What do you know? Two indies with a character you don’t see very often: the heroic gay guy.
PRESIDENTS DAY (2016)
Not to be confused with the slasher President’s Day, this one is a zomcom.
A group of friends is headed to a cabin in the woods for the holiday weekend, and almost immediately, there’s a problem with the camera that prevents this from being a found footage film. Indeed, Presidents Day is a horror comedy that goes beyond meta, smartly poking fun at meta horror and mocking horror audiences, with characters even breaking the fourth wall when thrown into the most ridiculous of cliché horror situations.
And the situation this time is that they accidentally raise the dead—specifically, zombies of historic presidents.
But these aren’t your ordinary, everyday gut-munching zombie presidents. These are fully functioning, talking, bickering zombie presidents that wield everything from axes to crossbows.
And when the kids realize they can’t take them all on, they summon the spirit of a man who knows a thing or two about assassinating presidents: John Wilkes Booth. The guy who plays Booth is not only adorable but he is quite funny.
The characters are like something out of a teen comedy spoof, giving the actors room to just have fun with the material, particularly the slut, the token black guy, and the obnoxious valley dude.
But the valley dude’s character is more than just his dimwitted hijinks…like skinny-dipping.
While one of the girls is all over him, he always passes up her offers for sex, and has a geeky friend who follows him around like a puppy dog. Some of his comments also leave major questions about his sexuality, which are eventually answered. He and his geeky buddy are in love with each other!
The film doesn’t present any of the characters as homophobic, so it seems the boys hiding their feelings is played for laughs. Once their love is revealed, it’s handled with the same comic tone as everything else in the film. However, it is expressed big time. Seeing his man attacked, the valley dude tenderly holds him and sobs, then retaliates furiously, going all Rambo on zombie presidents.
His war cry for his man? “Your little sexy ass is about to be avenged!”
DEAD INSIDE (2016)
Don’t let the fact that the Troma name is attached to this film scare you away from it. There’s no Troma nonsense here, and while you can definitely tell this is a low budget film, there are some very intense zombie scenes, made even more gruesome by some pretty damn good scream queens, nasty zombie makeup, and old school horror camera work and lighting.
Considering it’s modeled after Night of the Living Dead, this is one of those films that throws you right into the zombie outbreak…after an intriguing opening that feels like it’s from a totally different kind of horror movie.
We meet our main woman as she discovers a zombie in an eerily dark basement.
Our main gay boy and his (hot) dad(dy bear) are walking away from their broken down pickup truck right after discussing his recent breakup with his boyfriend when they encounter a zombie.
Before long, the main boy and several other survivors show up at the main woman’s house for shelter. When a cop arrives so panicked that he’s totally flaming out (he brings a touch of humor to the tension), he calls the main boy queer. It’s quickly established that essentially the main boy is the minority equivalent of the black guy in Night of the Living Dead, and the cop is the asshole equivalent of the guy from the basement in Night of the Living Dead.
While the zombie action that takes place in the house may seem fairly standard, it’s the flashback scenes as the characters describe how they first encountered zombies and what they’ve heard about how the outbreak started that are wickedly freaky. They also deliver shot-for-shot homages to classics of the genre that hardcore fans should recognize immediately.
There’s an oddly disjointed side story with a more comic tone featuring two rogue guys surviving out in the world, but they don’t cross paths with our main characters until the very end of the film. It’s an entertaining encounter for sure, but it doesn’t exactly validate the interspersed scenes of these guys throughout the film. Their interaction with the main characters would have made just as much sense even if we hadn’t been introduced to them already.
Now to the most notable aspect of Dead Inside: our gay leading man.
His sexuality is never overstated and doesn’t distract from the current situation. His struggle is with his predicament, with the loss of his father, and with how he’s going to get the group to safety. We’re even spared excessive anti-gay jabs from the asshole cop, and it’s the gay guy himself who owns the “f” word, at one point shouting at the cop, “I may be gay, but you’re being a faggot now!” Sure, it’s a derogatory use to imply that the cop is not manning up to a situation, but it’s language the cop understands. Besides…the cop really was being a faggot.
That moment also gives this gay character depth, demonstrating that he knows what kind of person he’s dealing with and has probably had to deal with others just like him before. He’s as fully rounded as they come and not sterilized into a hyper masculine anti-stereotype either. After his initial terror at being attacked on the road and watching his father die, he holds it together until he can sneak away to the bathroom to gather his thoughts. There, he stares at himself in the mirror, taking a moment to absorb everything that’s happening, to question if he can handle it, to shed a few tears, and to process his own ability to act out in anger.
And he finds his strength. He holds the group together. He makes the tough decisions. He fights harder than anyone, even when it means bashing zombies to smithereens with a bat.
And when it’s clear all hope is lost, a mother leaves her young son in the hands of the gay guy and begs him to take care of the boy and keep him safe.
Oh yes. Dead Inside makes some bold statements about fatherhood. It can easily be written off by general horror fans as just another cheap Night of the Living Dead knockoff, but it gets really high marks from this gay guy’s perspective. And for that reason, I’m giving it full gay horror recognition by including it on my homo horror movies page.
Nods to Troma for distributing the film, to director Ken Cosentino for taking the chance on having a gay leading man, and to cutie Tyler Austin, who portrays him so genuinely.