Year in Queer Fear
It just occurred to me: 2004 was a shitty
year for horror movies. Despite much-hyped sequels and remakes and
a bumper crop of sure-fire “underappreciated independents”,
the horror films of 2004 are overall a stinky lot. A few of the
sobering realities that I was able to glean from this year’s
Trend #1: Action-Horror Hybrids Van Helsing, Dawn of the Dead,
and Resident Evil: Apocalypse are but three of
a burgeoning trend of “action horror” films that threaten
to reduce us all to quivering mush and destroy the horror genre
forever. Simultaneously vacuous and ear-splitting, these films take
horror genre clichés and imagery and plug them into the smash-cut,
explosion-ridden world of action films. The result is, as one review
of Van Helsing put it, “shriekingly boring.” Please
make them stop.
Lining #1: Nekkid Mens
One unintended side-effect of the action-horror trend is strapping
horror heroes: since the roles are physically more challenging,
the men are buffer and beefier than usual (the men of Anacondas
and Dawn of the Dead could kick the asses of the
Final Boys of the slasher genre, hands-down). And luckily, in classic
action-film tradition, these men end up sleeveless, shirtless, and
even downright nekkid (thank you, I, Robot) to
display the powerful physiques of our protagonists. Yay, beef!
Trend #2: Horror Comedies
Again, the venerable tenets of our beloved genre are being sprinkled
on non-horror films like so much Fruit Fresh, in an attempt to liven
up what would otherwise be a lame comedy. This trend, likely continued
fallout from Scream (a half-satire) and Scary
Movie (a satire of a half-satire), has resulted in dreck
like Seed of Chucky, Satan’s Little
Helper, and Club Dread, films which fail
as both comedies and horror films because of this ill-advised marriage
of forms (in other words, Horror is not the chocolate in Comedy’s
Lining #2: The British
2004 did offer one solid horror-comedy that actually managed to
work as a comedy and throw a few decent bones to the gorehounds
as well: Shaun of the Dead. Considering the recent
adeptness of the United Kingdomers in aligning horror elements with
other genres (28 Days Later, My Little Eye), my
little eye is on the kids across the pond to make this particular
combo work (if anyone does, that is).
Trend #3: Gay Horror Movies
Yes, I know – fuck me. But although 2004 showed the first
wave of a real trend of horror films that feature openly gay characters
and situations, they all missed the mark. I’m hoping that
it’s the burden of being among the first that has resulted
in such uninteresting gay horror flicks (Hard,
Make a Wish), and that maybe when the gayness of
the characters isn’t the only selling point, we can get back
to making decent, scary films. At this point, Will and Grace
is infinitely more frightening.
Lining #3: YOUR NAME HERE
Hey – there’s plenty of room for gay horror flicks and
there’s certainly an audience, so my money says that someone,
somewhere will be coming out with a good, scary, entertaining queer
horror movie before too long. Baby steps, people. Baby steps...
just about sums it up, doesn't it?
(Courtesy of someone with far better Photoshop skills than I have)
Anaconda don't want none unless he's got guns, hon...
(Johnny Messner, Peephole's Choice for Horror Hottie of
the Year, in Anacondas)
What would Ruthie say?!
(Jessica Biel, Peephole's Choice for Horror Hoochie of the
Year, in very little)
Eli Roth, living out a personal fantasy of mine
(and thrilled to have won the Eli Roth Award for Disparate
Ratio of Exposure to Talent)
Peephole's Choice Awards
honored to be able to provide what is, to my knowledge, the
first and only series of horror movie awards granted by the
gay viewing public. Thanks to the contributions of people
all over the world (they have horror films in Germany?!?!?),
we've got a decent indication of what the homo horror community
found to their liking this year. Drum-machine roll, please...
Horror Movie of 2004
Shaun of the Dead
Runner-Up: Open Water
Horror Movie of 2004
Runner-Up: Landslide victory -- congrats, Van.
Sequel of 2004
Exorcist: The Beginning
Runner-Up: Another Landslide. Hey Renny -- how 'bout Cutthroat
Island: The Beginning?
Hottie of the Year
Johnny Messner (Anacondas)
Runner-Up: Ryan Reynolds
Hoochie of the Year
Jessica Biel (Blade: Trinity)
Runner-Up: Milla Jovovich
Homo of the Year
Alan Rowe Kelly (director/star, I'll Bury
Runner-Up: Alan won by a huge landslide. I didn't know there
were that many people in New Jersey!
Roth Award for Disparate Ratio of Exposure to Talent
What are the chances?! Next thing you know, Lou Gehrig
will get Lou Gehrig's Disease! What? Oh...
Moment in Horror for 2004
This one was a mixed-bag, and a fun one at that. There were
several votes for Blade: Trinity (one reader
recounted a fag-filled screening where the entire audience
went "Mmm-mmm-mmm" when Ryan Reynolds flashed his
bush), and one inspired reader just sent me a link to an enormous
poster for The Phantom of the Opera. Someone
even voted for The Olympics -- they were
either drunk or genius beyond my range of comprehension. But
the winning entry was Paul Etheredge's homo
slasher Hellbent, which seemed to grab the
hearts of sissies around the world (folks wrote in about enjoying
the film at Cologne, OutFest, and others).
the award goes to... Hellbent (a festival favorite by Paul Etheredge)
thanks to all of you who wrote in -- your accolades will no
doubt be cherished by their lucky recipients like so many
Razzies or Spam emails offering great deals on knockoff Rolexes
and cheap painkillers. Actually, probably less than the painkillers.
winners of the prizes are:
Jones: for the inspired, wordless Phantom
of the Opera poster submission, you will receive
a CampBlood.org t-shirt and something from
under my couch (hopefully not a cat).
G.: a random drawing winner, although I feel completely
comfortable sending swag to anyone who uses the term "pickle
shot" in their ballot (in reference to Ryan Reynolds).
Juan will receive a t-shirt and a set of stickers.
My Little Eye
Horror Film of 2004
(Wide Release) Open Water (review)
A deeply unsettling and meticulously-crafted “existential
horror film,” Chris Kentis and Laura
Lau’s yuppies-in-the-water opus Open
Water achieved more genuine dread and 4-feet-off-your-seat
jump-scares than all the other horror releases of the year
combined. Kentis and stars Daniel Travis
and Blanchard Ryan set out and proved what
most filmmakers merely recite: it’s all about character.
Through a deceptively simple story about how a miscount on
a diving boat could lead to two people being left floating
in shark-infested waters, Kentis cleverly stages a morality
play about contemporary relationships and the dangers of emotional
detachment. Admirable on every level – from its miniscule
budget, brave performers, and simply amazing footage of actors
being besieged by actual sharks – Open Water is hands-down
the bravest and most effective horror film of the year. Extra
points for not featuring ANY crappy ‘tard-rock and not
resorting to cheap music cues for the sharks’ arrivals.
Horror Film of 2004 (Limited or Direct-to-Video) My Little Eye (review)
Brutal, atmospheric, and very, very scary, My Little
Eye never got a US theatrical release and snuck onto
DVD in April. But this less-than-esteemed rollout should not
dissuade anyone from checking it out, particularly since the
subject matter (a webcam reality game show told entirely through
surveillance cameras) is much better-suited for viewing at
home. You can check out my review for complete discussion
of the film – but in short, nothing else available this
year was as smart, unique, unsettling, and uncompromising
as this cheap little creeper. Extra points for featuring a
way-hot Bradley Cooper (Alias, Wet
Hot American Summer) and achieving some genuinely
eerie imagery with digital cameras.
Actor in Horror 2004 Daniel Travis, Open Water
Lovable, hatable, pitiable, enviable, and intensely squeezable,
Daniel Travis’s turn in the tiny shocker
Open Water taps into something the other
fellas of the genre didn’t even approach: pure terror.
As the shit-eating yuppie hero Daniel (um, no relation?),
Travis starts smug, moves into polite, protective, and finally
despairing as he and his lovely wife (the also-quite-good
Blanchard Ryan) bob in the ocean above a
school of patient sharks. I wanted to pull this man out of
the water so that I could slap him silly for being such a
dolt – and to be able to inspire sympathy and rage at
the same time from a jaded bitch like me is a lofty feat.
A lot of people had problems with the film as a whole, but
I challenge anyone to find a performance in horror this year
more moving and grounded than Daniel’s – his journey
is into sheer, gut-dropping terror. I still get the chills
when I hear him scream during the night storm.
Actress in Horror 2004 Blanchard Ryan, Open Water
I almost hate to do it because it seems I’m playing
favorites, but this unquestionably goes to Blanchard
Ryan of Open Water. No other film
even had a female character nearly as interesting, much less
a performance. While the big horror releases of the year characterized
their women through corsets and iPods, Open Water got serious
with Susan, a tough-as-nails career woman who meets her match
in a school of sharks. Much like her co-star Daniel Travis,
Ryan lets us hate her character at the onset, and then tests
our tolerance for how much torture we can watch human beings
we don’t like go through before we start squirming.
Susan’s behavior might not be admirable, but it is something
that, thanks to Ryan’s resolve and calculated performance,
we can understand. Her final decision is at the same time
shocking and yet entirely consistent, regardless of how little
we might like to think so. And I’m not even considering
the fact that she had to pull the whole thing off in actual
shark-infested waters – the characterization is still
far and away better than anything any other female actor pulled
off this year.
Horror Film of 2004 The Sequels
ALL OF THEM. A
blazing round of flaming “Suck It!”s to Anacondas,
Seed of Chucky, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Alien vs. Predator,
Exorcist: The Beginning, and yes – even Blade:
Trinity (even though it did gain considerable homo
points for being the gayest horror film of the year, it was
still admittedly pretty bad on its own). If these overblown,
soulless gasbags are what we are to expect from the studios
in terms of “horror films”, I’m moving to
Korea next week. I hold the horror filmgoing community partly
responsible for allowing such shit as Freddy vs. Jason to
pass as legitimate entertainment – congrats, kids! You
bought us another one! Sheesh…
Audacious Performance 2004
Jennifer Tilly (Seed of Chucky)
And I’m not talking about in the film – I’m
talking about her appearance on the Tonight Show with
Jay Leno. Scattered, loud, and utterly unstoppable,
Tilly’s stream-of-consciousness babble looked like an
audition monologue for Girl, Interrupted.
And yes, her performance in Seed of Chucky was also quite
daring, in that she kept calling herself fat and got knocked
up by a puppet with a turkey baster – both of which
pales next to the fact that while doing all of this she also
had to act opposite Redman.
Mortgage Payment of 2004
Ving Rhames (Dawn of the Dead)
Actor-turned-super-absorbent-maxi Ving Rhames
tumbled from a Golden Globe for his performance
as Don King to a water-retentive action “hero”
in a crass, uninspired remake in a matter of years. What of
the promise shown in such films as Pulp Fiction
and… well, Pulp Fiction? Granted, no one else in the
film fares much better (Sarah Polley: I love
you, girl – but your freshness date is going to expire
unless you make something watchable soon. It can even be Canadian!),
but Rhames’s presence reeks with the most potent odor
of “I’m here to finance that new addition on my
house and pay off a car or two”. At this rate, watch
for him in the next Resident Evil sequel
and as the host of the new Family Feud.
Overrated Film of 2004
Dawn of the Dead (review)
Come on, people – you really let this one slide? Boring,
predictable, and decidedly run-of-the-mill, Dawn of
the Dead seemed to charm everyone with the fact that
it didn’t totally suck. Since when does “not totally
sucking” give cause for celebration? I’m not even
a huge fan of the original, really – it’s good,
but not faultless by any means. But the one thing it had –
that this tepid remake didn’t – is smarts. Bonus
points for featuring the most retarded plot device of the
year: stupid girl rushes zombie stronghold to save dog, and
retarded Scooby gang actually goes in to save her. Yeah. Fuck
Unintentionally Horrifying Film of 2004
Baby Genuises 2: Superbabies
Lock the fucking doors and hide your adopted children…
the Superbabies are here.
-- Two Moon What?
(Milla Jovovich, Horror Hoochie of the Year)
Ryan Reynolds (Blade: Trinity)
Buff, gruff, and chained to the floor: just the way we like
them. An actor who always plays his feyness to his advantage,
Blade: Trinity’s Ryan Reynolds stepped up from sassy
sidekick to full-on Muscle Mary, and in the process dethroned
Wesley Snipes as the lead of the film. Ryan sports an assortment
of cap-sleeved tees, wears his cargo pants around his hips,
and even flashes us his treasure-trail in a close-up. Yum.
Let’s hope Ryan stays away from Tara Reid and keeps
up this whole Colt Model thing instead.
Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil: Apocalypse) Missy-Piggy-in-the-Great-Muppet-Caper-style
entrance aside (you have to see it to believe it), Resident
Evil: Apocalypse just plain sucked. And yet I still
can’t bring myself to hate Milla for
being such an integral part in the sinking of what started
out to be a genuinely good horror franchise. Sweaty, ballsy,
and crazy-eyed, Milla kicked some serious ass in this flick,
and while she got some stiff competition from Blade:
Trinity’s Jessica Biel, Milla wins because
when she gets all butch and scary, I actually believe it.
Horror Film of the Year
Blade: Trinity (review)
Despite being (or perhaps due to being?) an installment in
a testosterone-soaked Hollywood franchise, this puppy takes
the case as the Faggatrocity of the Year.
Boasting a vampire Pomeranian, Parker Posey,
a buff pass-around-party-bottom by the name of Ryan
Reynolds (see my drool-soaked description above),
a hot nekkid Dracula, and a stunning lack of heterosexual
intrigue (no love interest for ANYONE in this film, folks),
Blade: Trinity is grade-A shower-nozzle masturbation material
for any sissy with a tolerance for a little blood and a pulse.
Loaded with bitchy quips and needless misogyny (mostly directed
at Posey and the preposterous Natasha Lyonne
– not that we can blame them, in that case), the film
plays out like an angry, self-loathing sissy’s wet dream:
the cool women are strong but silent and keep to themselves;
the rest of the women are summarily tortured and destroyed;
the men are buff and love taking their clothes off, and spend
much of the time either chained to the floor or lying on their
Homo of the Year
Don Mancini (Seed of Chucky)
Considering the lashing I gave his film, this may come as
something of a surprise. But after some deliberation (and
considering the relative silence this year from vets Clive
Barker, Bill Condon – in horror,
anyway - and the like), I decided that the award of Horror
Homo of the Year should go to Mancini for one reason:
as the commander-in-chief of a successful horror franchise
that has been purely commercial from the get-go (the Child’s
Play movies), his brave decision to come out in a
cover story in Fangoria magazine –
a magazine targeted at teenage boys and other men who live
with their parents – is as admirable and groundbreaking
as PR moves come. Even though I thought Seed was a disaster,
I sincerely commend Mancini for what his choice might do for
visibility of gays in horror, particularly to young people
who may not otherwise have gay folks to identify with in a
genre that they love.
to Be a Bitch, but... the Only Way is Up?
Here's the good thing about having a shitty year: things can
only get better. Right?
a pipeline stuffed with potential (and I'm talking about horror
movies here), let's pray that 2005 ends up bringing us a bumper
crop of horror films worth crowing about, be they indie, no-budget,
Hollywood, foreign, or what-have-you.
sign off saying thanks for reading this year, and stay tuned
for more unabashed optimism and sad reality in the coming
months. Hey -- I turn thirty soon, so there's bound to be
a breakdown worth checking in for.