Monday, June 8, 2020

Pridesploitation!: Make a Wish (2002), Killer Unicorn (2018) and Into The Dark: Midnight Kiss (2019) Triple Bill Review

As of writing this, it's June again and for our queer brothers and sisters, that means its pride month! And what better way to celebrate this time of openness and love beyond boundaries than some slasher flicks aimed for gay audiences? 

(Well, that or take your partner out for a romantic day out. Maybe cook dinner together. Play Twister. Pretty much anything else if you want to be more productive...)

Here be three hand-picked titles in which bodycounting and homosexuality get to be salty-sweet bedfellows, treating us to a birthday camp gone wrong, a vengeful fellow dressed as a rainbow maned fantasy creature, and a stalk n' stab shindig caused by a New Years game. Can these slashers be worth a gay old time? Or do they deserve the bottomless bottom of shame? Let's find out starting with:

Make a Wish (2002)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Moynan King, Hollace Starr, Virginia Baeta

The premise is as basic as it comes with a group of friends getting together in a forest reserve to celebrate a birthday. Susan, our butch celebrant, holds this annually with her gal pals of lesbian cliches, consisting of hardcore vegan Chloe, tomboy Monica, formerly queer Linda, Dawn who's into mantras and candles, and newcomer Andrea, Monica’s new girlfriend. 

Trouble rears it ugly head early on when Linda's aggressively possessive boyfriend arrives to confront Susan before the rest got there, almost getting into a scuffle until a redneck hunter intervenes and threatens him away. (For now) The hunter, in turn, takes a liking to Susan despite her showing little interest for a male fling, lumbering away only after she puts her foot down and shoos him away. (Also for now)

As tents get set and nearby lakes get swam on, the girls start to get a bit heated in more ways than one as, if they're not busy snuggling with one another, drama stirs on who dumps who and for what reason. It isn't long before night falls and while the gang tries their best to make the most out of the slowly intensifying state of their love life and friendship, there's a psycho on the loose killing people at random and setting up traps. 

It isn't hard to hide Make a Wish's minuscule budget looking at the mostly static hand-held video quality, nearly wooden acting and the lack of special effects. In fact, as a slasher, Wish is very light on the blood work, thrills or even scares, with the groundwork greatly focusing on the melodrama surrounding our group's relationship with one another and their former swing with the birthday gal, Susan. Scripting on this case is dead centered on developing the girls as far as the pen can go, but it couldn't really gotten that far with cheesy banter and lackluster wittiness tainting its direction, leaving the movie hobbling forward with one-dimensional dyke stereotypes spewing hammy gay in-jokes clutched on its wheels, which may or may not work well depending on how one could take the humor.

If anything, Make a Wish is simply an okay backwoods bodycounter for what it is; essentially progressive for its lesbian-centric cast, it doesn’t force anything of the girl's gender orientation and preferences and they simply act like regular horror film fodders. There are some T&A of the girl-on-girl nature, but it's very tam, hardly exploitative. It all goes on full ante in the last act, making way to a reveal in the end that I honestly didn't see coming both for the twist and the nature of how it ended.

The hunted-lesbians-in-the-backwoods plot will eventually get revisited and, on my opinion, improved upon in 2018's stoner slasher 4/20 Massacre, a film that pits another gang of likable girls against what appears to be a Big Foot-like creature with a thing for weed. Until then, Make a Wish (2002) swings an okay gay themed stalk-and-stab jab, just not enough to actually consider itself a must have. Makes an good rental for a single night, though!

1 female strangled with a crowbar
1 female had her neck cut with a hunting knife
1 male had his chest burnt off with a blowtorch
1 female shot and pinned to a tree with a crossbow
1 female stabbed to death with a tent spike
1 female drowned
1 male shot repeatedly
1 male hit off a cliff with a car
Total: 8
Killer Unicorn (2018)
Rating: *1/2
Starring: Dennis Budesheim, Alejandro La Rosa, Markus Kelle 

A nameless fellow remembers that one time nearly a year ago, when a group of drag queens left him for dead after beating him for almost raping one of their friends. Now donning nothing but a pair of hot pants and a giant unicorn mask, he embarks to hunt them down one by one in revenge.

As a slasher-comedy,  Killer Unicorn is very high on camp, quite fitting considering a large deal of the cast here are made up of drag queens in all of their heavy make-up and flamboyant glory. That being said, the film basically dims down the story to your typical revenge-driven stalker-type, only the victims involved are walking gay stereotypes and it's kinda hard to follow through a plot wherein almost everybody couldn't be taken seriously, let alone for an hour and fourteen minutes.

Pretty much anyone you will encounter in this movie are sex-starved and/or so self obsessed and you can only have so much of that sleaze and ham until it gets uninteresting and boring, borderline unlikable and annoying. The only highlight I can see here is that the titular Killer Unicorn does look interesting, a campier take on the topless Satan figure stalking hot boys in Hellbent (2004) if you will. We do get an ample slice of good gore, as well as some gross-out deaths like an acid enema and one guy drowning on force-fed urine, but apart from that, Killer Unicorn (2018) just doesn't cut right enough for me.

1 male had their throat cut with a knife
1 male found decapitated
1 male stabbed in the eye
1 male gets sodomized with acid-filled enema, guts spill open
1 male choked on force-fed urine
1 male snorted tainted drugs
1 male had an arm cut off with a knife, killed
1 male strangled with a severed arm
1 male set ablaze
1 male slashed with a knife
1 male bludgeoned with death with a lead pipe
1 male knifed to death
1 male axed on the neck
Total: 13
Midnight Kiss (Into The Dark Episode 4/Season 2 (2019))
Rating: ***
Starring: Scott Evans, Adam Faison, Lukas Gage 

A joint effort between horror movie company Blumhouse's television branch and video-on-demand subscription service Hulu, Into The Dark is a monthly horror anthology web series where each episode is a feature length film inspired by a holiday from the month it is released. For their second season, December 2019 gets a second episode helping at the near end of the month with a slasher set around New Year and hot gay men.

Longtime best friends and former lovers Joel (Scott Evans) and Cameron (Augustus Prew), along with Joel's fiance Logan (Lukas Gage) and their wing woman Hannah (Ayden Mayeri), head to Palm Springs to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Staying in Joel's isolated family estate and with plans on clubbing til' midnight, the gang invites Logan for a game of Midnight Kiss, where the rule is to hookup with a stranger, bring them home and get freaky until the next morning, which by then they can choose whether to depart with no strings attached. It's mostly fun, games and smooches until someone in a gimp mask and leather suit shows up, targeting the group and taking their sweet time to thin their numbers down. 

The general plotting of Midnight Kiss can be narrowed down to it being small parts holiday bodycounter and greater parts gay drama, thus lacking a higher kill count and sturdily focusing more on developing its casts for a good helping of melodramatics. We see and hear about these boys' relationships and how it have strained over the years between them through a generous portion of dialogue, a fact that would normally put me off in a slasher movie if it wasn't for the layers of intriguing history these characters have.

The writing for this movie crafted the characters as organic as possible past all the shower butt shots and male-on-male snuggling, their plight and insecurities from implied controlling partners and pressured relations made worthwhile investing our time to for how human these characters can be. It isn't until the last act wherein the horror elements kick into full gear an by then, it's no short of being the typical stalk-and-prowl with a reveal that only half worked because of the glaringly obvious red herring.

As a slasher, it's serviceable enough despite the, again, low death toll and from what we got on the effects department, half of them were generous with the bloodletting, one of which a nastier spin on classic wine bottle murders. The only drawback here is the motive of the killer which boils down to a mix of jealous rage and scarred ego and, coming from a guy who dons an imposing BDSM leather suit, it's unimpressive and pathetic to say it lightly.

A production sleek in sharp colors, fresh camera shots and some awesome techno scores, Midnight Kiss (2019) may have its slow bits and overly talky sessions, but the overall end product is still something to admire, at least as a plot-focused horror/thriller. Its heart and mind is in the right place, next to a sharpened knife that's ready to surprise open horror fans with a bittersweet script and a fair run of blood. 

1 male had his throat cut with a knife
1 male gets a broken wine bottle shoved down his throat
1 male smothered with fabric
1 male stabbed in the eye with a syringe, shot
Total: 4

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