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last update 23.Nov.11
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The Cost of Love
dir-scr-prd Carl Medland
with Christopher Kelham, Michael Joyce, Valmike Rampersad, Mandeesh Gill, Frank Jakeman, Caroline Burns Cooke, Robert Gray, Arin Alldridge, Jan Hirst, Neil Kelly, Israel Cassol, Darren Petrucci
kelham and alldridge release US 27.Sep.11 dvd,
UK 17.Oct.11 dvd
11/UK 1h32
The Cost of Love This drama about a gay man in East London starts out with a cleverly relaxed tone that lures us in before things shift into emotions and actions that are dark and provocative. It's certainly an auspicious debut for filmmaker Medland.

In Greenwich, 28-year-old Dale (Kelham) likes sex, especially with strangers and outside the boundaries of polite society. As a high-end escort, he makes his money fulfilling the fantasies of older men. When Dale's good friend Raj (Rampersad) decides to marry his girlfriend Veena (Gill), being asked to be best man forces Dale to examine his secret feelings for Raj. And there's more difficult news to come, as Dale's friends struggle with everything from homophobic violence to terminal illness.

After setting the tone with a creepy, violent cruising scene, the film shifts easily into a more light-hearted story. With snarky, somewhat arrogant narration from Dale, the film often feels like a comedy. But it's actually a sometimes too-serious drama about a man drifting through life without thinking about those around him. And while some of the plot points are rather melodramatic, the film maintains a tender tone that holds our interest.

Gorgeously shot by Amarjeet Singh, the film captures the lively gay community in Greenwich, from drag queen races to colourful bars. Strangely, he's rather squeamish about shooting the male body, and the way the film constantly cuts away is extremely odd considering the subject matter and a couple of rather graphic (but carefully stage-managed) sex scenes.

Even so, the film sharply catches Dale's friendships, mundane details, his role-playing clients and an awkward visit with his mum (Hirst). His relationship with Raj is especially well-played to capture both Dale's longings and Raj's conflicted feelings. All of his friends continually remind him that he's nearly 30, which reminds Dale that he can't do this job forever.

One client (Jakeman) observes to Dale's cross-dressing pal Sean (Joyce), "This is all getting a bit too Baby Jane for me." But the film goes even further into dark and disturbing corners of humanity. By centring on such a cold character, Medland doesn't quite achieve the emotional kick he's so clearly aiming for, but it's still a fascinating exploration of how unpredictable life can be. Especially if you play on the edge of a precipice.

18 themes, language, sexuality, violence, drugs
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Judas Kiss
dir JT Tepnapa
prd-scr JT Tepnapa, Carlos Pedraza
with Charlie David, Richard Harmon, Sean Paul Lockhart, Timo Descamps, Julia Morizawa, Samantha Rund, Laura Kenny, Dale Bowers, Troy Fischnaller, Vince Valenzuela, Julian LeBlanc, Genevieve Buechner
lockhart and harmon
release US 25.Oct.11 dvd,
UK 7.Nov.11 dvd
11/US 1h34
judas kiss This gentle comedy-drama uses a fantasy element to let its central character go back and make different choices to get his life on track. The tone is a bit simplistic, but there some intriguing angles that make it worth a look.

Failed filmmaker Zach (David) is asked by a Hollywood pal (Fischnaller) to judge a university film competition. Annoyed at having to bunk in the freshman dorm, party-boy Zach heads straight to the campus bar feeling conspicuously like an "old dude". Then he meets the cocky student Danny (Harmon), who seems to be himself 15 years earlier. If this is about getting a second chance, Zach knows he needs to steer Danny's future. Meanwhile Danny is seeing both swaggering actor Shane (Descamps) and nice-guy filmmaker Chris (Lockhart).

Relaxed writing and directing makes the film enjoyably watchable, even if it feels rather slight. A blurry visual effect hints early on that something surreal is going on, as does some clever editing. But the film's breezy style is undermined tension centring mainly around Danny's student film Judas Kiss, which Danny's father (Valenzuela) desperately wants to suppress. And indeed, the details of Danny's harsh daddy issues, as portrayed in his film, are pretty grim.

In the lead role, David is as watchable as always, although the film kind of overplays his tetchy-grump persona with chain-smoking and hot-headed reactions. The younger actors are extremely watchable, even if their roles aren't quite as complex. Filmmaker Tepnapa works a little hard to punch the big dramatic moments, which leaves the performances feeling somewhat thin. Which kind of undermines the serious themes about where ruthless ambition and short-term thinking are likely to get you.

The film's unusual structure makes the wistful conclusion rather charming, right to the post-credits musical number. Fortunately, some bigger issues add weight to the somewhat predictable story, so even when it gets melodramatic there's still an emotional impact. While the big ideas aren't particularly original, they are important: sometimes it's better when you don't win, and decisions are best when they're made with the heart and head together. And it does makes you wonder what your younger self would make of your life now.

15 themes, language, violence, sexuality
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dir-scr David Lewis
prd HP Mendoza, Lewis Tice
with Jacob Newton, Derek Villanueva, Dylan Vox, Kevin Held, Stephen Matzke, Bonnie Marion, Katrina Sherwood, Sophia Revelli
vox and newton release US Jun.11 fff,
UK 21.Nov.11 dvd
11/US 1h14
Longhorns Shot like a 1980s comedy, this nutty farce plays around with issues of sexuality in one of the most machismo cultures in America. And it manages to win us over in the end.

Kevin (Newton) is a 1982 Texas university student who has to imagine his straight pal Justin (Held) while sleeping with his bimbo cheerleader girlfriend (Revelli). And things get a bit stickier when the boys watch porn together. Being Texan, these guys talk about little more than football and girls, although the over-the-top bravado makes it all a bit suspicious. When Kevin falls for Cesar (Villanueva), who's openly gay, it scares him so much that he runs home to be manly with his slightly too-straight childhood buddies (Vox and Matzke).

The film takes a goofy, American Pie approach to sex but also has moments of honest warmth along the way, especially as Kevin begins to accept himself and his growing relationship with Cesar. When Kevin heads back to be with "my kind of people" and get things straightened out, everything of course gets more complicated. Especially when the three pals are trapped on an isolated ranch without the girls. Meanwhile, Cesar makes a startling demand for payment to help Justin with his coursework.

Despite the comical approach, this is actually a rather intriguing exploration of repression, as all of the male characters seem unsure of their sexuality in a culture that insists that there's only one option. Watching these guys start to talk about these issues feels a bit forced, but also has a lot to say about the fear of sexuality in America. Setting this in 1982 hints that it's a biographical story from writer-director Lewis' own experience. And it also lets him suggest that maybe things have changed now.

Surprisingly for a smutty farce, the film gets rather cute and sappy at the end, with a bit of moralising about facing the fallout when you fail to be honest with your friends and yourself. The film is an odd mix of deliberate raciness and corny schmaltz, with a wonderfully nutty song score. It doesn't quite hold together, but there's a certain amount of charm that leaves us with a stupid smile on our faces at the end. Kind of like the characters.

18 themes, language, sexuality
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Satan Hates You
dir-scr James Felix McKenney
prd Larry Fessenden, Jeremiah Kipp, James Felix, Lisa Wisely
with Don Wood, Christine Spencer, Angus Scrimm, Reggie Bannister, Michael Berryman, Debbie Rochon, Larry Fessenden, Bradford Scobie, Christina Campanella, Turquoise Taylor Grant, Matt Huffman, Brenda Cooney
fessendon and scobie release UK 10.Oct.11 dvd,
US 18.Oct.11
10/US 1h34
Satan Hates You This no-budget film opens with a disclaimer noting that by watching this movie we risk losing our immortal souls. Fortunately, despite the rather muddled message, the film has a certain level of visual style and a wickedly black sense of humour.

After a wild night having sex in a club toilet, Wendy (Spencer) has no idea who the father of her unborn child is. So she turns to underground drugs and a seedy abortion clinic. Meanwhile, unemployed nice guy Marc (Wood) brutally reacts if someone suggests that he's gay, which he clearly is. Even so, Tina (Rochon) from the church next door to the club has a crush on him. Meanwhile, both Marc and Wendy are caught between a TV preacher (Scrimm) and a manipulative pair of cackling demons (Fessendon and Scobie).

Filmmaker McKenney indulges in cheesy production design, with cardboard sets, thrift store costumes, make-up applied with a paintbrush and blood applied with a garden hose (including in the ludicrously outrageous abortion scene). Fessendon and Scobie overact so shamelessly that everyone else on the screen almost looks natural. But the film is full of cartoonish characters, many of whom are played by horror movie veterans.

There is also a riot of occult gags, from bickering Dungeons & Dragons players (but don't call it "just" a game) to a drug-fuelled game of Ouija. For some inexplicable reason, everyone in this film keeps their televisions on goofy religious channels in the background. As it continues, any message becomes seriously muddled, with an oddly serious religious slant mixed with the more gonzo demonic stuff. Are the filmmakers being moralistic or is this a rather messy attempt at satire?

The plot narrows down to focus on Marc's murderous spree of self-hating homophobia, which gets a bit ridiculous as it progresses. Meanwhile, Wendy's situation also becomes increasingly nasty and violent. This strange dual-strand structure leaves the film feeling a bit aimless and unfocussed. But it's so luridly colourful and full-on that we can't stop watching. And laughing. Right up to the insanely grisly ending, which presumably is meant to be ironic.

18 themes, violence, drugs
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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall