Sunday, November 08, 2015
WINTER OF DISCONTENT: Dead Boyz Don’t Scream
Meet the “three stooges”. No, not Larry, Curly and Moe. This trio are beefy male models: Christian (Christian Mousel), Todd (Logan Hilyard) and Anthony (Zack Vazquez). They’ve been given this less-than-flattering appellation by their agent Tess (Victoria Redstall). As the film opens, Tess has landed them a shoot with commercial photographer Roz (Monique Parent) that might lead to a contract with fashion boutique Greg Parry (trust me, this is a lot wittier on paper than in the actual film). Roz is also keen to have them pose for a coffee table book of cowboy-themed gay porn, but Tess feels this would be a backwards step in terms of their career. The stooges’ rivals – for both the Greg Parry contract and the gay cowboy book – are “the poodles”, Dieter (Ewan French) and Peter (Aaron Mark), so called for the corruption of their Germanic surname Pudl. The Pudl brothers are camper than a row of tents and seem overly tactile with each other. As Roz puts it in the film’s one genuinely amusing line, “I think the rumours might be true: that their parents met at a family reunion.”
The, ahem, story gets underway after their photoshoot with Roz when they hook up with Latino loverboy buddy Jimmy (Anthony Giraud) and go and meet Christian’s lifelong friend Callie (Catherine Wreford), who’s just flown in from Vancouver. Christian behaves as if Callie is some fragile dreamy romantic type whereas it soon becomes clear that she just wants to get wasted and party with the hunks. Said activity takes a turn for the worst that leaves Callie traumatised and Jimmy dead after a plunge from a balcony that might have been an accident but probably wasn’t.
At this point, Tess steps in to smooth things over, pay Callie off and bundle her back on a plane. Changing her mind about the gay cowboy book, Tess decides that a few days in the wilds will serve the dual purpose of allowing her to keep a close eye on her troublesome charges, and remove them from the spotlight of any negative publicity. And there’s also the incentive of a dalliance with her forest ranger girlfriend Belle (Gina Gian). Only things go pear-shaped very early on: Christian has a spectacular meltdown, rivalries and jealousy come to the fore, and then – hey ho, whaddaya know – people start dying in grisly (if poorly staged) fashion.
Directed by Marc Saltarelli, whose only feature this is (he’s made a number of shorts and contributed to the portmanteau film ‘Green Briefs’), ‘Dead Boyz Don’t Scream’ is a kind of homoerotic ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’, with bulging abs and taut buttocks instead of Jennifer Love Hewitt’s cleavage. It offers the alternative of hunky men being chased through the woods in the underwear instead of nubile women (one scene has an axe descend on Todd’s back, miss by a millisecond and the blade snick his tightie whities insteads; his terrified flight through the darkness continues au naturel). Just in case you’re wondering: yes – this kind of role reversal is the only satirical card the film has to play.
With originality pretty much off the menu, the thankfully sparse 78 minute running time devolves to an exercise in playing spot-the-homage and second-guessing the denouement. Is the killer an unhinged Christian? Or has Belle, whose stated intent is for Tess to leave her job and move to the woods with her, trying to accelerate the process by way of decimating Tess’s client base? Or are the poodles taking out their competition for the Greg Parry gig? Or is it Roz’s assistant Kimba (Kenyetta Lethridge), who seems to be floating around in the background without actually having anything to do with the proceedings? Or are there deeper secrets that connect the characters?
Or is ‘Dead Boyz Don’t Scream’ simply a camp piece of trash in which absolutely none of this malarkey matters? And, indeed, what the hell is it doing on the Winter of Discontent? Well, it was available to watch for free and I’d been drinking the previous evening. So yah boo, it’s on Winter of Discontent and I’m not wrapping up this review till I’ve found something to say about it.
And you don’t have to scratch the surface of the film too vigorously (it’s all surface anyway) to note two things. Firstly, for a film so determinedly tailored to a gay audience – every photoshoot Roz does after the stooges and the poodles arrive the ranch involves full-frontal male nudity, the fetishisation of western imagery and the kind of penis-to-screen-time ratio you’d normally expect in a Derek Jarman film – its only sex scene makes Callie the focus. Sure, there’s plenty of close-ups of the boys’ muscular physiques as they eye each other up while they wait their turn, but this is essentially less a depiction of group sex or bisexual activity than three latent gay men sublimating what they actually want to do into a take-their-turn demonstration of heterosexual conformity.
Secondly – and the target audience is worth reiterating – ‘Dead Boyz Don’t Scream’ is mind-bogglingly homophobic. From its depiction of Tess and Belle’s relationship by way of a few chaste kisses to saddling Belle with the surname Van Dyke, never mind transposing the homoerotic tension between the stooges to the incestuous almost-consummation between Dieter and Peter , the film seems to loathe both its characters and its audience. That the twist delivers an equally cynical slap in the face to gender reassignment – the killer’s motivation is revealed in a line of such jaw-dropping what-the-fuckery that “the killer developed a morbid fear of tennis balls bouncing in the night” from ‘A Blade in the Dark’ comes across as a masterpiece of psychological exposition in comparison – leaves Saltarelli and screenwriter Rick Jensen’s motivations even murkier than their understanding of how to stage comedy.
Did I mention that it’s a horror-comedy, by the way? It is. Allegedly. It’s just not fucking funny.