Oct 7, 2021

"There's Somebody Inside Your House": Derivative Horror with LGBTQ+ Characters


There's Someone Inside Your House
(2021) sounds like that old campfire story: "The calls are coming from inside the house!"  But the plot description is aboit someone revealing all of the high schoolers' secrets, so maybe it's more like I Know What You Did Last Summer.  No doubt one of those secrets is about being gay.

Scene 1: Isolated farm house.  Country-Western music plays as a pickup truck drives up, and small-town high school jock Jackson (Markian Tarasiuk), complete with letterman's jacket, climbs out.  Inside, the decor is from the 1950s, but he has a cell phone!  A friend named Macon (as in Georgia, y'all) calls.  They discuss various girls, so fast and furious that I can't keep track, but one has flat chest and is therefore repugnant.

Funny -- the egg timer is on, but Mom and Dad are out tailgating before the Big Game, and there's no one in the house.  Or is there?  Besides, the Doritos taste terrible.

Jackson goes to his room -- pictures of big-breasted models and a University of Nebraska banner -- to take a nap before Kickoff.  But he falls asleep, and doesn't wake up until late at night.  The Doritos were drugged!  And someone has left a trail of pictures of him roughhousing with a cute guy!  A boyfriend?  Is the gay secret the first one?  No: the photos turn dark: we see that Jackson beat and killed Cute Guy. Then a hooded figure leaps out of the closet and stabs him! 

Scene 2: 
The game.  Mom, Dad, and Sis are watching, and wondering why Jackson never showed up.  "It's not like him."  Suddenly everyone gets a video from an unidentified source: Jackson killing Cute Guy.  Wait -- Cute Guy isn't dead.  He's Caleb (Burkely Duffieldm left), playing in the game right now!  

Scene 3: Students gossipping about Jackson.  Murdered just because he beat up Caleb.  And why did he do it?  Because Caleb is gay?  But they were buddies!  Now everybody thinks Calebe is responsible for the murder.

Jackson's bff Macon sings about how much he lovoed him.   Two boys, two girls, and a nonbinary person (Darby) have trouble feeling sad, since Jackson bullied them savagely for years.  

Scene 4: Lunchtime.  Macon is bragging about how many girls Jackson had sex with, and what he did with pizza sauce (you don't want to know).  The Nice Kids from Scene 3 invite Caleb, now ostracized by the team, to sit with them.  

Student Body President talks about how diverse the school is, with gay and nonbinary students ("we love your he, she, and they!"), and leads them in prayer.

Scene 5:
At home, Makani (one of the Nice Kids) worries that people might find out about the horrible things that happened in her old town.  Then her college scholarships and friends would vanish!  What did she do?

She goes up to her room and starts working on a poem. "The psycho" Oliver (Theodore Pellerinm left) texts.  Ulp -- they used to date, and now he's stalking her!  And he's #2 on the cast list!

She wakes up in the middle of the night.  Odd -- there are a lot of dishes piled on the kitchen table, and flowers in the oven.  Could it be...psych!  It was Grandma, sleepwalking!

Scene 6:  At church, prepping for the memorial service.  Catholic, like everybody in small town Middle America, right?  Student Council President is distributing memorial leaflets (why is she wearing a white hooded robe?),  when suddenly the overhead screen displays her comments on a  podcast: "White Wash: Your Daily Ethnic Cleanse."  So she's a closet racist.  A white robed figure appears and slashes her to death!  Parishioners coming into the church hear her podcast, and see her hanging from the altar.

Scene 7: The Sheriff (towns don't have sheriffs) has passed a city-wide curfew (he doesn't have the authority to do that).  Makani flashes back to the terrible thing that happened (arrested for pushing another teen into a fire).  Rodrigo (Diego Josef) from the Nice Kids calls to commisserate about the lockdown.  Uh-oh, he's taking prescription drugs.  Is he sick, or an addict?   

He reveals that he's heterosexual: "why can't I have a life where nobody gets murdered, and I get a girlfriend and go to college?"  Also, he has a crush on Alex, the other girl in the Nice Kid gang. When are we going to get a scene with the LGBTQ+ characters?

Scene 8: 
The students all waiting to be interviewed by the sheriff.  Nice Kid Zack (Dale Whibley) thinks he's the murderer.  There's a referendum to dissolve the police force -- but not if he solves a series of murders "by blaming someone who's not white."  

Zach is excused from the interrogation due to his rich Dad's pull.  Dad yells at him hanging out with the Nice Kids -- bunch of losers! -- and for smoking marijuana.  

Back in the waiting room, "that psycho" Ollie asks Makani why they broke up.  Whoops, he's the Sheriff's younger brother!  The plot thickens!

Scene 9:  The Sheriff interviews Makani.  She doesn't mention the terrible thing that happened to her.  No, she didn't know Jackson or Student Body President.  He leers, makes creepy comments, and lets her go. 

After the interview, she agrees to a date with Ollie: "Let's do what we always do": park, gaze longingly at each other, listen to love songs, and have sex (no beefcake).  Ollie: "I miss this."  You miss having sex?  What a surprise!

They get an invitation to Zack's "Secret Party," and head over to his mansion.

Scene 10: At the Secret Party, Makani ignores Ollie, whom she was mounting five minutes ago.  Everybody reveals their minor secrets: "I post dick pics online."  "I eat junk food."  "I sing opera on youtube."  Darby "confesses" that they got into a NASA program. They appear to be hanging out with Caleb, the gay jock from Scene 4.  Maybe they're dating?  

The extremely troubled and drunken Zack announces the biggest secret: his  "festering pustule" of a Dad doesn't just oppress the townsfolk, he has the tenth largest collection of Nazi memorabilia in North America.  That doesn't sound like a lot.  How many collectors of Nazi memorabilia can there be?  He's converted most of the weapons into bongs for smoking pot.

The guests grab various Nazi items and start smoking.  Rodrigo pops a prescription pill, then talks his crush into going into the kitchen for sex.  Maybe a more secluded spot?  People will be coming in for snacks all the time.  

Scene 11:  Back at the party, Rodrigo sees a trail of pills.  Uh-oh, now the Nice Kids are being targeted.  Suddenly everyone gets a text about his addiction to Fentanyl (a prescription opioid), and the hooded killer appears.  Everyone runs out -- past the killer?  -- leaving Rodrigo to get sliced and diced. Or -- there's one killer and 200 party guests?  A little help?  

I'm out of space, so I'll stop the scene-by-scene recap there.  

Beefcake: None.

LGBTQ+ Characters:  Caleb gets stabbed without having a secret (just so the killer can frame Makani).  He doesn't die.  But he also doesn't have a centric or any plot development; he just hangs out with the others.  Darby also has no centric; their only plot point is getting into NASA and telling Makani "I'm here for you."

Heterosexism: Makani and Ollie spend half the movie kissing.

There's Someone Inside Your House:  Not usually: your house, someone else's house, a church, or the school.  The final conflict takes place in a corn maze.

The Killer: Exactly who you expect.  It's broadcast loudly practically from Scene 1: the actor keeps channeling Matthew Lillard's character in Scream.

My Grade: C.  Just having LGBTQ+ characters in a movie is no longer cause for celebration.  They need to do something other than tell the cisgender heterosexual characters "I'm here for you."

Oct 5, 2021

Monsterland: More Heterosexuals Than Monsters


Monsterland is an anthology series based on the book North American Lake Monsters: Stories by Nathan Ballingrad.  about "ordinary people" having encounters with supernatural beings like mermaids and ghosts.  None of the episode synopses specify that any are gay, so I chose the most likely suspect.

Episode #2. Eugene, Oregon:  "A lonely teen gets an unwelcome guest."  Maybe it's an incubus.

Scene 1:  Nick (Charlie Tahan), a scraggly, crazy-eyed, 30-year old teen, gazes longingly at two guys playing with nerf swords.  While they laugh at him for being a "freak," he tries to pick up Mom's prescription, but their insurance has lapsed.  

Scene 2: He trudges home, cuts up Mom's pills and microwaves her a burger and fries.  

I figured there was a Norman Bates thing going on, but Mom turns out to be real, gazing frumpily at the tv (like people on tv do to demonstrate that they're losers).  They play cards.  Then he tucks her in bed and plays a video game in a zoom room.

Whoops, there's a tall human-shaped shadow on the wall!  Nick politely introduces himself and asks what it is, but it won't answer.  Then Mom signals -- she had a bad dream.  So she tells him how sexy he is, and he crawls in bed with her.  Another mother and son in love.  Is heterosexual romance so necessary that if there's no girlfriend, Mom will have to do?

Scene 3:
Nick posts a picture of the shadow to "What Is This?", and is directed to Shadow Watch.  The watchdog group appears in his room (or maybe this is a clever way of depicting a zoom room?): leader West (Ben Rappaport, left), "let's go Guatanamo on their ass" Dagr (Jack DiFalco), and sarcastic FinalGrl.  There have been 10 Shadow sightings so far this year.  They prey on the weak and vulnerable, feeding off your loneliness until they are powerful enough to strike: "They shatter families.  They sow darkness.  They killed my parents." 

The group diagnoses Nick -- shy, lonely, in love with his mother -- as an ideal victim.    

Scene 4: Scared to sleep in the house, Nick goes out to the garage and sleeps in the car.  If he's got a car, why does he walk everywhere?

He awakens at dawn, makes Mom breakfast, and rushes to work at a fast-food joint.  The boss fires him for always being late and stealing food.  (Shirtless shot as Nick rips his uniform off.)  

He trudges to an auto garage and asks if they know how to track down Mike Smith, who used to work there.  They don't. 

Scene 5:  Back home, Nick serves gruel for dinner.  If Mom can sit at the table, why does she need bells to signal him?  He pretends that he was in school all day, then tucks Mom into bed. A shadow hand reaches out from under the nightstand.  

Scene 6:
The Shadow Watch group appears in Nick's living room.  Are these people ghosts?  "From now on, whenever anything bad happens to you, assume it's a Shadow attack!" 

 "What if I just got shit luck?" 

 "There's no such thing as luck.  It's not random.  It's strategic, organized by the Shadows.  That's why we need Fletcher."

Fletcher: The presidential candidate who keeps referring to "shadows" in his speeches, signaling that he's one of us.

We already have an unresolved plot thread about Nick's search for Mike Smith -- a long-lost father, brother, or boyfriend?  Now another one about this Fletcher, who may know more than he's saying.  Is there a government conspiracy behind the Shadows?

Dagr hugs Nick and says "You're not alone anymore," but then "Somebody get this bitch a drink before he grows tits."  Was he being homoerotic or homophobic?

Scene 7:   They all go to Nick's garage to drink.  Oh, they're physically present, not on the internet.  Time for back stories:

West lost his brother to a heroin overdose caused by a Shadow.  Dagr was 12 years old, so distraught by his Shadow that he was posting suicide notes on the internet, when West found him.  FinalGrl's parents died in a murder-suicide due to the Shadow.

The boys leave, but FinalGirl girl sticks around.  Nick gazes lustfully as she changes clothes.  Darn -- I thought for sure he was gay. It took 28 minutes to heterosexualize him.

I've seen enough.  I'll just fast-forward to the end.

At least there's no fade- out kiss. 

Spoiler Alert:

The Shadow is Nick's mother.

Oct 4, 2021

"La Brea": As Many Plot Holes as "Lost," But Not as Much Beefcake


I've been dying to watch the first episode of La Brea, the new tv series on Hulu: according to the horrendous reviews,  a "cliched, amateurish, inept rip-off of Lost"  with "a cliche gay couple."  11% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Where are Joel and the Bots when you need them?

Scene 1:  Stuck in traffic outside the La Brea Tar Pits in L.A., Mom intermittently honks her horn, complains about her job,  and displays her wedding-ring necklace (so she and Dad are divorced so they can get back together again). Teenage daughter Izzy has a prosthetic leg.  Teenage son Josh (Jack Martin, left) demonstrates that he is heterosexual by cruising a girl in the next car (aren't you glad we got that out of the way?). 

Suddenly the pavement cracks, and cars and buildings fall into a gigantic, rapidly-expanding sinkhole.  Mom reverses the car and drives down the sidewalk until she crashes. Hundreds of people run past stopped cars (but no one actually gets out of the cars?).   Josh falls in.  Mom falls in, but Izzy grabs her arm.  Instead of "Pull me up!", Mom orders her to "Let go!"  Huh?   The sinkhole obligingly waits for her to think it over, drop Mom, and run away in slow motion.

Scene 2: 
 U.S. Air Force Base, El Segundo, California.  Disgraced ex-pilot Gavin (Eoin Macken) in a car, intermittently drinking, getting a vision of a giant condor, and gazing at a photo of his estranged family.  He goes in to apply for a job.  The interviewer doesn't want a pilot who has crazy hallucinations (and drinks...and discusses his marital problems in detail), but she promises to find him something else to do.

On the way out, he sees a news story about the sinkhole on tv (helpfully set up in the lobby), and Izzy calls.  Before she has a chance to say anything, he yells "Stay there.  I'm on my way."  How do you know she was in the disaster?  How do you know where she is?  

Scene 3: The disaster site.  Izzy in an ambulance, being examined.  Why is she the only one?  Wouldn't there be hundreds of evacuees?  Dad arrives.  Wait -- it's 24 miles from El Segundo to L.A., How did he get there so fast?   They hug.  Suddenly giant condors, just like the ones in Dad's hallucinations, fly from the sinkhole.  One stops and caws ominously: "Nice seeing you again, Gavin."

Scene 4:  Mom fell through a glowing rift into a new world, barren except for a single "Wilshire Boulevard" sign and a weird pictograph on a rock.  And her wedding-ring necklace, on the ground nearby.   Why isn't she pulverized by the fall?  And where are the other people and objects that fell with her?    She starts running at random, yelling "Josh!"

Eventually she runs into a black guy with a gun (whoa, racism!), traumatized by the fall.  They both run toward some smoke -- oh, here's where everything else landed, in a convenient clearing!  Why are the cars and buildings all mangled, but the people are fine?

Scene 5:
Josh has apparently been there much longer than Mom. He's already got a sidekick -- Riley, the girl he cruised earlier!  They also meet a gung-ho woman and a giggling stoned dude (Scott), who thinks they're in an episode of Lost.  A convenient Doctor (Jon Seda) takes charge, and sends them all out looking for supplies.  

There's also a gay couple, half of which is played by Pacharo Mzembe.  The other half has lost his glasses, and is literally blind without them.  They're on the scene for about 10 seconds. 

Riley and Scott find a cache of heroin in one of the cars.  Ulp!  There's a drug dealer among them!

Uh-oh, giant CGI wolves attack!  Riley's dad is killed and eaten.  Jack is bitten.   The others take refuge in cars until Black Guy with Gun shoots the wolves.  

Scene 6: 
At the sinkhole, Homeland Security lady holds a press conference.  It was...um...er...a natural disaster.  There are no plans to search for survivors: "no one could have survived that fall."  But Gavin gets a vision of Mom in the prehistoric world: "This sounds crazy, but Mom and Josh are still alive.  And what about the condors?"

Meanwhile, Homeland Security Lady talks to Adam (Toby Truslove, left), a senior official who worked on a similar incident in the Mojave Desert: "Yep, I told them what they wanted to hear.  No way they can know the truth!"  They go into a command center tent and look at drone images of the glowing rift.  Suddenly the images vanish.

Scene 7: At the prehistoric world, Doctor treats Josh's wound -- he needs antibiotics, or he will die in like a few minutes (that's not how infections work).  The Black Guy with a Gun, traumatized by using his gun, runs into the woods.  Mom and Doctor drop their search for antibiotics to follow.  Just let him go?  Keeping Josh alive is more important than telling a stranger "Everything is going to be ok?"

Coincidentally, Black Guy with Gun knows where an ambulance is -- inconveniently distant from the rest of the debris. 

Scene 8: Dad  Gavin tries to talk to Adam and Homeland Security Lady: "I know something.  I've been having hallucinations, see, but I'm not crazy.  And not very drunk yet.."  They dismiss him.  "I saw the serial number of your drone."  They pretend not to care, but secretly investigate him.

Dad Gavin, Izzy, and Aunt Jessica go home -- extremely ornate rich-person house.  Dad sorts through a shoebox of old photos to find a picture of the boulder with the pictograph, which would prove that there are sinkhole survivors, I guess.

Scene 9:  On the way to the ambulance, Doctor conveniently walks ahead, so Black Guy with Gun (Ty) reveals that he has an ex-wife (of course), and he's a psychologist (who carries a gun with him at all times?). He immediately stops being traumatized and asks if Mom wants to start an imprompto therapy session.  

Ok!  About a year ago, she was running late, so she asked a neighbor to pick up Izzy from school, and there was an accident, and Izzy lost her leg.  

"You can't blame yourself," Ty responds. Gee, I could have said that without a Ph.D. in psychology!

Scene 10:  Dad Gavin sneaks out in the middle of the night to find the boulder with the pictograph.  And he digs around, and finds the wedding ring necklace!  Are they going with the survivors in the prehistoric past, before the first humans came to North America (over 23,000 years ago)?  No way that ring would be so close to the surface.

Meanwhile, at the survivor camp, Scott and Riley try to keep Josh awake so he won't die (that's head injuries, not infected wounds).  Gung-ho lady fires a flare.  Someone notices -- a prehistoric person with the pictograph on his cloak!

Meanwhile, at the command center, they discover that the condors belong to a prehistoric species.

Scene 11: Mom, Doctor, and Ty finally reach the ambulance.  Suddenly Mom notices that they're still in the L.A. basin.  Ulp, a saber-tooth tiger attacks!   Saber-tooth tigers became extinct about 10,000 years ago, so they're definitely in the past. The end.

Beefcake: None.

Gay characters: One couple, for ten seconds.

Heterosexism:  Nearly all interactions, even professional and familial interactions, are between men and women.  I can't recall a single line of dialogue spoken between men (except the gay guy says "It will be ok, Sweetheart" to his partner).

Plot Inanities: Lots.

Will I Keep Watching:  What for?  Everybody is divided into boy-girl dyads, and no one took off his clothes, and the mystery has already been solved: they're in the prehistoric past.

Oct 3, 2021

"Blood and Water": Two Guys Kissing in Cape Town


The teaser for Season 2 of Blood and Water, a Netflix series about an elite private school in Cape Town, South Africa, depicts two cute shirtless guys awkwardly talking to Mom and Dad.  

Could they be a gay couple?  

Well, this is Netflix, and South Africa recognized same-sex marriage in 2005, so maybe....

I fast-forwarded through the series to find out.

The scene occurs in Season 2, Episode 1: the two teenagers, Chris and Mark, stumble through a mansion, kissing and undressing each other.  They reach the pool.  Uh-oh, Mom and Dad are there!  

"Um...er...I thought you were out of town.  Um...er...this is Michael, my boyfriend."  

Mom and Dad are completely nonchalant.  "Chrissy, dear,when did you get a boyfriend?  You must tell us all about him!"

The series centers on a girl named Puleng, whose sister Phume was kidnapped shortly after her birth.  She somehow gets the idea that Filke, star swimmer at Parkhurst Academy, is her long-lost sister, so she transfers to Parkhurst and joins the swim team to do some stalking.  This results in a series of uncovered lies, secrets, and scandals.  And romance, of course, notably with mega-hunk Thabang Molaba.

Chris (Arno Greef), Filke's bff, is a bit of a scoundrel.  He publishes some accusations about Puleng's father's involvement in the kidnapping, but makes sure that her ally Wendy gets the credit, just to stir things up a bit. 

He is actually pansexual: In Season 1, he dates both Mark (Duane Williams) and a girl named Zama, without informing either.  Zama finds out when she catches him getting a blow job from Mark, and doesn't react well (because of the "cheating," not because of the gay stuff).  In Season 2,  he is just with Mark (as far as I can tell from fast-forwarding), but the relationship never takes center stage after that scene.

Actor Arno Greef, whose first language is Afrikaans, states that when he was cast, he didn't know what "pansexual" meant, so he did some research: it's "an important community that needs representation as well in the media."  The fan feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.  

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