With the way it plays out, Tempus Torentum is a fascinating horror film if taken as an allegory for one man’s denial of and fear of his homosexuality. But is it intended as a gay horror film?
The symbolism is definitely up to that interpretation when filtered through this gay guy’s POV.
The film begins with our main man hitching a ride with a dude who gives him lecherous looks. After being dropped off, he passes an extremely cordial cowboy on a dark street in a very West Village/Castro moment right out of 1979, and then gets judgmental looks from a big beary hotel clerk, who tells him he’s “come to the right place.”
Coincidental positioning, or is this bear a horny devil?
He is intently observed (cruised?) by three guys in a diner and panics when he interrupts (goes to meet?) one of them shooting up in a bathroom stall. He flees in fear before the guy can even ask him if he wants to party.
You’re garden variety of gays?
He spends the rest of the film getting repeatedly chased, drugged, and violated by three guys in leather gimp masks in various ways that are never directly sexual.
For instance, he’s strapped down with a clamp holding his lips open so a creature with a long, dripping, phallic appendage can release its nasty “ejaculate” into his mouth.
Bizarre scenarios abound with each chase through neon lit locations. During a cat and mouse in a warehouse, our main man witnesses one of his tormentors sexually fingering a female mannequin then furiously beating up (gay bashing?) a well-primped male mannequin that is “ogling” him. Hey, I don’t like to stereotype, but that mannequin has some serious gay face.
When the main man stops at a stranger’s house and insists he needs help and is “not trying to do anything funny,” the stranger tells him he needs to turn to Jesus. Looking for protection in a church with a priest doesn’t save him, either. Has it ever saved any guy…?
Things shift to black and white when he encounters a witchy woman.
It returns to color once he snaps out of it to realize he’s back with the three men (Wizard of Oz much?).
He envisions being inducted into a masked cult and ends up at a club where everyone is wearing masks (an underground gay subculture for those who want to remain anonymous and keep their sexuality secret, perhaps?). When he tells one woman his story of abduction and describes the leader of the gang (the mannequin phobe), she comments that it sounds like he’s describing himself…
He is strapped into an electrocution chair and impaled by a woman with a big knife (interpretations are numerous for that one).
With a mask placed over his face, he is put in a box, after which he finally sees the light. If that isn’t symbolism for gay conversion therapy, being imprisoned by heteronormativity, and the death of one’s true soul, I don’t know what is.
Reading this trippy film as a nightmare of internalized homophobia gave me a unique appreciation of it. I’d love to know what anyone else thinks. If you want to check it out, it’s on Amazon Prime as of this writing. Keep your gaydar peeled for all the visual and verbal signs…
And just for fun, here’s a pic of the leading man playing with himself…