Friday, February 05, 2016

Drink Me – review

Director: Daniel Mansfield

Release date: 2015

Contains spoilers

Whilst there are very clear exceptions, there is a tendency for gay interest horror films to veer off into an exaggerated level of camp that does the sub-genre a disservice as the over-the-top stereotyping can overwhelm the film’s narrative.

Drink Me manages to avoid the “camp trap” with apparent ease, Daniel Mansfield clearly wanting to produce a strong film first and foremost. It isn’t perfect, especially in the narrative, however it is a fairly well put together psychosexual drama. It was also well done given the micro-budget involved.

telephone boxes
After the legend, “He who is thirsty dreams that he is drinking,” we start with Andy (Darren Munn) walking by a row of telephone boxes, one is ringing. He enters the telephone box and lifts the receiver, there is heavy breathing on the phone and he is grabbed from behind by an unseen assailant. He wakes up in bed next to his partner James (Emmett Friel). The dream seems to be gone as they shower together and then go to work.

the film is punctuated with dreams
There is a series of office establishing shots, including a dingy looking stairwell that I actually noted as being too many establishing shots – unbeknown to me the office really wouldn’t feature, but that underlines my feeling about it. We then see James finding an ornate box as he walks home. He takes it. The box, we discover, is a musical box and he hides it behind a fireguard in the bedroom fireplace. We then see them doing couple things but that is punctuated by another dream, this time Andy staggers, dishevelled, in the woods and is again grabbed.

Andy and James
He awakens to find the bed empty. He gets a card from a draw and finds James, in just an apron, making breakfast. James drops to one knee and asks Andy to marry him but something is wrong. Andy explains that he lost his job the day before. For a while things seem to go on as they were, at least on the surface. However the dreams still punctuate Andy’s slumber, he seems less than motivated to finding another job and the musical box apparently finds its own way onto a dresser and playing when he is alone in the house. Then James drops the bombshell – to help with the budget they are going to have to get a lodger in.

Sebastian in dreams
Sebastian (Chris Ellis-Stanton) is the lodger. He works nights – private security for VIPs he says – and is happy to give them cash in hand and only wants a room for a few months. He seems ideal. Andy seems, at first, fascinated by him and then both repulsed and jealous (he sees what he thinks are signs of James drifting to the new man). Meanwhile his behaviour becomes stranger (for instance we see him follow a man who ends up on a missing poster) and his dreams become darker – with Sebastian taking a role in them.

is it wine?
Could Sebastian be a vampire or just a killer? Is Andy performing violent acts but is unaware of it? Is the rather muddy looking wine Sebastian gives James actually wine? I think it is here that the film struggles just a tad. Mansfield builds the mystery and, as a psychosexual drama, the collapse between dreams and reality is a fair trope to play with. The actions of the three get stranger and stranger but none of it (or all of it) may be real.

However there is a certain narrative edge that is missing. It needed that narrative to push through the film with more vigour. It is only a little stumble as the symbolic aspect, the psychosexual motifs, are well put together. However I would have liked to see a firmer narrative. The leads all do fairly well – Darren Munn does seem a tad unsure at times, but that actually may be deliberate given the fragile state of his character. Chris Ellis-Stanton has a fantastic line in sneers.

This had a chance to be great, the gingerly approach to the core narrative probably hamstrung that but it certainly deserves 5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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