A young man sits in group therapy relating how he’s just murdered a man by slitting his throat. The rest of his group can totally relate. One likes to kill using a short sword; another has a real thing for poison. They discuss it with a fervent glee until the therapist in charge of the group calls them to order and reminds them that the group isn’t here to discuss their murderous instincts. No, there purpose is much more serious. These men are gay and that’s just not okay. The therapist snorts a short line of cocaine and they get down to business.
This is the opening for Jesse Klein’s highly engaging and entertaining short, “Demons”, which will be making its West Coast debut at the San Diego FilmOut LGBT film festival in June. The film drives home the point that there are worse things in the world than being gay, and came from Klein’s own personal dreams and experiences.
“I was looking at all of these anti-gay protesters,” Klein says, “and all I could think was that they could be using that energy for something so much more important. I mean, if you’re going to base your protests on the Bible, why not pick one of the Ten Commandments? Let’s protest murder!”
And so we find Matt, our protagonist, walking through a world that is hyper-violent. People are beating each other in the streets, stealing from each other, etc. He arrives at the home of his new boyfriend, a local butcher. He’s greeted at the door and they kiss, only to hear the woman next door scoff at them as she’s handing her young beer swilling daughter an automatic rifle.
It isn’t only scoffing neighbors Matt will have to worry about on date night, however. His serial killing parents are getting older and just not able to finish a job like they used to be. So, when they call him in the middle of dinner, he has to leave Adam to help them clean up a mess they’ve made in a local ultra-conservative bar full of war-glorifying, gay hating douchebags. What follows is a throat slashing extravaganza under multi-hued club lights that would make Sweeney Todd proud.
I asked Klein if he’d had any negative responses from audiences with a scene that could easily be seen as mirroring the tragic shooting at Pulse in Florida last year, and he said that remarkably there had been none of that.
“I think because I flipped it, because it’s these uber-Republicans with signs in the club that read “WAR!!” and “Kill the Gays!!” that they see what I’m doing with it and they respect it. Honestly, I’ve had more people ask me why I didn’t have more blood in that scene!”
When his parents come in to help him clean up the bodies, he makes his excuses to get back to his date, switching pronouns from “he” to “she”, still hiding the fact that he’s gay. As he leaves the club, his obviously proud parents watch him go with beaming smiles and turning to each other the father remarks that he loves his gay son.
“I think that’s what happens with a lot of people nowadays,” the writer/director laughs. “I made a documentary about how I’d rather jump out of a plane and skydive than tell my parents I’m gay, and the thing this most of the time, they already know and they’re just waiting for you to tell them.”
Matt heads back to Adam and as they finish up their date night with a little pillow talk, he apologizes for having to leave earlier. It’s at this point that my favorite revelation of the film comes through and it’s so good I refuse to tell you about it. This is one little twist you have to see for yourself!
Klein presents a world that is both absurd and real in “Demons”. The satire is worthy of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” and equally as satisfying in its measured lesson on the absurdities of anti-gay sentiments.
Javan Nelson turns in s a charming performance as Matt. He fully inhabits the transition from a young man who just might be falling in love to feral serial killer, and manages to do it with a Puckish grin that will melt your heart.
FilmOut San Diego will present “Demons” alongside four other horror shorts June 10, 2017 beginning at 10 pm. For ticket information, visit the festival website!