I have just completed a whirlwind tour of the homosocial thrillers of 1999, and I am windswept, debris of both the high and low classes still stuck in my curliest hairs.
The Talented Mr. Ripley is a firmly flaming rack of lamb. It pulsates. I remember my first viewing was when I was sixteen, possibly after one of the first few nights I’d ever been drunk (late bloomer) - and how fitting. Glimpses I recall include shots of Jude Law‘s ass exiting a bathtub and Matt Damon looking like the smoothest, twinkiest thing since the stuffed cream snack.
Seriously, there had to have been a “fluffer” of sorts on set keeping him looking like a little porn star as much as possible.
For a revisit in our A.V. Tent, why not perfectly pair it with Ravenous? A typically little-seen wartime cannibal romp, Ravenous also “came out” in 1999, features man-on-man obsession (and aggression) and continues to be talked up on the gay horror grapevine for some truly confounding sequences.
I tested the waters with a dipping toe, then drenched myself in this supremely gay pool. Welcome to the next round in the dizzying…
Me on the set of She’s All That.
ALREADY BEEN CHEWED – click each title for analysis!
- The Craft (1996) – Queer Score: 77/100
- Edward Scissorhands (1990) – Score: 76/100
- Safe (1995) – Score: 73/100
- Psycho (1998) – Score: 68/100
- Sleepy Hollow (1999) – Score: 64/100
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992) – Score: 51/100
- The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992) – Score: 44/100
IN THIS WEEK’S CART:
- Ravenous! (1999, Antonia Bird)
- The Talented Mr. Ripley! (1999, Anthony Minghella)
“You hunger for it. You just won’t resign yourself to it. It’s easy. Just give in.”
Ravenous is kind of a gorgeous little fucker… Right off the bat it’s noticeably unconventional. A wartime feature, light on expected tightass tone and heavy on dark laughs and upchuck? Literally – it begins with the superimposed quote “Eat Me.” – Anonymous over black, then cuts to Guy Pearce vomiting; don’t worry, he still looks great.
Smash in a swiss-cheesed titlecard with a goofy sound effect. It’s something charming seen rarely outside indie horror. It’s a risk, which is probably why not many talk about this one.
It’s not hard to like!
The shamed, weak Pearce is banished under suspicion of eating dead soldiers on the battlefield. He’s sent to a camp full of outsiders (hey! sounds just like home!), other soldiers who have been disbanded. Really, though, these soldiers are all just too unbalanced (a heavily shirtless Neal McDonough), too fey (Jeremy Davies, the one I’ll get wrapped up to-go), or too stoned (#Gay90sHorror mainstay David Arquette), led by Sleepy Hollow‘s bad topic Jeffrey Jones.
The soldiers are all rejects from a masculine institution. Radical queer points!
Added bonus? The most sane camp member is the only female: Martha, a butch and resourceful being who totally reminds me of my distracting boner for Da Silva from Child’s Play 3.
Robert Carlyle, who made heroin frightfully appetizing in Trainspotting, enters the camp as a seeming fallen bystander. But in fact – he shows up to rock Guy Pearce’s world and unleash Pearce’s monster within. [Again, it strangely mirrors the counselor induction process at Camp Blood.]
You see, Carlyle is an expert cannibal and master seducer who knows all about Pearce’s previous indiscretion (a.k.a. that time Pearce ate a dead guy). He virtually blackmails Pearce into joining his darkside diet of all man-eating, all the time, with carnivorously horny results.
The innuendos roll out quicker than you thought possible…
“You’ve tasted it. Felt its power. Yet, you’re resisting. Why?”
“Because it’s wrong.”
High points in Dialogue, Camp Acting, Fun Value, and funky Music co-written by Damon Albarn of Gorillaz. T&A is interestingly evident: McDonough and the briefly butt-nekkid Carlyle. Queer Theme points are way up there, though there are no (obviously) Gay Characters. Some points for Crew: Broadway star and Connie & Carla co-star Stephen Spinella plays arguably the straightest soldier! +3 for when Davies shrieks after he wakes up to Carlyle licking him.
Though maybe not the gayest, Ravenous is definitely a fun trip. Total Queer Score: 71/100
Before we begin, I am reminded of some famed words.
Opening lines from Madonna‘s “Rescue Me.”
With you, I’m not a little girl. With you, I’m not a man. When all the hurt inside of me comes out, you understand.
Tom Ripley just wants to be loved. He is a no one – a bathroom attendant, a theatre usher – given the once in a lifetime chance by a rich boy’s father to gain an identity: that man’s son, beloved trustfund post-grad Dickie Greenleaf, vacationing in Italy with socialite girlfriend Marge.
Tom goes to Italy to make some new friends.
Tom falls hard for Dickie.
Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow – what the FUCK is going ON HERE!??!
This image has not been doctored!
So, production on this one seems hazier than a THC cloud: queer content author Patricia Highsmith crafted a series of gleefully homoerotic stories of blood and high class, which titillated the camera eyes of Hollywood and these renowned A-listers. Why?! Is the story that good? Did mainstream Hollywood finally crack open and say, let’s make a gay thriller? Or was this intended for straight audiences in order to be shocked and disturbed? Or excited? A mix of all? I felt like a gaydar patrol cop throughout my entire viewing, wanting to yell like a lockerroom jock at this film, “ARE YOU GAY?!”
So many questions. This movie is boozed and confused. Luckily Cate Blanchett saves us by taking our hands and hushing us to peace.
THERE IS NOTHING GAYER THAN CATE BLANCHETT CALLING AT YOU FROM OUTSIDE A STOREFRONT DISPLAY.
We’re gifted with over two hours of absolutely loaded same-sex glances over wine, the shimmering sun above salty seas, classic romantic jazz karaoke, tight hugging on motorcycle rides, cunning manipulation, tailored suits, baggage claim rendezvouses, the best of pen pal letter-writing voiceovers, and an all-you-can-eat buffet of Gwyneth’s dumbly unaware pouting. No wonder she’d later pretend-act in Country Shlong – get. it. together. lady.
The thriller’s best assets may lie in its dialogue. No doubt the book series is a treasture trove of nip-ticklingly good double entendres hinting at the dark queer love lurking in every page, below every frame. Another asset: Jude Law’s. My memory did not fool me. The quest for Gay ’90s Horror has reached its Oz:
No question about it – this is our first #Gay90sHorror entry, about ten films in, that is explicit. For an era that fears the word “gay,” at least two characters are overtly accused as homosexuals (to which the accused defiantly flail and shriek “NO!”).
Simultaneously satisfying and surprising is the ending: Tom finds love! Even after murdering his first crush (oh, but haven’t we all?). About mid-way, there’s a really cruise-y moment in a very public spot, which sets up our ending and new love interest, which I found to be slippery, unexpected fun. Even risky.
BUT! This is Gay 90s Horror. The overt queer eventually has to end up alone and crying in the final frame. In a cabin on a yacht, no less. Sorry, Tommy.
Through-the-roof Queer Points. I’m honestly unnerved to imagine what Ripley will score. Let’s see…
DA BREAKDOWN: Camp Acting: Well, wow. Blanchett owns, plus resident queens Philip Seymour Hoffman in maybe his most irritating role and Celia Weston, plus awkward Gwynnie, twitching Damon and hyena Law. Production Values: lavish, 10/10. Music 5/5 – the score sounds like it fell out of Philip Glass‘s ass and into a porno composer’s dickhole.
T&A: we have our highest yet, a 9/10 for Jude’s globes on display and constant full body shots of Damon in nothing but a tight-as-fuck yellow banana hammock. Openly Gay Characters gets an 8/10 – the unspoken subtleties are as close as we’re gonna get, folks. Semi-high points for Crew, semi-high points for Fun Value. That running time… Nearly 2.5 hours. At least cut down that investigation subplot a teeny bit, why don’tcha?
Queer Themes: 20/20. This one breaks the bank, folks. Same-sex obsession? Betrayal? Murder? Orientation dysfunction? Nudity? A fear of its own gayness? Ripley‘s the Gay ’90s Horror that parts a sea for bi-curious shockers to come, the amazing and the awful alike: Swimming Pool, My Summer of Love, Chloe, Black Swan, The Black Dahlia, Notes on A Scandal. Except this one’s with hot DUDES!
TOTAL SCORE: 87/100 – Oy! My back just broke.
QUEEREST HORROR OF THIS CATEGORY: THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY.
Follow the adventure on Twitter! Bring hand sanitizer. www.twitter.com/gingerbredhaus
Next on #Gay90sHorror: New York City apartment trauma!
Single White Female (1992), Sliver (1992), and The 4th Floor (1999)