This Wicked Tale Of Killer Drag Queens Is A Must Watch For Fans Seeking Gay Storylines In Horror Films
If Drag Queens and Horror movies are your thing, well I’ve just found your newest addiction. As an avid student and fanatic of all subgenres of scary films, I constantly find myself discovering lesser known movies that need to be seen. Indie horror films like Southbound, Mother’s Day, Kill Theory, and Better Watch Out are the most recent decades wild adaptations that you probably haven’t heard of but need to check out. While these films come highly recommended, in all of them, unfortunately us LGBTQ horror lovers don’t get to see any representation of our community on screen. Recently, Hulu released a less-than-stellar and subpar gay-themed horror film, Midnight Kiss, and like a handful of low budget movies in the same “gay” subgenre, it fell flat with unrealistic tropes and eye rolling performances. However, I stumbled across a newly released film that is shockingly a masterpiece and is going to propel gay storylines into its own subgenre of horror.
Death Drop Gorgeous takes place in modern-day Providence gayborhood. Our opening scene showcases the town’s resident tweaker, looking for a fix of an addict’s cocktail on a random night. In our Drew Barrymore-esque introduction, the tweaker meets his demise after he seeks solace in an online hookup while on the hunt for some party and play. Death Drop’s first kill isn’t kind: a screwdriver is jammed in places where one should never be twisted, but it prepares us for the gore filled fest that we’re about to experience.
Throughout the film, we get a full cast of characters that we could all probably relate to someone we know in our gayborhoods or social circles. Tony Two-Fingers (Brandon Perras-Sanchez) is a bar owner who well, likes smooth boys and is known for his- last name. You put the clues together. Along with Tony we meet our two protagonists, Dwayne (Wayne Gonsalves), a masculine gay down on his luck and Brian (Christopher Dalpe), a flamboyant drama queen looking for love. Bryan segways us into meeting a cruel d-bag from a fictionalized dating app, who doesn’t like feminine guys but will go to a gloryhole since it’s fast and anonymous. There becomes an underlying theme of anonymous sex being extremely dangerous throughout the film, so I’ll allow you imagine the ill-fated gloryhole scene so my mind won’t have to remember the goosebumps and panic attack the scene gave me. Oh yeah – there’s full frontal male nudity, and a lot of it.
But, this movie is a play on Drag Queen’s infamous “death drop” in various drag performances. So, of course, we are treated to handful of Queens in full character – each different than the rest that you can actually decipher them from one another and remember their names. The Queens’ personalities are direct, tasteful, and quite honestly – hysterical. Gloria Hole (Payton St. James/Michael McAdam) is an aging Drag Queen who is upset that the young blood is usurping her crown. Janet Fitness (Matthew Pidge) is her rival, the next most popular hometown hero. Combined with a handful of other colorful Queens, two really sexy, hyper-masculine detectives, and a masked maniac roaming the streets killing gays and we’re set for a fun film with a lot of kooky characters to pick off. And we get a friggin’ cameo from always-nude ‘80s Scream Queen, Linnea Quigley from classics like Night of the Demons and Return of the Living Dead. My jaw dropped quicker than Janet Fitness! She keeps her top on in this one, though. So, we’re all left with sour balls (if you get that pun, you’re on the Horror Dean’s List).
The deaths in Death Drop are absolutely revolting – and there’s a ton of them. The quality of the gore is not one for the easily offended or squeamish. It’s raw, messy, and a lot more fun than a one-night stand. It becomes a little difficult to review this movie without giving away the entire plot. The thickest, juiciest part of the film rests within the many twists and turns that make this stand out above the other gay films, and some B-Level horror films, that we’ve seen in the past. Trust me, this isn’t a slap-in-the-face, “how did this get made” gay movie. It’s brilliantly written, beautifully shot, and boldly acted.
With absolute pleasure, I was able to speak with the film’s creators and writers, Michael J. Ahern, Christopher Dalpe, and Brandon Perras-Sanchez, along with their film editor, Ryan Miller, for an exclusive interview. As a horror nut, we all spoke the same language and learning all of their backstories, was compelling and makes you enjoy the movie so much more. Spoiler alert: You may want to check out the rest of this article after your first watch! Let’s dive straight in:
Mickey Keating: I love the opening scene – everyone has been trying to recreate the Halloween/Judith Myers and Scream introduction to get a solid introduction. The screwdriver kill is fun, shockingly gory, and the PnP tweaker who is blacklisted from the clubs spoke to me, because don’t we all know someone in our little gayborhoods like that? What inspired you to create this as your opener?
Death Drop Gorgeous Team: We really did want to create that Scream/Drew Barrymore opener and start the adventure off with a bang. It’s a successful formula that we all know and love borrowed from ‘80s slashers and what a better way to start your movie off than a gruesome demonstration of the antagonist’s power against a pretty face. And as you guessed we are all huge fans of ‘80s slashers; they just did everything right maintaining watch-ability even decades later. We felt our Junkie was easy prey for our killer. Someone to be lured and murdered without the risk of anyone missing him or looking for him. It’s actually kind of sad in that regard! His body is later dumped in a trash can and his death is overshadowed by the murder of a well-off racist Graduate student.
MK: Let’s be realistic: Your film is light years beyond the typical quality of a gay themed film. It even stands out compared to say, Eating Out, which I would label as low budget aimed at high quality. What was your budget to have something solid?
DDGT: Those are very kind words! On paper, our budget was around $20K. Most of that was raised via crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo and local fundraising events that we hosted. The true value of the project, however, was many times greater. Because we shot the film in our close-knit community of Providence, Rhode Island we were showered with support from friends and local businesses. For instance, The Dark Lady and Coliseum (two local clubs) and Pizza J restaurant let us film in their spaces for free, many actors and extras volunteered their time because they knew us and believed in the project, and the amazing musicians who wrote original music and/or granted us rights to their songs did so at very little cost. Their combined generosity really elevated the film to a whole other bracket. Beyond that, having a lower budget actually meshed well with the aesthetic we were shooting for. We really wanted the film to have a gritty, relatable feel that showcases what drag and gay nightlife can be like in quirky, small towns.
MK: Speaking of quality, the writing is smooth and sweet. The banter works, the dialogue is realistic, I really laughed out loud a few times which I wasn’t anticipating. I know you had three writers – what made you create a Drag Queen (more or less) horror film?
DDGT: Being fans of our local drag community, the film allowed us to really showcase the talent within our city. Providence is brimming with artists and queer performers. We also saw within our community an unfortunate divide occurring between the older generation of drag queens and the newer generation of drag queens sort of ushered in due to RuPaul’s Drag Race. We wanted to take a snapshot of some of the current issues dividing the LGBTQ and braid them together- the result of all of these issues is pushing people to the outskirts of the tribe- some handle it better than others, but as you saw in Death Drop Gorgeous, desperation and alienation can push some people to the brink- and if that involves some old school Bathory-esque blood magic then fucking WERK!
MK: Again, I came in with low standards. I was quite surprised to see that I wasn’t cringing at all of the actors. The Drag Queens were great, Tony was oddly turning me on, the cops were beefy and believable, Gloria absolutely chewed scenery, her performance needs to be fully recognized as the best of the bunch. I really didn’t have an issue with any actor besides arguably who I think was the protagonist Dwayne. What was your casting process like? Did you select actual Drag Queens? Did you select locals to Providence?
DDGT: First, let me say that you are hardly the first person to say they were oddly turned on by Tony Two Fingers…he has big dom top energy and apparently we’re all here for it. In terms of casting, we held a couple of casting calls in Providence for some of the characters, and for others we already had specific people in mind. For instance, the protagonist Dwayne faces many struggles in the film that are actually based on the actor’s real-life experiences, so we wanted him to take on that role. Similarly, as ridiculous as they are, Tony Two Fingers and Gloria Hole were inspired by real people whose quirks and nuances were well known by these actors, so they were obvious choices for these roles. All of the drag queens in the film are real Providence queens, with the exception of Janet Fitness who is from Massachusetts, and all of the filming was done in or near Providence, with the exception of two small scenes in Provincetown. We were so impressed with the level of professionalism and talent that our entire cast displayed on set every day, regardless of whether they were seasoned or first-time actors. They really made the characters authentic, likable and fun, even when they were total monsters.
MK: Gloria’s “tired, old Queen” bit is something almost straight out of Paris is Burning. I was truly vibing with her character and wanted her to get success back – and she did, which was great – especially since she did it as the villain and not the hero. Was her backstory inspired by someone you may know in real life or just “ripped from the headlines?” Speaking of Gloria – was this actor actually young or is he in his later years? I was completely confused and couldn’t figure it out!
DDGT: Great question. Gloria’s character is loosely based on a real-life local legend named Kitty Litter who performed in Providence for decades. She was a talented, crass, comedy queen of the old-school variety, and she did a huge amount of good for the community through various fundraising events, including [well received] drag bingo. Kitty never experienced the downward spiral that Gloria does, but her personality and mannerisms provided a lot of inspiration for the character. In fact, the actor who plays Gloria is a lifelong friend of Kitty’s and therefore perfectly understood our vision for Gloria from the very beginning. Though Kitty is still very much alive and living in North Carolina, [she’s deceased in the film].
MK: The gloryhole scene had me LAID out! Especially since we’re in a pandemic and they are making a comeback… allegedly. The grinded up penis had me literally get goosebumps – it was by far your best kill, but that’s not saying that the others aren’t memorable (a sledgehammer makes a stunning guest appearance). What maniac came up with that scene!? I love whoever did!
DDGT: The pandemic and recent CDC suggestions for glory holes and our film premiere is a lovely happenstance, isn’t it? Good gore and memorable kills are crucial in the slasher subgenre. With that said, glory holes definitely have a place in the world of anonymous gay hook ups- we wanted to do to glory holes what Jaws did to the beach. Perras-Sanchez came up with the glory hole scene because he’s terrified of them and knew it was something surprisingly never done before. We wanted to be the movie with the meat grinder! [Laughs]
MK: It seems risky sex behavior tends to get your characters killed. We’ve seen this stereotype in straight films, but gays are obviously kinkier. Was it more fun to play around this trope with gays?
DDGT: The horror stereotype of risky sex behaviors leading to death was fun to play up through a queer lens, for sure. Gay men often ignore red flags or in hindsight, we realize how unsafe or dangerous our rendezvous sometimes are, especially when coming to NSA encounters through an app like our imagined POUNDR (a play on Grindr). A lot of hookups have danger woven into them intrinsically. New and unknown locations? Check. Strangers? Check. Vulnerability? Check. It’s not a particularly new idea but it is a strange device that could hypothetically wield a very deadly result! Tell your friends where you’re going, folks!
MK: Your settings were believable, I felt like I’ve been in those apartments before (sans sex dungeon/basement/killer’s pad). Did you use spaces of those you know or did you create them?
DDGT: It was definitely a lot of both. Some great locations like Brian’s cute apartment and Gloria’s baroque house came fully furnished and were loaned to us by friends, whereas others we had to create ourselves. The drag dressing room and Tony’s office we built in our basement, actually, while the glory hole and bathtub scene were in our garage! Providence is such a tight-knit community that in 90% of the cases, if we asked an establishment to use their space, they let us, which we are eternally grateful for.
MK: Your ending is pretty unpredictable and honestly, refreshing! It’s so much more satisfying to see the surprise villain take home the gold, as most horror fans should tell you. Did you always want the villain to come out on top?
DDGT: We always knew [you-know-who] would win in the end. We wanted [the hero] to win, too. Both their arcs parallel and we want audiences to cheer for them both. I think queers, horror fans, or anyone who feels like an outcast typically relates most with the villain because oftentimes, the villain is misunderstood. And that is what our movie is about, how inclusive communities can oftentimes push their own, those “outsiders,” to the fringe where they feel alienated and alone. Of course, we have those outsiders rally back.
Death Drop Gorgeous stars Wayne Gonsalves, Payton St. James/Michael McAdam, Brandon Perras-Sanchez, Christopher Dalpe, and Matthew Pidge. Executive Produced by Philip Gelatt and Victoria Dalpe, features special effects by Dragula veteran, Victoria Elizabeth Black, and was edited by Tyler Jensen and Roman Chimienti who recently directed Mark Patton’s, the star of Nightmare on Elm Street 2, spectacular documentary, Scream, Queen!
You can stream Death Drop Gorgeous for only ten bucks (!) via the Wicked Queer Film Festival (sale ends August 2nd). Don’t forget to check out the trailer below!
Writer’s Note: This is the opinion of one Instinct Magazine contributor and does not reflect the views of Instinct Magazine itself or fellow contributors.