So this book called Out in the Dark: Interviews with Gay Horror Filmmakers, Actors and Authors has exposed me to plenty of new stuff to add to Boys, Bears & Scares, spotlighting dozens of the gay horror creators out there. But one gay horror creator sort of stayed in the shadows—and that’s the author and interviewer Sean Abley.
Sean Abley is not only the author of Out in the Dark, he’s also a prolific writer and has produced several movies, including The Gay Bed and Breakfast of Terror and Pornography: A Thriller (covered below). Plus, he is the writer and director of Socket (also covered below). But possibly most important, Sean Abley is the man who started and wrote the Gay of the Dead gay horror blog for Fangoria. Talk about having a major impact on the gay horror niche getting its foot into the door of mainstream horror.
It is Gay of the Dead that led to Sean compiling the interviews for Out in the Dark. So before covering his film work, I want to cover the book, which, through Sean’s discussions with many different talented men, has something for everyone: gay horror fans, gay horror artists, and those looking to break into acting, film-making, or writing. Here’s the rundown of those interviewed:
Alan Kelly – The author of “Let Me Die a Woman” talks transgender issues, Ireland GLBT youth, and influences like Tarantino, John Waters, and Russ Meyer.
Alan Rowe Kelly – A great conversation about the horror director and actor’s gender identity on and off screen, killing kids in movies, and going for serious b-horror instead of gay camp.
Armando Munoz – The filmmaker talks about Michael Jackson as his horror inspiration, doing more nudity in horror, panties and toilet humor, and Outfest rejecting his activist film.
Bart Mastronardi – The filmmaker recounts his struggles coming out, fighting back during a gay bashing, working with Alan Rowe Kelly…and getting Clive Barker to support his work!
Bruce la Bruce – Discusses his zombie pornos, porn snobbery, and working with professional and amateur actors.
Chris Diani – Admits to sucking as an actor and the challenge of getting his movie Creatures from the Pink Lagoon recognized.
Colton Ford – discusses his singing career vs. his acting career and the fun of getting naked in The Lair. And he gets a photo because it’s my blog and he’s Colton Ford. But I kept it clean and used a shot from the show and not a nudie shot!
David Moretti – Talks about coming out after being in The Lair and working with David DeCoteau on the movie Playing with Fire.
Don Mancini – The creator of the Chucky franchise talks his love of 70s horror and doing a screening of Seed of Chucky with Peaches Christ.
Douglas Clegg – The author discusses his support of ebooks and having a book made into a movie.
Dylan Vox – The actor talks about his long list of horror projects, including The Lair, Scab, Pornography, and a mockumentary on the Friday the 13th rerelease.
Glenn McQuaid – The filmmaker discusses zombies, his film I Sell the Dead (including a porn parody), and the state of Irish horror.
Jason Paul Collum – Takes us through his long career in films, from making bad franchise sequels to working with David DeCoteau and Brinke Stevens, plus not being out when he made his first gay horror film.
Jeffrey Riddick – The writer of Final Destination covers working at New Line Cinema and growing up gay and non-white in rural America.
Jeffrey Schwarz – Horror documentary maker discusses the art of DVD extra features and his work on the Freddy and Jason DVDs, as well as his documentary about Divine.
Jeremy Owen – The actor talks about the fun of being a zombie and psycho killer in low budget flicks, as well as playing gay.
Johnny Hazzard – Discusses the transition from being in porn to being on The Lair.
Peaches Christ – Covers doing drag, meeting John Waters, starting the Midnight Mass show, and working with Mink Stole, Elvira, and Natasha Lyonne on his film All About Evil.
JT Seaton – Talks directing and acting, working with Brinke Stevens, and inspirations like Lovecraft and Japanese horror.
Lee Thomas – The author discusses writing for the young adult market, using gay Nazis as a topic for his horror, and his feelings about zombie fiction, Stephen King, and Jack Ketchum.
Mark Bessenger – Recounts growing up with horror and exploitation, working with Stephen Geoffreys, and how his film Bite Marks began as straight horror before going gay.
Matthew Montgomery – Actor. Geeks out over Robert Heinlein and sci-fi, discusses his roles in Socket and Pornography, and talks dating a co-star.
Michael Simon – The creator of the short film “Gay Zombie” talks about the art of making short films.
Patrick McGuinn – Laments the lack of penis in his gay horror film Eulogy for a Vampire.
Richard Marr-Griffin – Talks gay characters and male nudity in his horror flicks…and about his love of Shakespeare.
Robert Dunbar – Recounts having the gay subtext removed from his novel by an evil editor and how his writing has touched gay teens.
Ryan Metzger – The actor recalls playing Frank-N-Furter in a production of Rocky Horror and working on gay horror film Skull & Bones.
Joe Gage – Discusses going from making porn to making exploitation flicks like Bad Girls Dormitory.
Tim Sullivan – The creator of I Was A Teenage Werebear talks about feeling accepted by the horror community, facing homophobia while location shooting, getting trashed for casting a gay porn star, working with Lin Shaye, and casting Gabby from the Scream Queens reality show.
Vincent Kovar – Actor from Creatures from the Pink Lagoon talks his dancing locker room scene and kissing a straight guy on camera.
Wesley Eure – The teen heartthrob on Land of the Lost talks about being in the original The Toolbox Murders and his AIDS activism work.
Now, let’s move on to Sean Abley’s directing and producing of indie horror films.
Sean Abley wrote and directed the 2007 indie film Socket, which is a gay sci-fi thriller flick with touches of horror.
After surviving a lightning accident, Dr. Bill Matthews hooks up with an intern named Craig who brings him to a group of people who have survived similar situations. This group has an interesting way of coping; they connect themselves to an electrical source for a sort of electrocution daisy chain that gives them a jolt of pleasure. Basically, they get high on electrical currents and then go out to party.
As Bill begins an intensely romantic and erotic relationship with Craig, his need for electric speed grows. So in between group sessions, he delves into unorthodox means of getting that hit he needs to get through the day, which causes a whole different kind of friction between he and Craig—and leads Bill into taking extreme and tragic actions.
Socket is a wickedly engrossing film. The concept of electricity as being the drug of choice (and drug of addiction) is wild. Actor Derek Long as the leading man is outstanding in the role. He goes from the kind of sexy and sweet man you want to call daddy to the kind of sexy and terrifying man you want to teach you a lesson as the film progresses; you can see his personality steering out of control through his emotionally charged performance.
Cutie Matthew Montgomery plays Craig (and also appears in the next movie I’m going to cover). There’s an amazing onscreen chemistry between he and Derek Long and their sex scenes are so sensual they don’t feel pornographic, just sexy as hell. And the lack of modesty makes the nude scenes feel incredibly real. The characters truly seem like two men in love with no walls up—and by that, I mean no ridiculously placed props or sheets to censor their natural alone time together (except for the more covered up moment in the pic below–Derek on the left and Matthew on the right in all pix).
Then there’s the lesbian couple. These chicks RULE! They bring the comic relief to an otherwise dark and serious film and they are adorable and funny. Actress Rasool J’Han also appears in the next film I discuss—plus she appeared in I Know What You Did Last Summer! Awesome. Actress Allie Rivenbark appeared in The Gay Bed and Breakfast of Terror, which was actually produced by Sean Abley. And speaking of Sean, he appears in Socket as the leader of the group.
For me, what makes Socket work so well aside from the cast and the whacked subject matter is that it doesn’t try to grow bigger than its main characters—or its budget. Plus, you get pulled along its path to darker, horror-esque territory because it never strays from its focus on Bill and his closest support network. On top of all that, Sean Abley uses his indie budget to his advantage, keeping the locations to a minimum and actually getting across the key elements of the movie—electricity and darkness—through the use of lighting.
PORNOGRAPHY: A THRILLER (2009)
Pornography: A Thriller was produced by Sean Abley, but directed by David Kittredge. However, Sean appears in this movie also! Just look for the bearded cutie bear with the baseball cap during a table reading scene. You’ll also recognize faces from other shows, indie movies, and adult films, including gay horror goodies like The Lair and Socket.
This film gets both praised and criticized for trying to be a David Lynch movie. Thankfully, I don’t watch a lot of David Lynch, so I don’t care either way. Yet the same people who worship David Lynch complain that this movie makes no sense (which makes no sense to me). I was glad to find out that Pornography did make sense, at least in the way I interpreted it. While a cheap thrills whore like me is the last person who feels like analyzing a film’s meaning, when it’s devilish and clever, I can’t help but want to point it out. But let me first give a brief description of the film.
First off, while there are some creepy and suspenseful scenes, as well as a masked killer (I actually know the man behind the mask!), this is not a slasher. As the title says, it’s a thriller. And while it’s about a porn actor and the porn business, it’s not about sex. There are three segments that have something in common: the disappearance of an ex-porn star named Mark Anton.
In the first segment, we meet Mark back in 1995. He is being asked to come out of retirement to do more porn. Agreeing to do it is the last move—and the last movie—he’ll ever make.
The second segment flashes forward 14 years. A young man writing a book about the porn industry soon discovers evidence in his new apartment that it may be the very place where Mark Anton fell victim to a snuff film.
The final story is about a young man making and starring in a porn thriller about the disappearance of a porn star named Mark Anton. His intention is to make a movie in which nothing seems to make sense and you’re never sure what’s real and what’s not. Wink wink.
Okay. That’s the short of it. Now, here’s the long of what it all means to me (I hate when I have to act like I’m smart and writing a paper for school). If you want to see the movie and formulate your own thoughts, this could serve as spoilers.
Pornography: A Thriller is a trippy movie. There are times when you’re not sure what’s real, what is just a dream or hallucination, or how the three segments connect. The movie even throws shade at itself about these issues.
First, consider the title. While we probably expect a sexually charged porn thriller (maybe gay naked guys on a porn set getting offed one by one?), that’s not what we get. Instead, Pornography is about what the porn industry can do to a man’s life. It’s also about what consumers think of men in porn films.
In short, I believe the main character in all three segments is Mark Anton, losing himself and trying to come to terms with who he really is. The writer in the second story IS Mark Anton. The moviemaker in the third segment IS Mark Anton. Both men are obsessed with Mark Anton to the point of seeing themselves as him, just as we use gay porn to fantasize about either being with the stars or actually being them.
Throughout the second segment, as the writer comes closer to uncovering the truth of what happened to Mark Anton, he begins experiencing the things Mark Anton feared. When the writer decides to film his sexual activity with his partner, essentially starring in his own porn, he has what seems to be a nightmare about being chased by Mark Anton’s killer. He wakes up with a start and…
…we see he has become the moviemaker and the third segment starts immediately, seeming to leave the second segment with no conclusion. The moviemaker is playing the role of Mark Anton, and soon, the lines between his role and himself begin to blur. Instead of his story having a definitive ending, it loops back to Mark Anton’s story from the first segment.
The moviemaker goes on the same audition Mark went on for his final film. He says the same thing to his “interviewer,” which is merely a camera on a table and a speaker through which a creepy voice is asking questions. He is pushed to reveal the truths about his life. He confesses to who he really is. He tells the camera that he is not an image on a monitor, that he is flesh and blood, and that being in front of the camera is all pretending.
We the viewers don’t know who the real Mark Anton is by the end of the movie because Mark Anton is just a porn star, a sex god, an illusion. Mark Anton doesn’t know who the real Mark Anton is for a majority of the film because he has lost himself in who he’s trying to be for the entertainment of us, the viewers.
Then, much like the movie Funny Games calls the audience out on wanting to see violence, Pornography: A Thriller calls us out on wanting to see sex. While there are sexual situations throughout the film and some butts here and there, we never see the full Monty. A movie called Pornography and yet we never see the leading man’s goods?
But just like we were given the money shot in the final moments of Boogie Nights since it was a movie about a guy with a huge dick, in the final frame of Pornography, we at last see what we’ve been waiting for; the leading man, who has essentially become Mark Anton, strips completely and shows us his penis. He looks at the camera—at us—and says, “Isn’t this what you wanted to see?”
Hey. I could be totally wrong. But it works for me and that’s all that matters. Even with my wicked case of ADHD, I was drawn in to this film and never bored, and had no problem making sense of it (can’t say the same of David Lynch movies). Maybe some viewers who were enticed by a movie entitled Pornography don’t want to recognize that the movie is holding a mirror up to them.
As a perfect example, I have to bring up one comment made in an online review. The writer of this review complains that the leading man in the final segment is supposed to be hot and flawless yet we see his bald spot and close-ups of his crooked teeth. That might make him less than perfect, but I thought he was fucking hot. And actually, I’m not sure that it is even specified in the movie that he is flawless. Men in the movie find him attractive, yes. He is a porn star, yes. BUT, do those things equate to him being FLAWLESS??? Or was this reviewer assuming perfection is a given because that’s what an audience demands of a porn star?
And there you have it, mister reviewer who despises bald spots and crooked teeth. Take another look at Pornography: A Thriller and you’ll see your reflection in it.
AND THIS CONCLUDES….
…my spotlight on Sean Abley: writer, director, producer, and even sometimes actor of gay horror! Keep doing what you’re doing, Sean! And add a nude scene to your resume. Heh heh.