A naked and blood-covered man masturbates while he dismembers another man’s body, and then he has sex with the body’s now severed head. So begins the modern exploitation film, Father’s Day, and so begins one of the greatest gay horror films I’ve seen since A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge.
If you’re anything like me, Freddy’s Revenge ranks high on the list of queer horror films. Despite being part of a very popular franchise, the movie was scary, queer-centric, full of subtext and metaphor, and filled with iconic and relatable characters. And while it does have some flaws, it’s withstood the test of time, remaining to this day as a strong horror allegory for dealing with one’s own confusing sexuality and the frightening pressure that comes along with it. And while Father’s Day differs in tone and story, it does share some of these same strengths and I can foresee it getting much more respect years from now.
The story in Father’s Day is wild, to say the least, but pure exploitation gold. As a child, Ahab witnessed his father being raped and murdered by a serial killer. Now a bitter and lonesome adult, he teams up with a handsome priest, a street hustler, and his stripper sister for a final chance at revenge. But it soon becomes apparent to them all that the Father Fucker is more than just your average degenerate serial killer.
From the brief synopsis above, you may have gleaned some of the queer aspects within the film. A male villain who rapes and murders other men. A gay sex worker who joins the fight. Men taking the mantels of both ‘horror heroes’ and ‘final girls’. And that’s just the start of things!
Penises flop around freely (though some are graphically mutilated) and the notion of what it means to be masculine is toyed with. Twink, the street hustler whose own father is murdered, is just as brave and determined as Ahab, and Father John eventually breaks his vows of celibacy in a fantastic way. Oh, and Heaven is presented as a land full of topless women… yet you’re welcome by a hunky, shirtless angel. But beyond all this is something more unexpected and exciting, and that’s how Father’s Day, a hardcore exploitation flick, handles it all.
Father’s Day never makes any of the queer aspects a joke. Twink isn’t some hyper-cliche of gayness, male characters are allowed to bond in ways most mainstream genre films actively avoid, and derogatory terms are sparse and mostly used by queer characters themselves. All of which is refreshing for a queer horror fan to experience.
Even beyond the film, a tone of positivity about open sexuality and gender roles exists. The folks of Astron-6 (a production crew that includes several of the film’s actors) have shot down reviewers and bloggers who say ignorant things about the film’s gay bent, and they even created a quick promotional video for the release of Fright Rags’ Father’s Day tee. In bed together. Shirtless. Needless to say, I’m a big fan of all this.
Maybe best of all though is that this film is still so under the radar with the queer horror audiences. And I know what you’re thinking. How is that a good thing? Shouldn’t I want the queer horror fans to have recognized this film by now? Well, yes, but also no.
The fact that many queer fans have either not heard of the film, or have simply just passed it up so far, prove that there is no pandering to be had here, and that’s respectable. It’s, again, refreshing to discover a great gay horror gem without being led to it for that reason alone. It’s also strangely the perfect movie to gauge straight, male horror fans by, as they too might be surprised by the heavy queer tone it carries. Did they enjoy it, comfortable with its subtext and characters, or did they hate it for seemingly attacking their fragile and toxic masculinity?
As you might have guessed by now, I truly loved this film. I went in blindly, knowing very little about the plot or content, and was blown away by what was delivered – a fun, stud-filled, exploitation-horror film that neither shies away from nor garishly abuses its queerness.
Have you seen Father’s Day? Feel free to discuss! And if not, make sure you add it to your “To Watch” list, along with Astron-6‘s previous film The Editor, which also has queer aspects woven into a plot that celebrates giallo films. And, of course, happy Pride Month to all of you! This blog and brand of mine has grown so much over the past couple of years and it’s allowed me to finally connect with the “tribe” I knew was always out there waiting for me. XOXO – MMG