The 2005 indie film October Moon and the 2008 sequel November Son have the distinction of being gay horror thrillers that star two iconic scream queens: Brinke Stevens and the one and only Judith “They’re coming to get you, Barbra!” O’Dea. Director Jason Paul Collum is no stranger to scream queens; he’s also the director of the awesome documentary Screaming in High Heels: The Rise & Fall of the Scream Queen Era.
Collum injects doses of horror into these two suspenseful psycho dramas (notice I say psycho, not psychological) to create disturbing tales of obsession, guilt, and family dysfunction. Don’t expect any high camp here. These are dark looks at how homophobic heterosexuals and self-loathing homosexuals can seriously ruin it for the rest of us. The minimal, snarky gay quips are smartly reserved for camptastic queen Brinke Stevens and a couple of drag queens. And while the male cast is cute and there are some flashes of flesh, eroticism is used mostly to enhance the themes of sexual suppression.
The dark opening sequence to October Moon is straight out of a horror movie. Then we meet couple Jake and Corin. Jake likes to go out partying and Corin likes to stay in and watch reruns of The Facts of Life. My kind of man! Also noticeable around their place are cool posters for Slumber Party Massacre and Halloween. And in a club scene, the crowd is dancing to Pretty Poison’s 80s classic “Catch Me (I’m Falling)”! And there’s a Moulin Rouge poster in both movies!
Okay. I’ll stop geeking out, but it’s awesome to see that Collum loves his pop culture and horror.
The film becomes very “single white male,” even if no one involved is single. Corin gets a new assistant named Elliott at his job. Elliot is engaged to a chick and has an overbearing mother (played by Judith O’Dea) who fears him turning out to be like his father. Hm.
Working so closely with his gay boss Corin, incredibly awkward Elliott begins to realize that straight marriage is the last thing he wants out of life. What he wants is…Corin.
Elliot’s issues are so perfectly portrayed, as is his relationship with and desire for Corin. In wonderfully nuanced interactions between them, Elliot’s personal struggle plays out quite realistically. You can see his conflicted emotions fighting for control of his actions—and losing the battle as he begins to step more and more over the line, eventually becoming a total psycho stalker.
It’s at this point that the film steps into the horror realm, leading up to the final confrontation, which is pretty dang brutal.
November Son focuses on the lives of those who survived the events of October Moon. It also opens with a creepy sequence that nicely parallels the opening scene in the first film.
An adorable young man named Eli moves into the apartment once inhabited by Corin and Jake and is soon pulled into the insanity that surrounded them when they lived there. He becomes friends with Jake’s fruit fly. His homophobic father begins to date Brinke Stevens, who was Corin’s boss in the first film. And he goes to work for none other than Elliot’s mother.
Judith O’Dea‘s character is much more of the focus of this film. She is struggling with the fact that she disowned Elliot for being gay. She becomes bizarrely obsessed with Eli (bordering on perversely), and we get to know more about her past.
While there’s a lot of psycho drama going on, again, as we near the end of the film, the horror elements come in. It actually starts to feel more like a slasher, leading to some seriously fucked up revelations and some major twists and turns.
November Son takes us on quite a journey and refreshingly, as a sequel, it’s in no way just more of the same. In fact, with a storyline that progresses this much and characters we get to see change through the course of two films, I kind of wish this had been the second film in a trilogy.
Collum gives us some great nods to horror films in November Son as well. Eli references the movie Night of the Comet. He finds posters for Prom Night and Deadly Blessing in his apartment. At one point, Judith O’Dea has a delicious little run-in with her classic film Night of the Living Dead. And scream queen Debbie Rochon has a small role as Eli’s mother! Let’s just hope Jason Paul Collum has plans for more gay horror films.