The tucks are tighter than the plotting, direction, or camerawork, but at least some decent drag gets served in the queer horror-comedy Death Drop Gorgeous (★☆☆☆☆). The three-man brain trust behind the Providence-set slasher flick — writer-directors Michael J. Ahern, Chris Dalpe, and Brandon Perras-Sanchez — also conjure a few creative kills, if relatively few thrills, in the story of a serial murderer stalking the gay men who frequent dive drag bar the Outhouse.
Aiming for the Trash Cinema spirit and aesthetic of John Waters, the movie is built on a solid premise, but lacks the wit and warmth that might have lent its sloppy execution a sense of fun. Instead, a mile-long mean streak has a chilling effect, both on the humor and on our sympathies for purported hero Dwayne (Wayne Gonsalves). Recently returned to Providence after a bad breakup and failed B&B endeavor, the queer Black punk rocker practically has to beg Outhouse owner Tony Two-Fingers (Perras-Sanchez, eye-rollingly bad) to get his old job back as shot boy.
That’s just one of many indignities Dwayne endures, including low-key racist rejection from a prospective hookup online, and point-blank racist rejection from a guy at the bar that he wasn’t even interested in hooking up with in the first place. The greatest indignity of all is that he should become the lead suspect when macho detectives O’Hara (Ahern) and Barry (Sean Murphy) start investigating the string of murders that point clearly in the direction of a different perpetrator.
Considering that the killer doesn’t do much — or anything, really — to cover their tracks, viewers likely won’t be as stumped as O’Hara and Barry, whose partnership seems to run on sexual tension and a marked disdain for the murder victims. But then, who in this film doesn’t disdain the victims, the bar patrons, their sister queens, or themselves? The bar’s marquee queen, Janet Fitness (Matthew Pidge), even disses her fans.
As a comment on queer culture in general, and on the Providence scene in particular, the fact that almost no one here is likable is just a bad look for everyone, especially the filmmakers. They even toss Dwayne’s character under the bus, with a scene that finds him starting a senseless bar brawl over another perceived rejection. That fit of anger flies in out of left field, seemingly just to keep Dwayne in the running as a suspect. The implication that the only Black gay in Providence might have been pushed to the edge by constant rejection opens a can of worms that these filmmakers don’t have a clue how to handle. So, the character assassination, rather than amping up the intrigue, merely adds to the non-stop bitchiness, pettiness, and cattiness that weigh down the picture.
Any real uplift here is provided by the horror make-up and effects team, who create some impressively grody guts and gore — from a face smashed with mirror shards, to a penis that meets its unfortunate end inside a meat grinder. And, as aging Outhouse performer Gloria Hole, real-life Providence queen Payton St. James (a.k.a. Michael McAdam), delivers a performance more nuanced and pointed than nearly any other aspect of the movie.
But those highlights are soundly diminished by the hazy focus in storytelling and cinematography. Seriously, quite a few shots appear out-of-focus — but they’re still sharper than the steady stream of put-downs, which, like the movie, aren’t pointed enough to be insightful or amusing.
Death Drop Gorgeous is available for digital streaming Friday, September 10. Visit www.darkstarpics.com.
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