2015 film Closet Monster is worth covering on Boys, Bears & Scares because it not only intertwines some gruesome horror imagery into a tale of gay-bashing and a teen coming to terms with his sexuality, but the main character’s escape from the horrors of reality is the horror genre.
This is a wonderfully acted and heart-achingly real, emotional story of a teen who is not short of self-confidence in his identity as gay despite all the negativity that has swirled around him in his young life, including the usual societal attitudes towards homosexuality. There are very authentic details about how different types of people deal with the notion of sexual orientation, making this a very relatable film for gay viewers.
We first get a glimpse of the teen’s childhood. He has a close relationship with his father, whose bedtime stories of creatures of the night seem to be what draw him into the world of horror.
The boy is left with a single dad when the mother is shockingly removed from their life, plus the boy witnesses a horrific gay bashing in a cemetery.
As a coping mechanism for these traumatic experiences, he has conversations with his hamster Buffy (wink wink), which is voiced by Isabella Rossellini.
We then pick up with him as a teen. He has big dreams of using horror to escape his small town life; he wants to move to the city and become a special effects makeup artist.
He practices his horror makeup on his best female friend, and they do photo shoots of his work to build his portfolio.
But when a new boy enters the high school, it awakens his sexual urges.
While he begins to explore those feelings with the new kid, he is also plagued by horrific sexual nightmares that seem to be morally challenging his desires.
His once loving relationship with his father has grown volatile, and it only begins to worsen as he discovers more about himself and sees how his father might respond to the truth. Both characters are flawed, making the dynamics between them that much more genuine and their clashes quite sad.
Everything comes to a head – from emotional hurt to imagined horror – on the night the teen flees reality for the comfort of his favorite fantasy.
He attends a Friday the 13th costume party with his new male friend, but even his safe zone is haunted by the ghosts of judgment.
Refreshingly, while this isn’t exactly an uplifting film, it also isn’t like the gay tragedies of the past. However, you won’t get a tidy, happy ending, nor will there be answers to every question you might have about what becomes of the characters. Closet Monster really is just a snapshot of a tough time in the life of a horror-loving gay boy.