Kiss of Death
by Steven Foster
Frontiers film critic, pop culture vulture, and former Houstonian Stephan Horbelt recently bemoaned the abysmal state of many “gay” movies. One specific film, which he charitably chose not to mention by name, sparked particular venom. “How do these movies get made?” he practically screamed. The question is pointedly valid—someone is writing checks to have these shockingly bad flicks produced. But the real answer cineastes were looking for was which movie rankled Horbelt’s film feathers so much. Totally unconfirmed here, but the smart money is on Judas Kiss.
A borderless ramble of Jell-O narrative, Judas Kiss chronicles the sorta-magical life of Zachary Wells (played by gay staple and Dante’s Coveman Charlie David), a director who once showed promise before his career took second billing to his affection for Hollywood booze and boys. Now at the low end of the very shallow fame pool, he pouts at a party and dives for the open bar. But before he can relapse, a friend goads him into judging the student competition of a prestigious film fest—an event both conducted at and named for Wells’s alma mater. Just so we understand the movie will be rife with magic realism, when we see the film-fest invitation it supernaturally sparkles with a twinkling sound effect. The school logo also glimmers when Wells arrives at the fest. In fact, people, signs, moments, and every soft voodoo plot device shimmers in a—get it? get it?!—glow. Somewhere, dead horses are being beaten.
On the eve of the judging, Wells locates the town’s only gay bar and there finds some hot young stud (the impossibly bland weirdo Richard Harmon) and beds him. The next day, Wells discovers this nubile young tramp is not only (1) in the film competition, but (2) he’s a director, and (3!) he shares Wells’s real name! Is this kid some kind of Single White Male stalker? Is Wells himself in another alternate universe? Has Wells traveled back in time to teach himself a lesson? Will Wells award the kid (himself?) the school’s equivalent to the Palme d’Ore in what must be the strangest case of jury-rigging ever invented? Who cares?
The movie strains and groans under its desperate Back to the Future wannabe-ism, ignoring the real head-scratcher everyone in the audience is asking: Did he just have sex with his underage self? (Altogether now: Ewwwwww.) Toss in mysterious coincidences, family tragedy, and incest, and you’ve got a narrative that’s more tangled than Charlie David’s greasy locks. The movie aims to be a smart, sexy, savvy mystery kiss. But with incompetent direction, leaden dialog, and dinner theater-level acting, it’s a sloppy one. Wise filmwatchers will hold out for a lip-lock with the upcoming Weekend or Circumstance, films that Horbelt, other critics, and recent festival-goers rightly fell in love with.
Available October 25 from Wolfe Video (wolfevideo.com).
Steven Foster is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.