20 June 2011

Monster in the Closet

United States – 1986
Director – Bob Dahlin
Troma, 1993, VHS
Run Time – 1 hour, 26 minutes

The very title of this movie invites an easy assumption when writing in the context of a queer blogathon. I decided to go ahead and make that assumption more or less just because the VHS tape had been sitting in my “In” box for quite some time and I wanted an excuse to watch. If you’re looking for the simple send-up of classic B monster flicks that Monster in the Closet purports on its surface to be, it’s here, packed with B-movie personnel and flaunting its Troma pedigree. And if, like me, you’re looking to find a bunch of subtext, you can’t miss a preponderance of queer innuendo that, even if it stumbles a few times along the way, turns out to be surprisingly transgressive.

image from Lost Highway
Clark is a novice newspaper reporter who thinks he’s gotten his big break covering a series of alleged monster abductions originating from closets. When the closet monster turns out to be real, the full forces of socio-cultural status-quo maintenance are called in to return things to acceptable normalcy. When the most hetero normative institutions, the police and the military, prove unable to destroy or even slow this physical expression of monstrosity, will the scientific/medical community calculate and codify its degeneracy into submission? Or will it be the love of an attractive and conspicuously available young reporter? Glimpsing for the first time Clark’s handsome visage, the monster softens, then abducts him and heads to San Francisco carrying him like the classic “damsel”.

Perhaps a more appropriate question is whether paranoia, punishment, oppression, hatred and violence is preferable social behavior than, well, than love. The answer to this eternally vexing question lies amply suggested beneath a few thin layers of parodic silliness, but never explicitly committed to in Monster in the Closet. What sealed the deal for me was that Clark doesn’t hook up with the obviously romantically available female lead. Pairing them up would have been a straightforward and easy way to truncate any idea that homosexuality was anything more than monstrous. But it doesn’t. In the end, people rebuild their closets having dispelled all notions of “monstrosity”, which anyway, is better symbolic of fear and shame than any lifestyle choice.

Watch the whole thing online and come to your own conclusions.

This post is a part of the Queer Film Blogathon hosted by Garbo Laughs

4 comments:

Direct to Video Connoisseur said...

My buddy had this exact VHS. He bought at the local flea market when we were growing up. Unfortunately, that flea market was leveled about ten years ago and replaced with a Wal-Mart...

Caroline said...

Intriguing. Sounds like the film toys with a queer subtext but is too chicken to commit to it fully. Still, I liked your analysis of the more subversive aspects potentially contained therein!

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

I saw this on USA several millenniums ago and to be honest, I completely missed the subtext (though in my defense I was chuckling at the people who signed up to be in the cast). I'll definitely have to revisit this one when I get the opportunity. Great review!

The Goodkind said...

Thanks for reading;

DVC: I hope you don't shop at WalMart. Used is the way to go, that's how I get most of my stuff.

Caroline: It's worth noting that Monster in the Closet is at least one of the more explicit of the "implicitly gay" films out there.

Ivan: It is certainly true that we often find the very evidence we look for... which is not to say we should ignore counterevidence.