery (which isn’t a bad thing in my book) only with a handsome male as the primary focus as opposed to a woman. He provides some nice twists and, as a director, he keeps events moving at a snappy pace, as well.
The production, also, benefits immensely from the presence of Blaise Embry as Keegan. Embry engages even in Keegan’s more petulant moments and he allows a subtle layer of subdued hurt to emerge in the film’s quieter sequences, as well. Fine assistance appears in the forms of Timo Descamps and Shannon Day as Keegan’s boyfriend Will and his estranged mother Celeste, too. Those portraying the characters with (possibly) more mysterious agendas are fine, as well, if somewhat lacking in the necessary edge to make their more sinister actions totally believable.
Still, for those who are tired of gay thrillers that revolve around issues of hatred and oppression (such as 2005’s fine Hate Crime and 2011’s luridly fun Into the Lion’s Den), The Dark Place is an intriguing, sometimes very imaginative place to visit.
Formula is good for babies and genre fans, but eventually we all outgrow it. While, current (very successful) cheese fest The Boy Next Door does offer some nice reverse fetishism with hunky Ryan Guzman being the prime target of the film’s voyeuristic gaze, it also provides an expected trope (along with its deliriously fun plot holes and frequently unbelievable circumstances) that probably needs to change. Like many thrillers before it, including such offerings as The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, The Juror and this fall’s No Good Deed, Claire, the beleaguered heroine of The Boy Next Door, has a sassy best friend (spoiler alert!) who meets an unfortunate end at the hands of the film’s twisted villain. Here, just like the ladies in the previous flicks, this friend, a high school vice principal played with sarcastic warmth by Kristin Chenoweth, is successful, highly sexual and single. Just like the heroines in the other features, this is the complete opposite of Claire (Jennifer Lopez), a mother whom, despite expected flaws and one questionable mistake, is truly struggling to come to grips with her seemingly shattered family life. While this devise does have some practical purposes, including presenting an extreme sense of emotional resolve for the primary victim, one has to wonder what kind of picture this actually paints. A moment’s contemplation produces the thought that the creators of these vehicles, whether intentionally or unintentionally, are telling us that any woman who doesn’t want a traditional family unit, who wants to thoroughly explore her sexuality and thumb her nose at the patriarchy by having a profitable career, deserves to die. This notion comes off as especially grievous in the case of Someone’s Watching Me, a 1978 John Carpenter directed television film, in which the wise cracking bestie is, also, a lesbian, played with forthright dignity by genre icon Adrienne Barbeau. (Interestingly, Guzman’s habitual nakedness along with the combined presences of Chenoweth, an acclaimed Broadway performer, and Lopez, a fashion icon and diva with multiple club hits, seemingly nods in the direction of The Boy Next Door achieving a healthy gay following, something the producers, in a progressive moment, must have seemingly intended.) Granted, when all is said and done, the murder of the vibrant companion is such an established element now, that some audience members may feel let down if it doesn’t occur. But, in all honesty, it couldn’t be too hard to change the demographics of said character to something less predictable and less, dare I say it, offensive. Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan! http://www.facebook.com/biggayhorrorfan