LGBTQ

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Adam E. Hoak and Jose Nateras: The Gay Appeal of Suspiria

Published November 2, 2018 by biggayhorrorfan

 

 

Dario Argento’s superior Italian horror Suspiria has long held a fascination for the LGBTQ community. With Luca Guadagnino’s reimagining currently hitting the theaters, I decided to ask Adam E. Hoak and Jose Nateras, two of my favorite Chicago actors (and enthusiastic horror buffs) to chat with me about their love for the film, their thoughts on why they think it resonates so deeply within our gay culture and their hopes for this new take on it. Interestingly, both of these talented performers are appearing in genre style shows (based on important works of literature) at the moment. Nateras is currently flaunting some spooky excellence in Remy Bumppo’s adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein while Hoak is applying his beautiful voice to Saint Sebastian Players’ take on The Mystery of Edwin Drood, a musical inspired by the book written by Charles Dickens.

Adam, can you recall the first time that you saw the original Suspiria?

Adam E. Hoak: In the early 00’s I worked in media resources at my undergraduate campus library. Fortunately for me, we had a crazy good selection of VHS and a small but mighty nascent DVD collection. Both had a nice smattering of films I had only heard of but never seen, including Suspiria. I remember being immediately dazed by the colors and the score, like Argento and Goblin just threw me in the deep end. The sheer opulence of the film was (and remains) stunning to me, and I think that has a lot to do with my appreciation of it. Suspiria is horror in drag: lush and loud; gaudy and gorgeous, things my burgeoning baby-gay found intrinsic to my newfound queerness.

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Nice. I love how these films can inform and help define us. Have you always been a horror fan, Jose?

Jose Nateras: I’ve been a horror fan for as long as I can remember. Even before I actually was old enough to watch scary things I was drawn to the genre, lingering in the horror aisle of The Blockbuster or Hollywood Video. A lot of time and thought has been spent on why the queer community is so often drawn to horror films. Maybe it’s because so much of our early, closeted lives were spent in fear: of being outed, of being rejected, of being alone, of being different, of… so many things.  But horror is so much more than that too. Not only does it take fear and make it a shareable and enjoyable experience, it takes the fearful and the grotesque and the horrifying and turns it into something beautiful and glamorous. It can be sexy, campy, gory, but as a genre that is so much more nuanced and diverse in form than it gets credit for, horror has always been about pushing boundaries and confronting (for better or worse) those things and people on the outside of the social norm– the often feared and vilified Other, the outsider — in such a way, that even if that Othered Force is the monster/villain/bad guy, horror at least confronts and directly grapples with that Force’s existence. It allows that Force, and those of us who came up feeling marginalized, to be seen as opposed to ignoring us; as in most other genres, forms of media, and arenas of society, which would usually prefer to pretend we don’t exist.

Argento seems definitely straight, but he has to have some queer sensibility – especially visually.

AH: Seriously, the wallpaper alone in this film still makes my gay little heart skip a beat! Throw in ballet, witches, Udo Kier (known to me at the time as “the guy” from Madonna’s Deeper and Deeper video), the allure of the faded Hollywood icon, Joan Bennett, and Alida Valli as the elegantly butch Miss Tanner and it’s a smorgasbord of queerness.Alida Joan Suspiria

JN:  If you’re talking about horror film and cinema, you can’t not talk about Dario Argento! His jaw-dropping use of color and imagery, surreal, grotesque, and beautiful all at once, the inspired score by Goblin, all came together to make Suspiria a dreamily unsettling movie with enough squirm inducing deaths and vividly colored splashes of blood to earn it a place in the cannon of horror masterpieces. The deeply 70’s Euro aesthetic makes it sexily nostalgic for viewers in much the same way viewing porn of a certain era might. Like many horror movies of the time, Suspiria offers a Final Girl/Strong Female Protagonist in the form of Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper). Yet instead of fighting for her life against a homicidal man in a mask, Suzy finds herself the center of attention of a deadly coven of witches, established within the confines of a prestigious ballet academy. Ballet, witches, strong women, all of it is perfectly suited to the taste of any queer cinemaphile, especially if they happen to be horror fans.

Agreed! What are you two hoping for with this new version?

JN: Though to some, it might seem counter intuitive to have Luca Guadagnino directing the highly anticipated remake, especially considering his previous work includes films like Call Me By Your Name and I Am Love, in reality, Guadagnino just might be the perfect fit. Call Me By Your Name had sexy-Euro-nostalgia-style in spades and his work is consistently visually striking and equally dreamy, often alluding to the surreal while tapping into richly grounded sensory imagery. Imagine what such an expert skill set might do when deployed in a horror film context as opposed to that of a sensual romance. With the iconic Tilda Swinton (a frequent Guadagnino collaborator) bringing her brand of androgynous, otherworldly, and simultaneously beautiful and intimidating talents to the film, it’s hard to think of a re-make with more potential. If the early buzz, teaser images, and trailer are any indicator; fans of the original, of the genre at large, and film buffs of all sorts are sure to find something to love or at least talk about when Suspiria comes out later this month. As ever, though, the queer community is sure to be watching with the sort of context, appreciation, and finely tuned meter for subtext to have plenty to unpack in a remake of something so dear to so many of our hearts.

dakota-johnson-suspiria-500x332AH: As for the new version, I’m certainly looking forward to Tilda and perhaps a smidge more plot. Also for a film set in a famed dance academy, the original kind of half-asses any on-screen dancing, so I’ve got high hopes for the new choreography based on the trailer.

Well, I always like to leave ‘em with high hopes! So, thanks, gents! Everyone else be sure to check out Jose in Frankenstein (www.remybumppo.org) running until November 17th and Adam in Drood (www.saintsebastionplayers.org), running until November 18th – both in Chicago proper.

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

www.facebook.com/biggayhorrorfan

Mystery of Edwin Drood

 

 

Review: Wicked Enigma

Published September 21, 2018 by biggayhorrorfan

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Move over, Riverdale! The sexy cast of Wicked Enigma is ready to take your place. 

Big words, perhaps, but this LGBTQ friendly project, revolving around the gothic, soap strewn craziness that ensues after a tragic onset accident, is full of attractive, well cast people doing their devious best to stay alive….very much like a certain, very popular CW show.

Nicely, queer fans are sure to thrill to the complicated romance of Max (Terrence Edmonds), an out and proud cinematic genius in the making, and Austin (Andrew Etzel), a well known yet extremely closeted actor. Edmonds and Etzel provide nice layers to their characterizations, aligning themselves, sympathetically, with the audience. But directors Edmonds and Jake Doull work wonders with all of the performers, particularly with Charlotte Evelyn Williams, who shines with vibrant defiance as the rejected Sasha, making the first episode a true pleasure to view.

When you’re through, you can keep exploring the wild mysteries of Wicked Enigma at http://www.WickedEnigma.com,  https://www.instagram.com/wickedenigm, https://www.facebook.com/WickedEnigmatv/ and https://twitter.com/WickedEnigmatv, as well.

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

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Book Review: Blood Cruise

Published August 31, 2018 by biggayhorrorfan

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The forbidden thrill of being a small town 14 year old diving into epic novels like Stephen King’s The Shining and Salem’s Lot can never be replicated. But floating through Mats Strandberg’s Blood Cruise, as an adult, definitely brings back a wonderful sense memory of those exciting, long ago afternoons.

While, joyfully, reveling in the visceral antics of grand horror fiction, this fine book also offers up an intricate look at the emotional lives of a wide variety of vacationers whose quick boat trip in Sweden turns into an odyssey of terror. Nicely, many of these individuals are relatable to queer terror lovers who often feel like they are left on the outside of both mainstream and alternative culture.

The proceedings begin with an introduction to Marianne, a still attractive senior citizen who feels as if life has passed her by. Readers will definitely feel for her as she is courted by a charming rogue and recognize all the insecurities and fears that she experiences as she begins to open up her heart and live again.

Nicely, another primary focus here is Calle, a former employee of the cruise line on which all the action occurs. His marriage proposal to his handsome boyfriend gone awry, this despondent romantic soon finds himself in charge of a couple of frantic pre-teens and eventually discovers the hero that resides deep within him.

Throughout, while rotating a dozen or so primary characters and various plotlines, Strandberg skillfully paints a true picture of life’s often harsh complexities. Here frazzled family dynamics, self image issues, rivalries and bitter regrets color in the personalities of all his characters. It is not always a pretty picture, but it is an accurate one …and as some of each reader’s favorite participants are bound to meet their deaths in a variety of unpleasant ways, it nicely binds the characters to us, making their ends all the more tragic. As all well rounded creative types do, Strandberg even paints in some nice emotional layers to his toothy, vengeful villains, granting them have a degree of sympathy, as well.

The most enjoyable thing here, perhaps, though is discovering the ways in which beloved individuals orbit into each other’s stories. Equally as fun, are those moments when one realizes that one personality’s point of view about themselves is often very different from those that encounter him or her.  These instances emphasize Strandberg’s talent for weaving not only a multi-faceted story but for inventing believable characters, as well.

A top ten seller across Europe, Blood Cruise, is available for purchase on www.amazon.com. Strandberg, whose book The Circle was turned into a hit movie by ABBA founder Benny Andersson, can be located on Instagram and Twitter @matsstranberg_ and online at www.matsstrandberg.se.

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

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In Remembrance: Stevie Dismie

Published August 20, 2018 by biggayhorrorfan

 

Stevie

When someone dies…especially when they leave this plane of existence far too soon, it is always a reminder to live life more boldly, to strive harder to find a way across our insecurities and connect with the world at large more. It’s a reminder that our regrets, should we choose to have them, should be for the failure of things that we’ve attempted and not for the things that we were too scared to even contemplate doing.

I didn’t know Stevie Dismie well. But I have a feeling that is what he would want us to do in the wake of his passing. Dismie, one of the sassy, fun forces behind the original Comic Book Queers Podcast, lost his battle with cancer on August 16th, 2018 and the world of fandom now is lacking an alternative force of nature.

Thankfully, Dismie, who also hosted many events in Chicago celebrating the queer connection to the superhero universe, will always have a legacy as one of the important voices in helping the world realize that the LGBTQ community was invaluable to the world of geekdom. With that in mind, let’s vow to laugh a bit more, live a bit more fearlessly and, of course, read some more damn graphic novels already!

May his double page spread float on forever.

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

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(Special thanks to Dismie’s dear friend Lindsay Silk-Kremenak…who provided the slightly pilfered image. I feel it probably captured his essence really nicely.)

The Queer Power of Alien: Covenant

Published May 29, 2017 by biggayhorrorfan

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The slithering, orifice bursting monster babies of Alien: Covenant definitely rate high on my gore pleasure meter. But I will be viewing Ridley Scott’s second prequel to (his original masterpiece) Alien in the theater again for another reason: its strong queer pedigree.

Scripted by the openly gay John Logan, Covenant also features Empire’s sexually fluid Jussie Smollett as a decidedly straight crew member and two married male characters among its many hardy and adventurous potential victims.

Granted, it would be nice if the relationship between Demián Bichir’s Sergeant Lope and Nathaniel Dean’s Sergeant Hallett was more fully explored. Their true feelings for each other only surface during an intense crisis and, stylistically, their relationship feels dictated more by contemporary ease than as being a true part of the Alien universe. No LGBTQ relationships were presented in the original films and as this is a precursor to those stories, it makes it odd that the other films don’t have queer partnerships, the strong Sapphic following of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, this classic series’ toned and powerful heroine, aside.  

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Still, the success of this relationship with viewers might make strides in compelling Hollywood executives to feature more homosexual bad asses in their action and terror outings and assure that they will continue to cast actors like Smolett, who have admitted their physical attraction to other men, a chance to play more than fey best friends and harried wedding planners.

Naturally, I am willing to concede that this is nothing more than wispy, celluloid pipe dream. But I am going to apply my hard earned dollars, another time or two, in the generous hope that it is not.

I hope you will join me!

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

www.facebook.com/biggayhorrorfan

 

Review: Deviance

Published March 31, 2017 by biggayhorrorfan

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Deviance is probably not the gay themed horror film that the community wants right now. With our liberties in danger and the powers-that-be convinced that we are less than deserving of normal rights, a movie about a queer hustler and a possible homosexual serial killer is probably not the shining beacon of positivity that activists are looking for. Even in ordinary circumstances, writer-director James Hennigan’s dark look at perverted lust and unsavory life choices may have earned a raised glance or two. But art is not supposed to be politically correct or follow conscionable trends. Thus, this is an often brave and revealing piece of celluloid.

High school student Connor (Hennigan) is living with his drunk, abusive father (Greg Thompson) and his concerned sister (Tracey Allyn). When he is caught kissing another boy, he is thrown out of the house and takes to the streets. Meanwhile, the shy, sheltered Milton (Tim Torre) is under the sway of his extremely religious mother (Melissa B. Robinson). His obsession with a handsome jock soon takes a twisted turn, though, and, as a result, his family life is completely blown apart. Years later, Milton is still struggling with his violent impulses while Connor’s continued reliance on prostitution to make ends meet collides with a moment of murderous rage, as well. The two outsiders are eventually drawn together and, as the movie races to a close, only one may make it out alive.

Deviance-mainFilled with strong performances and a look at homosexual sensuality that owes much to the grisly novels of alternative queer icon Dennis Cooper, Deviance also deals honestly with how bad parenting and the extreme tenets of hypocritical faith can destroy the souls of the young, no matter their orientation. Hennigan, Thompson, Allyn and Robinson shine in their various scenes, committing fully to their roles, whether sympathetic or not. But this is Torre’s show. He physically embodies all the awkwardness of Milton’s desires with a concise neediness and skilled precision. It’s a powerful, multi-leveled performance.

Hennigan, meanwhile, directs with a taut understanding of his two troubled protagonists. In a minor misstep, has take on the surprise ending is more in keeping with the slasher motif and seems at odds with the film’s layered and dramatic tension. But, if it means more films with Torre as Milton, then it is a forgivable offense. It is about time that we have a gay monster to march up the body strewn paths previously occupied by Michael, Freddy and Jason and this character just may be the one to do it.

Deviance is available for viewing on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Deviance-Tim-Torre/dp/B06WP55DN5

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

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Spotlight: Christina Koenig, Filmmaker

Published February 16, 2017 by biggayhorrorfan

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As an indie filmmaker you’ve got to be inventive. As evidenced by You’re Not Here Now, her starkly effective horror short, transgender writer/director/actress Christina Koenig is truly running high on inspiration. Simple yet haunting, this piece features a nice representation of solitary terror and a truly formidable sense of (increasingly desperate) time and space, as well. Visually, the colors’ pop, and fans of The Twilight Zone, especially the more apocalyptic episodes, should find much to enjoy here, as well.

Koenig is, currently, working on her follow-up production, Deviance. More information on that (sure to be interesting) project is available at: https://www.facebook.com/DevianceOfficiaHorrorMovieMN/.

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

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