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'Kiss Me, Kill Me' is a gay thriller that changes everything

Gale Harold and Van Hansis in "Kiss Me, Kill Me."

I've noticed recently gay movies are being filled with more substance and less substances.

The stinging parody of Another Gay Movie is becoming extinct as a new generation of film makers are taking their audiences by the brains. This all matters because we are tired of seeing straight actors, directors get awards for something we can do ourselves. LGBT film makers coudn't successfully figure out how to infuse the Hollywood formula into thier films - their money was on the line; the risk was too high to stray far from what works, but recent couragous offerings are changing all of that.   

Films such as Matt Riddlehoover’s Paternity Leave and Sudhanshu Saria’s LOEV make me excited for the future of LGBT cinema because they are breaking new ground without upsetting the entire landscape.

Actors Kit Williamson, Jacob York, Van Hansis, Matthew McKelligan, and John Halbach are bringing to modern gay indies what no Studio Responsibility Index can report; more quaility work for gay writers, directors and actors.  

Take for instance Casper Andreas’ genre-breaking “Kiss Me, Kill Me,” a movie with more twists than a trip up Mullholland at night, and as fierce as Basic Instinct. Say what you will about the manipulative Verhoeven classic, but it did entertain, the box office did respond, and that ending brought it all home. So too does "Kiss Me , Kill Me." 

This whodunit changes everything. It's a challenging mystery with a killer payoff: the nouveau noire. 

Perhaps writer David Michael Barrett took a few important cues from Joe Eszterhas, giving Andreas the opportunity to turn film noire on its head, joggling the mind and at the same time immersing his audience into a well-crafted, edgy thriller reminiscent of the Sam Spade potboilers of the 40’s and the high gloss mysteries of the 90’s. Even Jonathan Dinerstein's smooth jazzy score is a nod to the classics. 

“Kiss Me, Kill Me” takes place in modern day West Hollywood, where dinner parties are attended by friends-of-friends and rooms are filled with smoldering gossip.

Stephen (Gale Harold ) is an older T.V. producer celebrating a birthday and everyone has gathered at his home to wish him well, including a past, creepy love interest Craigery (Matthew Ludwinski) who still carries a torch for the birthday boy in a very obsessive way. Ludwinski never lets Craigery become too psychotic; he limits the lunacy to his eyes and facial expressions. 

But Stephen has moved on and just proposed to Dusty, played by the extremely talented Van Hansis who has accepted the engagement despite his ill-timed meddling between the two ex-lovers on the balcony.

Things only get worse as Stephen opens a gift from the fanatical Craigery and it turns out to be something that represents what is supposed to be a private endearment only he and Dusty share. Stephen is guilty of recycling pet names from relationship to relationship.

Dusty storms out of the house in a jealous snit and runs down to a local grocery called Pink Dot. Stephen follows him to explain. Once there, the couple try to work out their differences only to be interrupted by a masked gunman who barrel hammers Dusty on the head.

Dusty wakes up in the hospital with a gunshot wound to the arm, but no recollection of what happened. He’s been told Stephen has died from a bullet wound, and what’s worse investigators suspect Dusty as the assailant even though there is surveillance footage of the incident from the store’s security system.

To say anymore might ruin the plot and the enjoyment of this fresh film.

I can say though that there are so many devices at play here. Andreas has constructed an entertaining film entirely made up of Hollywood clichés that have worked so well in the past, save one; the characters are gay. That is not a bad thing at all, in fact it’s a great testament to the film maker to take such precision in his homage to give audiences the in-jokes, but be swept away by his own handywork.  

Andreas scales back the flesh just enough to let the story shine through. There are some love scenes, but they don’t overpower the viewer, they only help develop an already intriguing plot.

Van Hansis is brilliant as Dusty. He plays him as a smart, vulnerable man who makes bad choices. Dusty is a corner piece to this puzzle which has fallen to the ground, only to be discovered when everything else is in place.

Hansis allows the viewer to take this confusing trip with him, never providing too much emotion because he’s not sure what to be feeling, and neither do we because there are no clear answers, only delicious speculation. He’s swimming in a barrel full of red herrings, which act like piranhas. The audience can’t wait to see who bites first.

The majority of the cast are gay characters, but twist after twist, the film poisons the stereotypes so desperately kept alive by Hollywood in the straight man's writing room.  

The detectives, Noah Santos and Annette Riley are played by Jai Rodriguez, and Yolanda Ross respectively. Detective Riley gives Dusty a run for his money, she puts the screws to his wide-eyed ignorance with unapologetic edginess and comic nuance. 

The other stand out actor here is D.J. Pierce, you may know him as Shangela from Ru Paul’s Drag Race.

His performance as the drag queen/hypnotist Jasmine has to be one of the best supporting character performances I have seen in a long time.

Not since Lady Chablis, in another mystery thriller “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” has a performance been so captivating and essential.  

“Kiss Me, Kill Me,” is a great whodunit with a final scene that will have everyone talking after the credits. It’s a reveal that works, and I'm sure people will do a quick Google search while still seated in their chairs.

For everything that is being said about what mainstream Hollywood is doing wrong with gay film, “Kiss Me, Kill Me” is something done right. It is a very clever film, vigorous and convincing.

If Andreas is crossing over, he is not selling-out, he’s selling-in, and if audiences don’t appreciate the effort done by people like him, then they have no cause for complaint about the mainstream. 

Hollywood doesn’t have to give gay people great movies anymore, they are doing it on their own.

San Diegans are in luck as FilmOut presents the 18th annual LGBT Film Festival of which "Kiss Me, Kill Me," will play opening night on June 3, 2016. 

As for the rest of you, try and find this soon-to-be masterpiece on the big screen where ever it's playing. 

Timothy Rawles is Community Editor of SDGLN. He can be reached at editor@sdgln.com, @reporter66 on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.