Dr. Lauren McIntyre is a horror obsessive, tattoo connoisseur, natural Goth and cat wrangler. Lauren has spent the last few days trying not to spontaneously combust in the 30+ degree heat. Say hi to her on Twitter: @noddinggoth
Darren Gaskell is a horror obsessive and “enthusiastic” karaoke performer. Darren has spent the last couple of weeks learning the German version of a Eurovision Song Contest winner. Say hi to him on Twitter: @darren_gaskell
For the second time in as many months, Dr. Lauren and Darren made the long trek to their respective sofas for another packed day of films and shorts courtesy of the lovely Mitch Harrod, Soho Horror Festival’s programmer and all-round horror hero. June 27th 2020 saw the Pride Edition of the SoHome Horror Festival, a culmination of Mitch’s long-held dream to bring exclusively queer horror content to as wide an audience as possible.
*** THERE ARE A FEW SPOILERS AND SWEARS IN THIS ONE AND A DISCUSSION ABOUT WHERE DARREN WON’T PUT HIS DICK – YOU’VE BEEN WARNED***
Darren: So, outside of the main features and outside of the Queer Fears Showcase and outside of the Nick Vince stuff, here’s the rest of the shorts from SoHome’s Pride Edition, starting with…
UNUSUAL ATTACHMENT (dir. Michael Varrati)
Darren: This is one of two Michael Varrati shorts which screened during the day. You’d think this would have been shot during lockdown as it’s very much of that ilk. In fact, I think it was shot pre-lockdown, last year. It all takes place on screens.
[UPDATE: The wonderful Michael Varrati very kindly took the time out to get in touch with us, firstly to tell us how much he enjoyed reading this – thank you so much, Michael! – but also to clear up the details about when Unusual Attachment was made. To quote the man himself:
“Unusual Attachment WAS shot during the early months of lock-down and made entirely remotely. It was made in March and April of this year!”]
Dr. Lauren: It’s about a guy who’s using a hook-up app, not quite Grindr but a similar sort of thing. What’s it called? Was it called Man Bingo?
Darren: Man Bingo! That made me laugh a lot.
Dr. Lauren: It’s a chatroom roulette situation where you don’t know who you’re going to talk to. Some guy pops up and they might shove their dick in the camera or they might actually talk to you, you’re not sure.
Darren: That pretty much sums it up.
Dr. Lauren: This also had a very nice, surprise cameo from Felissa Rose.
Darren: Felissa Rose is the main character’s aunt.
Dr. Lauren: “Are you trawling the Internet for dick?”
Darren: It’s a very funny cameo. You think she’s going to be this really buttoned-down aunt and the main guy is trying to cover up the fact that he’d got a bottle of lube in his hand when she video called him. He’s all like “Oh, nothing’s going on” and then she not only refers to the lube, she goes on about all sorts of things.
Dr. Lauren: She was like everyone’s one inappropriate aunt. The sort of aunt that I’m very much hoping I am.
Darren: I’m sure you can be that aunt.
Dr. Lauren: My niece and nephew don’t know what’s coming when they’re a bit older.
Darren: Even though it makes a good move into scarier territory as it goes along it does open with some fun comedy as he trawls through these random people, trying to find someone he’d spoken to a few nights previously. So you get a series of strange folks who all have slightly odd ideas about the world, including one guy who’s completely wrapped up in his complaints about synthetic lube.
Dr. Lauren: I thought this was great. It wasn’t my favourite of the day although it was one of the better ones but my husband did say it was his favourite.
Darren: It was good. It balances out the funny and the disturbing nicely. As the comedy gives way to something more sinister, it manages to be quite chilling considering how ludicrous it’s been before that.
Dr. Lauren: It all goes a bit Death Of A Vlogger.
Darren: It does, yes.
Dr. Lauren: Top drawer.
Darren: It was a very good start. Set you up for the rest of the day. It was a decent mix of humour and the horror really came through. It was properly unnerving at the end.
THE PAIN WITHIN US (dir. Dylan Murray)
Darren: This played alongside Unusual Attachments and was a lot different to that. A slower, more downbeat exploration of grief about a woman who has lost her partner and the ways in which the loss manifested itself.
Dr. Lauren: It was very much in the same vein as The Fear Of Looking Up so tonally it was very well programmed. I don’t know why, I wasn’t too hot on it.
Darren: I know you didn’t get a lot out of this one.
Dr. Lauren: No. It was fine and I don’t think it was bad. For me, it just fell a bit flat, that’s all.
Darren: I think, for me, it had a bit more resonance with what’s happened recently. It was something that maybe I’d have reacted to differently had I been in a different situation.
Dr. Lauren: Yes.
Darren: It did resonate, I have to say. It’s something that I found quite hard to watch. I’m glad I did though. It struck a few chords, it was a bit close to home but I thought it was a decent piece of filmmaking. I did appreciate the ending. It does resolve itself in the right way but I don’t want to get too wrapped up in this so we’ll move on.
JEREMIAH (dir. Kenya Gillespie)
Darren: This is about a high school football player. This is the American version of football, not the British version of it.
Dr. Lauren: Soccer.
Darren: He confronts monsters in his life both imagined and real. Without trying to give too much away that’s all I can really say in terms of the plot.
Dr. Lauren: Again, I think this was fine. I don’t think it was bad in any way but it wasn’t my favourite.
Darren: At the side of some of the other shorts it was a tad too literal for me. There’s even a voiceover about how if you’re thinking of monsters you risk becoming the monster. Yeah, I get what you’re trying to say but did you actually have to say it?
Dr. Lauren: I know what you mean.
Darren: It was fine. I didn’t think it was terrible. I’m with you. It was the short that landed the least with me.
Dr. Lauren: It’s difficult. Films that I would define as a bit more middle of the road depend on what you’re watching them alongside.
Darren: It does.
Dr. Lauren: On a different day in another line-up I might have thought a little bit differently about it but because some of the shorts over the rest of the day were really strong then it faded a little bit into the background.
Darren: Yeah. It was solid enough.
Dr. Lauren: Oh yeah.
Darren: But when you have things that are pushing the boundaries in terms of quality and content, it probably got unfairly lost in the shuffle.
Dr. Lauren: Maybe on a different day it would have stood out more.
THIRST TRAP (dir. Steve Flavin)
Darren: On to something that I think we both got a lot out of, which was Thirst Trap.
Dr. Lauren: This was my favourite short of the day!
Darren: Again, a lockdown style of movie.
Dr. Lauren: And the opener for the Sexy Vampire Segment.
Darren: It kicked off the Sexy Vampire segment. I’m almost tempted to effect a Matt Berry voice for this and over-enunciate everything. Thirst Trap is about a vampire trawling the online community.
Dr. Lauren: Trawling for dates. Well, he’s not really trawling for dates, he’s trawling for victims.
Darren: There’s no bloodletting at all in this one, it’s all about this vampire guy’s lifestyle and how he conducts his life and how he cultivates his online persona. It’s all very well observed and it’s very funny.
Dr. Lauren: It’s not very long and the storytelling is quite simple and understated but in a really good way. You can infer a lot about what’s going on from the little that’s being said. A few words speak volumes, if that makes sense. You find out a lot about the main character in just a few minutes.
Darren: It’s told very economically. You get a lot of detail about his life, about how important it is for him to have an attractive online presence when he’s trying to lure all of these unsuspecting victims in.
Dr. Lauren: And what happens to him at the end of this, I think we’ve all been there.
Darren: Yeah. It doesn’t especially come back to bite him – pardon the pun – but I think regardless of whether you’re gay or straight, vampire or non-vampire, there is something that will make you think “Yeah, I identify with that”.
Dr. Lauren: Sure.
TEA PARTIES ARE FOR BABIES! (dir. Teja Rose)
Darren: To the second sexy vampire short, Tea Parties Are For Babies!
Dr. Lauren: Has this shown somewhere before? I thought that someone had said they’d already seen it or did I imagine that?
Darren: I haven’t seen it but that’s not to say it hasn’t played at loads of places. I don’t know how recent the short is. It’s more sexy vampire action but it’s a bit more expansive than Thirst Trap because it goes out into the real world. It doesn’t really start off as a vampire movie. It evolves into a vampire movie from a small town relationship sort of story.
Dr. Lauren: There was more of a relationship between the two women in this short film than the two main women in After Dark.
Darren: They’d established the relationship and built that in, what, ten minutes here. The vampire in After Dark was too wrapped up in doing the outrageous European accent*.
Dr. Lauren: She was a casual acquaintance, no more than that.
Darren: Whereas here you get friendship and a bit of cameraderie and…
Dr. Lauren: …and possibly a burgeoning romance.
Darren: There’s a bit of a spark before you’re plunged into something completely different.
Dr. Lauren: I liked this. The one thing was that it finished a bit abruptly. I think it could have gone on a little bit longer than it did.
Darren: I was expecting something else to happen and then the credits started rolling. There’s something that happens but I also wanted to know what happened just after. It was a bit blunt.
Dr. Lauren: I wanted a little bit more.
Darren: Yeah, but it was well done and bonus points for it being surprisingly nasty. It wasn’t expecting it to be quite as abruptly brutal as it was at the end. It was also abruptly brutal in the way it stopped. That’s your lot, here come the credits.
DEATH DROP GORGEOUS (preview) (dir. Michael J. Ahern, Christopher Dalpe)
Darren: So, along with the last movie, we got a couple of shorts but we also got a preview of a gay slasher movie, coming soon, called Death Drop Gorgeous.
Dr. Lauren: Oh my God! I loved this so much! It’s everything! I think it might have been my highlight of the day.
Darren: On one level, it was great that they able to give us a preview. On another level, I was like WHY ARE THEY NOT SHOWING US THIS MOVIE?
Dr. Lauren: It was such a juicy dangler.
Dr. Lauren: The bit that was shown. I’m not going to say any more other than “glory hole” and “meat grinder”. My husband was still pissing himself laughing about ten minutes after it had finished.
Darren: It straddled the line between utterly hilarious and astonishingly painful.
Dr. Lauren: It was fucking hilarious. Can I also say that I found out from the filmmakers afterwards that the excellent special effects were done by none other than Victoria Black who came third on one of the seasons of Dragula.
Darren: Oh, right!
Dr. Lauren: The Boulet Brothers’ drag competition. Victoria Black is fucking excellent so I was very surprised but also very happy to hear she was involved.
Darren: That’s good stuff. Also, we’d instigated a scale recently about a certain form of trauma.
[Dr. Lauren remembers the scale and starts laughing]
Dr. Lauren: It was well up there!
Darren: I think it’s very high level.
Dr. Lauren: On the penis trauma scale it was very high.
Darren: The Zombeavers one was mid-range, this one is towards the top.
Dr. Lauren: Yeah. This is a good eight of ten.
Darren: It’s not over quickly.
Dr. Lauren: It’s got to be more than eight out of ten because it’s horrible. There’s a really long, slow build up to it as well.
Darren: Exactly. I can imagine certain members of the audience…
Dr. Lauren: Members! I see what you did there.
Darren: I thank you. I think a lot of people went online after this to say their eyes were watering. I definitely want to see this. Even the scene before it in the club was really funny. It wasn’t just an outrageous gore sequence, there are proper jokes in it. It isn’t just extreme penis trauma.
Dr. Lauren: And there are some life lessons you can learn from it. Don’t just wander into a sexy murder cellar because you think you’re going to get a blowjob.
Darren: Exactly. Also, my personal viewpoint – and I’m not saying this is something to live your life by – if there is a hole there I am not sticking my cock in it because I have no idea what’s on the other side. Why would you stick your cock in a hole that you can’t see the other side of? I’ve no idea.
Dr. Lauren: Wow. Maybe this a conversation we can open up with more people.
Darren: I watch too many horror films. I’d be thinking there’s going to be a machete or a chainsaw or God knows what on the other side.
Dr. Lauren: Or a mincer.
Darren: Or a mincer. I would have to be taken around the other side to have a look. In fact, I wouldn’t be comfortable with that either, there’d have to be some sort of mirror arrangement…
[At this point, Dr. Lauren nearly does herself an injury from laughing]
Darren: This is completely hypothetical.
Dr. Lauren: Wow. That is a terrifying insight into your mind.
Darren: I’ve got myself in so much fucking trouble just by discussing this festival.
Dr. Lauren: Shall me move on?
Darren: Yes. Just to say, please let me keep writing for The Horrorcist. I’ll behave. Honest.
[Both of them have to stop to laugh]
DEMONS (dir. Jesse Klein)
Darren: Let’s move on from what’s in my sordid mind to Demons, which I really, really liked. It’s about a serial killer who attends a support group for serial killers. The thing here is that they don’t frown upon the fact that these people are going out and murdering people left, right and centre, what they really want to do is cleanse them from being homosexual.
Dr. Lauren: This is set in a dystopian future where being gay is not acceptable but being a sociopath or a cannibal or whatever is. There’s various scenes where the main charaacter is walking around and there’s stuff going on in the background, like there’s a woman beating the shit out of someone outside a shop.
Darren: The bit where he’s walking down the street to go into the cafe, I was in bits. I was laughing so hard. It’s just anarchy. There’s people getting robbed, there’s people getting knifed and this is all going on in the background.
Dr. Lauren: And there’s that one woman who’s just stood staring at it.
Darren: Yeah, there’s the guy having the shit beaten out of him in the cafe doorway and that woman’s just watching it going on.
Dr. Lauren: Yeah, this is really good. A lot of fun.
Darren: It’s got a lot of murder in it, including an entire nightclub of people getting murdered at one point….what was it? The Republican Art Mix Party. So it’s a load of Republicans creating posters that say things like “Make War” and there’s killers carving a swathe through them. I’m guessing that this was made by Democrats.
Dr. Lauren: Yeah, I imagine so. Also, for a film with that amount of murder in it, it was also quite sweet.
Darren: It’s got a very sweet, kind of awkward relationship at its core so it’s not just people having their throats cut and being chopped up into little bits. It puts the message across that you should be who you are.
Dr. Lauren: There’s someone for everyone.
Darren: There’s a bit where he meets up with his mum and dad, who turn out to be serial killers are as well.
Dr. Lauren: They’re like “Could you just finish this up for me?”. “I’ve got somewhere to go, could you just tidy this up?”.
Darren: It’s clever and it’s funny and it’s sweet so it was one of the better ones of the day for me. I’d definitely watch it again.
A HALLOWEEN TRICK (dir. Michael Varrati)
Darren: Moving on to the second Michael Varrati offering, so his films bookended the shorts, which was A Halloween Trick. Also featuring Ben Baur who was in Unusual Attachment. In Unusual Attachment he played a nice guy. He’s a bit of a douchebag in this one.
Dr. Lauren: A proper bellend.
Darren: He’s such a dick. In the lead-up to Halloween, his sexual antics are causing problems for this neighbour, who is played by none other than Tiffany Shepis. She can’t sleep because he’s bringing back guys every night, the sex noises are getting worse every single night and she works in a place which is busiest over Halloween so she needs her sleep but he needs to express himself.
Dr. Lauren: Yeah, and as a person who’s been kept awake in a bed and breakfast on more than one occasion by people banging a few doors down it is not cool. It is not cool.
Darren: Anybody who’s not been in that situation and thinks that being in a room next to where folks are having it off is some sort of sexy time, it clearly is not. It’s the most annoying thing in the world.
Dr. Lauren: The first time it happened to me, it wasn’t even in the next room. It was three rooms down.
Darren: What? Oh my God.
Dr. Lauren: Yes, I know. And I opened my door beccause I thought it might be the TV that was on in someone else’s room. It wasn’t. I opened my door because I was going to go and hammer on the door and tell them to shut up and there were two blokes stood outside listening.
[Darren bursts out laughing]
Dr. Lauren: I looked at them and they looked at me and I just shut my door.
Darren: Well, I guess to each his own but it’s happened to me in hotels a few times over the years. My first reaction wouldn’t be “I’m going to go and listen to that”, my first reaction would be “I wish they’d shut the fuck up”.
Dr. Lauren; I had an awful night’s sleep that night but I digress.
Darren: Tiffany Shepis is getting awful nights’ sleeps.
Dr. Lauren: Yes, she is. Poor girl.
Darren: And it’s getting progressively worse as Halloween approaches. She does try to communicate her feelings.
Dr. Lauren: And it’s not like she’s an outrageous arsehole about it.
Darren: No, she’s nice about it. This is what I enjoyed about it. It’s funny and you more or less know what the payoff is going to be but it’s portraying gay characters as real people. As in real life, the vast proportion of them are really nice but this guy is a complete dick.
Dr. Lauren: He is.
Darren: The trap you could fall into it if you’re portraying under-represented sections of society is to make them perfect, they always have to be better than anyone else because they’re under-represented. In this, though, it was encouraging you to have a laugh at this guy because he’s an idiot regardless of the fact he’s gay.
Dr. Lauren: It would be easy to pigeonhole people and just put across stereotypes and that was not done in any of the films we saw.
Darren: No, everyone came across in a very real way. And in A Halloween Trick, he came across as an idiot.
Dr. Lauren: He was on a sexual journey, Darren!
Darren: He’s on a sexual journey, I totally appreciate that but in this case I’m with Tiffany Shepis, if he could carry on his sexual journey…
Dr. Lauren: …but a bit quieter…
Darren: …or at slightly different hours of the day and not quite as close to where I was. I’m not saying he shouldn’t express himself but after four consecutive nights of listening to him fucking I’d be like “I’m really over this now”.
Dr. Lauren: It’d be like living in student halls.
Darren: The film was fun and I kind of knew the punchline from early on but that didn’t make it any less enjoyable.
Dr. Lauren: I thought the end was going to be slightly different.
Darren: The ultimate reveal I wasn’t totally expecting but at the same time I was thinking “I wonder if…”. It wasn’t to be taken too seriously and it was a fun way to round off the short films. So, your favourite short, or shorts, of the day…
Dr. Lauren: Thirst Trap but also the Death Drop Gorgeous preview. I want to see that more than anything.
Darren: I did like Thirst Trap. I also had a bit of a soft spot for Demons as well and I have got to shout out Death Drop Gorgeous because that looks amazing.
Dr. Lauren: My favourite short in this selection is Thirst Trap with an honourable mention for Unusual Attachment.
Darren: Yeah, that was good. Both Michael Varrati films stood out. I’d definitely be looking out for more of his work in the future. We’re both clearly excited about Death Drop Gorgeous and can’t wait for it to come out. Literally.
*Check the previous part of our SoHome Pride retrospective for our thoughts on the accents and everything else to do with After Dark.
A huge thank you to Mitch Harrod for inviting us into the Soho Horror Family, for giving us a festival unlike any other and for encouraging us to write about it. We love you lots. Dr. L & D xxx
The Soho Horror Festival website can be found here: https://www.sohohorrorfest.com/
You can find out more about the festival, what’s played there previously and you can even donate if you want to.
SoHome Pride Edition merchandise can be found here: https://www.redbubble.com/shop/ap/50326395?fbclid=IwAR2GTjuoIi0UnrTICNIs9m6t6DHnarOTQyoGquyB-z_ZWVopWJY9KkLgAFc
All profits from the SoHome Pride Edition merchandise will be donated to Black Pride UK, an organisation that provides education, support and community outreach to black, asian and minority ethnic individuals.