September 2008

Several years ago I rented an extremely stylized and ultra-aware-of-its-own-cool 1960’s yakuza flick based on a recommendation of it in some one-off piece in the Indy. I then immediately forgot its name, who made it, etc., had long since tossed the issue with that article and have spent the intervening, oh, seven or eight years wishing I could find that movie again. After realizing late – very late – last night that the internet could almost certainly solve this for me I sat down with Netflix and Wikipedia and started the serious hunting. It appears that it’s Tokyo Drifter – the description of the film and the bio of the director certainly fit – and right now it’s on its way to me as we speak.

It is so satisfying to scratch a mental itch that’s lasted nearly a decade.

On a vaguely related note, the 2008 schedule is up for the ESCAPISM festival at the Carolina Theatre of Durham. How stoked am I for this festival? Wicked stoked. It’s going to be tricky for me to schedule around because that’s also the first weekend of early voting, IIRC, and I’m an election judge for early voting but it is totally worth scheduling around to do both of these things. ESCAPISM this year has three things in particular that just make my scalp sweat with desire to see them: The Punisher from 1989, They Live (an all-time favorite of mine) and Something Wicked This Way Comes which, due to election judging, I can’t see. Feh. What this means is that my friends must go see it for me.

So, through a chain of links and events too circuitous to be interesting, I recently learned that a GLBT pay channel called here! has a show called “The Lair” and that this show is a soap opera about gay vampires who run a strip club. This had “trainwreck” written all over it in big letters so I had to step up and watch it. Once I knew this existed I knew I would have to see it. Happily, Netflix has it so I got to watch the first half of the first season this week.

Here is the thing: its negatives are some real negatives and its positives are, surprisingly, some real positives. This is a half-hour show with a season length of six episodes. We are talking about some extremely efficient storytelling here and they honestly get points for that. The storyline moves because it doesn’t have time to dawdle over much of anything.

On the other hand, the DVD should feature a voiceover on each menu that says, “We’ve replaced the lifestyles section of your local newspaper with Skinemax; let’s see who notices,” because that is exactly what one gets when one watches this show.

The basic premise is that a small-time reporter at a small-time paper lives in something right out of the Tour of Homes with his boyfriend, Fauxhawk McJunkyard, and investigates a string of grisly murders perpetrated by the gay vampires. It is an almost woefully ambitious storyline that tries to incorporate a lot of different topics that could make for a really interesting story: trust issues in relationships, the ways in which an unrestrained and irresponsible sexual environment can be seen as preying on people, the political angle of a boyfriend who can’t get any information from the doctor after his boyfriend is attacked because he isn’t technically a family member, etc. There’s a lot to work with there, the lead is cute, the boyfriend is cute, they’ve got a resident fruit fly, plus the whole fangs thing. In the end, though, it’s such a low-budget affair and the villains are so ham-fisted that it falls fairly flat.

The impression one cannot escape is that the incredibly stupid vampires in this town – whatever it’s name is – are incredibly lucky to be surrounded by even dumber mortals. They occasionally require the characters to make stupid choices just so they can set up false, fleeting suspense. The only straight people in the show are in a horribly abusive relationship to make Fauxhawk’s creepy stalking seem less crazy. The dialogue could be worse but the delivery is pretty cringe-worthy. To top it all off, no pun intended, every episode has to include at least one session of incredibly lackluster and unenthusiastic dry-humping. There’s actually a scene in which, to demonstrate his ennui, the head of the local vampires watches with obvious boredom as a bunch of dudes in those way, way played out leather strap bandolier things hump each other and all I could say in response to his complacency was, Brother, you and me both. If the softcore is how they sold the show, well, so be it, but damn, it is not in fact a selling point.

As I said to Deadblob after, this show is the intersection point for cute guys, bad acting, unrealized ambition and pantomime blowjobs. For all that, its ambition wins out. I have to respect it for trying so hard. I left the second disc at the top of my Netflix queue, anyway.

Long live the Annex.