Apartment Zero and Pin are so perfectly indicative of the taboo nature of homosexuality in the late 80s, each dancing around gay sexual desire without fully admitting to it. If you’ve not seen these two twisted films of psycho homoerotic lust, be warned; there are spoilers galore as I point out all the gay shit that takes place.
APARTMENT ZERO (1988)
Apartment Zero is essentially not a horror movie until the very end, and it’s also barely a thriller. But it is a quirky and thoroughly intriguing pseudo-gay movie that keeps you watching, despite the two-hour and five-minute running time.
Colin Firth is an obsessed movie fan with a failing theater because of video rental stores. So 80s. He has a creepy relationship with his institutionalized mother, and he lives in an apartment building with a bunch of neurotic neighbors. He also needs a roommate. His ad is answered by a dark and mysterious man, played by hottie Hart Bochner, of Terror Train and Urban Legends: Final Cut. Meanwhile, the city is being terrorized by a serial killer. Occasionally, we see a dead body being discovered by police, and one time, we get killer POV and heavy breathing, but this film is not about the kills at all.
The focus is the unspoken gay relationship between Firth and Bochner.
Firth’s awkward, prim and proper personality is usually left in a quivering mess of nervousness around Bochner’s smoldering, distant, yet in-your-face sexuality. They virtually have a sexless gay relationship, and everyone around them seems to recognize it. There are nonstop, near-climactic admissions of the situation. Plus, Bochner’s swaggering, secretive portrayal is incredibly ambiguous; he enthralls any character he comes across, male or female. Here’s a big gay breakdown:
- One of the first things we see in Firth’s apartment is a framed photo of Montgomery Clift. A James Dean photo is also seen. Here are two famous actors infamous for their sexuality, not to mention, Clift’s conservative, closeted persona is mirrored by Firth’s character, while Bochner is clearly the rebel with the questioned sexuality, just like James Dean.
- Shots of Firth and Bochner talking usually feature their faces intimately close.
- Firth becomes the homemaker, cooking meals, keeping up with the apartment, and even doing Bochner’s laundry. Firth assures Bochner he is not a “Felix Unger.” While he clarifies that he’s referencing the character’s overly-tidy trait, there has always been speculation about Felix Unger’s sexuality on The Odd Couple, as well as the metaphorical gay relationship he has with Oscar.
- Firth’s flaming jealousy is always evident—he has a hissy fit when Bochner talks to the neighbors or goes out socializing on his own.
- Nosy neighbors make reference to Firth’s “persuasion” when speaking with Bochner. At another point, Bochner refers to both Firth and himself as “special.”
- You can feel the sexual tension whenever Bochner is shirtless around Firth. One steamy scene has Bochner remove his shirt, use it to wipe his pits, then smell the shirt while talking to Firth. At another point, he playfully squeezes Firth’s chin. It’s like he’s constantly teasing Firth.
- Bochner flirts with a male neighbor in a public bathroom urinal, and even takes a peek at his junk. The neighbor recounts an old school friend with whom he was in love, and says Bochner looks like him.
- Bochner suggests to Firth that they go pick up girls, saying he likes mixed company—both males and females. Firth is devastated and warns of the dangers of AIDS (at a time when men who had sex with women didn’t really think about AIDS). Bochner tauntingly asks, “Don’t you like girls?”
- A drag queen inappropriately creeps on a guy in a movie theater (naturally—drag queen as predator). Bochner has followed the drag queen there, and defends and protects him from the guy’s violent response.
- We finally learn that Bochner is indeed the killer when he cruises a guy—and ends up with his naked, bloody body in a hotel room.
- When Bochner kills a woman in Firth’s apartment, he calls Firth his “brother,” and then says, “I love you. I love you so much.” As horrified as Firth is, he volunteers to help Bochner dispose of the body, and then suggests they run away together.
- The ending is the big psycho gay zinger. Firth kills Bochner and continues living in domestic bliss with his rotting corpse! Now that’s a sequel I would have liked to see!
While Pin has shown up on gay horror lists, it’s much easier to read it as a film about a kid with a split personality who has an incestuous love for his sister. However, he is so sexually fucked in the head that there are hints he may be in love with a male anatomy model….
No doubt, Pin is one weird movie. Terry O’ Quinn of The Stepfather is only slightly less psychotic here as a doctor who teaches his son Leon and his daughter Ursula lessons about life—and sex—by pulling the old ventriloquist trick with a creepy as hell anatomy model that looks like a living, skinned man. And although we never see it, the model—which the kids call “Pin” (short for Pinocchio)—is anatomically correct. This is made most clear when little Leon spies on one of his father’s nurses fucking Pin. WTF? I guess Pin sports wood, and it’s not his nose that grows. Rather than be aroused, Leon is horrified to see a woman dripping all over Pin.
Leon proves to have an unhealthy attachment to Pin and a rather negative opinion of girls, which may stem from his psycho neat freak mother who won’t even let him bring boys into the house because they’re dirty. When it’s suggested that Pin should wear clothes when he’s not being used to teach anatomy, Pin says it would be too much hassle to take them off after, and Leon offers to do it for him. Leon has no friends, and says that his sister is a girl and it’s not the same. When Ursula points out a girl’s tits to him, he calls the girl a pig and says they’re not tits, it’s just fat. He smacks his sister when she calls Pin a dummy. What a girl-hating anatomy-model-sexual!
After brother and sister are caught with a naughty magazine (which only Ursula was actually looking at), Pin gives them a lecture on sex, saying it’s crucial that man and woman get together to procreate. He says if you’re normal, you want sex to make life (compared to saying it’s normal to want sex). Right after insisting that heterosexuality is the norm, Pin then commands Leon to remove the towel that covers his junk! Um…don’t forget, this is their father doing ventriloquism to “educate” them. Anyway, Ursula excitedly whips off the towel instead, and soon after admits to Leon that she is hot for sex. As the two get older, she even gains a reputation as a slut, which makes Leon furious. Is he sexually repressed because he loves his sister…or because he loves Pin?
Next comes the big high school dance—the one amazingly 80s moment in the film, with kids dancing to an awesome track by a group called Pleasant Company. Sadly, the band appears to never have released an album. Anyway, the kids are now teens, and Ursula is getting fucked in a car at the dance. Leon, played by David Hewlett (Cube, Splice, Scanners II, Rise of the Planet of the Apes), pulls the boy off (and out of) her…and kicks him in the balls, with a notable focus on the boy’s aching crotch grab. Leon clearly has it in his self-loathing mind that male genitals are the root of all evil. Ursula gets pregnant, and their dad fricking aborts it…telling Leon he should stay in the room and watch! WTF? Leon refuses.
Dad, the obvious reason that his son is all sexually fucked up, freaks out when he finds Leon in the office talking to Pin (I learned from watching you, dad!), so throws it in the backseat of his car to get rid of it. Unfortunately, with Pin watching over their shoulders, dad and mom get into a car accident and die. Leon makes sure to rescue Pin from the wreckage, and takes Pin home to live with he and Ursula.
Leon gives Pin skin. Leon dresses Pin. Leon has Pin at every meal. Leon sits in the attic with Pin and talks to him. When their aunt comes to stay with them, Leon puts Pin in her bed and she dies of a heart attack (so technically, he didn’t murder her). Leon brings home a girl to fuck, but can’t bring himself to undress in front of her or have sex with her. Pin proceeds to chase the girl around the house in the creepiest scene in the whole movie, but Ursula comes home and rescues her. And finally, when Leon, threatened by the fact that Ursula has a boyfriend, gets into a battle to the death with him, Ursula once again has to intervene.
The fact, is, Leon/Pin never actually kills anyone in the film—nor do they have sex together. If only there had been a scene of Leon blowing Pin, or riding him like the nurse had, this movie would have been that much better in its psychosexual character study. In the end, Ursula destroys Pin to free her schizo brother of his control, but instead, he becomes Pin. Pin even asks Ursula if she’s heard from Leon, and when she says no, Pin says he misses Leon. There is most definitely a lot of messed up shit going on in Leon’s head throughout the film, but while there are hints of him having issues about sexuality, it seems to me that he is not so much gay or in love with Pin as he has been projecting his existence into Pin all along. It’s like his idol–he wants to be Pin (and eventually is). Pin is the real man with the balls Leon just doesn’t have. Who knows? Maybe he has used Pin as a way to deny his own homosexuality. After all, he becomes Pin, and Pin banged a female nurse.