Title: Closet Monster
Director/Writer: Stephen Dunn
Music: Todor Kobakov, Maya Postepski
Cinematography: Bobby Shore
Taking a leaf from Xavier Dolan’s book, Canadian filmmaker (born in 1989, the same year of Mr. Dolan) Stephen Dunn’s debut feature CLOSET MONSTER flourishes as a coruscating Bildungsroman of a young boy’s coming to terms with his homosexuality, against its own threadbare script mired in corny dialogue and workaday characterization.
An eight-year-old Oscar (Fulton) witnesses a horrific bullying of a gay boy which jolts him into building a carapace over his latent bent, things compound when his parents are getting a divorce, and he is mostly saddled with his homophobic father Peter (Abrams), who intends to chisel a macho man out of him (as if carpentry is the panacea). Ten years later, an adolescent Oscar (Jessup) spends most of his time creating special effects make-ups with his best friend Gemma (Banzhaf), and has his first crush on a new colleague Wilder (Schneider) in the hardware store where he works part-time (Oscar + Wilder, you don’t say!). Battling his internal conflict (a hormone-driven sensation versus the stigmatized horror of getting aroused by a boy), Oscar takes it out on Gemma and the tension between him and Peter strains, after being rejected by the make-up school he applies for, he desperately needs to get out of the clutches of his parents and face his pestering inner demon, one way or another.
Graphic visual effects are deployed to galvanize audience like a sub-Cronenberg’s body-horror, there is something visibly churning inside Oscar’s stomach whenever he is aroused, and later materializes itself as a metal pole perforating his belly, when he fumbles around his first sex attempt with a party boy, involuntarily he spews bolts, lots of bolts, of course, they are all figments of his heated imagination, including a talking pet hamster named Buffy (voiced by Isabella Rossellini), whom he cherishes more than anything else in the world since his childhood, because it is his only (imagined) friend knows his true colors. When Oscar finally takes the pole out of his body and is driven by a patricidal impulse, the slo-mo crescendo however, pans out like a bathetic bluff, the fear in his deadbeat father’s eyes can hardly justify all the damage he has done.
The psychosexual aspect bears down strongly on the story, but the rest is nothing but usual suspects, Connor Jessup makes for a passable lead and is at his best when the camera is floating around him rather than staring directly at him; both Aaron Abrams and Joanne Kelly appear too young to be parents of an 18-year-older, and the former fails miserably to even fake a fatherly affection when he is required. A solid start for an up-and-comer, but distinction is nevertheless a paucity in the end product, in the waves of a post-coming-out-of-closet fashion, Dunn’s heartfelt story is blasé but mercifully grafts its emotional charge with something fluctuating between hope and honest.