Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Lair (TV series) – review

Directed by: Fred Olen Ray

First aired: 2007

Contains spoilers

The Lair was a six part TV series produced by LGBTQ+ TV company ‘here!’ There seems a profound justice, in a genre predominantly overflowing with heterosexual fantasy figures, that a series should be made that caters for gay viewers, that takes the hinted at homo-eroticism of the Anne Rice books, removes the hint and tailors it for the gay community.

Of course if you are straight than the gay eye candy isn’t going to do anything for you – whilst a buxom wench can often save the direst of the mainstream films/series. 

The series is actually billed as a soap opera and it does hold that fascination that all soap operas somehow manage to build through melodrama. Of course, in your atypical soap opera, the melodrama becomes telling within moments to the point of nausea – but throw in a supernatural theme and it actually can add to the story.

The story itself isn’t too bad, if a little basic; it just needed some logic flaws sorting out. Each episode (bar episode 6) begins with reporter Thom (David Moretti) in a cell, waiting for the sun to set. He has been captured by a group of vampires and knows that the setting of the sun will bring about his death. Each episode shows his path to the cell until episode 6 when the time frame catches up with itself.

He was investigating a series of murders known as the John Doe murders. We know them to be the work of a group of vampires who operate from a gay sex club called the Lair. He gets his first break when he gets a tip from the human servant of the vampires, Frankie (Brian Nolan) – Frankie is searching for a way out. Unfortunately Thom’s jealous boyfriend Jonathon (Jesse Cutlip) has seen Thom with Frankie and jumped to conclusions.

Jonathon goes to the club to confront Frankie and ends up a victim of the vampires, but somehow clings to life. This is the first break local Sheriff Trout (Colton Ford) has had. Unfortunately the experience has left Jonathon in a virtually comatose state. Meanwhile there is a covert power struggle between leader of the vampires Damian (Peter Stickles) and his second in command Colin (Dylan Vox). We also get a fate/reincarnation aspect when Damian recognises Thom as Richard DeVere – the one who turned him 200 years before and whom Damian killed.

It is, as I say, rather melodramatic and a sub plot with Thom’s co-worker Laura (Beverly Lynne) being in an abusive relationship with boyfriend Jimmy (Evan Stone) seemed unnecessary and more than a little like a backlash against straight men. Other plot aspects do not hold out too well. There have been several John Doe murders and somehow the police have been unable to track down the name of any of the victims. Several plot twists take a leap of faith to buy and the series finale seems rushed and too convenient. Yet much of this can be traced back to generic soap opera failings.

The vampirism rules are confused in places but have interesting aspects. They are both witches and vampires, and have mind control powers that allow them to control mere mortals. There is a well done scene when Thom is being forced to hang himself against his will and is screaming for help as he ties his own noose. We get the impression that the vampires cannot go out in daylight.

Damian has a picture, painted by DeVere, which he believes to be the source of their curse. In a Dorian Grey lift, it reveals his sin and he paints over it – trying to hide from his own excesses, one assumes. Damian believes that, as the source of all the other’s vampirism, if he dies they die and, also, that if the picture is destroyed they will all die. This does not sit logically with the fact that he was turned by DeVere, killed him and survived.

It is around vampiric death that the lore becomes the most confused. We see one vampire staked and his body is then dumped intact. Yet at another point we see an amulet, which all the vampires wear (tied into the coven facet of the lore), ripped from a vampire. In a scene that suggested the amulets are the source of their power, a shove against a wall is enough to dust him. It is a nice dusting scene, well done fx wise without the overt flashiness of other shows, but it does serve to confuse.

The acting is a let down. All the actors seem to be unknowns, selected for their looks, or porn stars. The exception is Dr Belmont played by Arthur Roberts who is known in the vampire genre for starring in the film Not of this Earth. Stickles looked the part but both he and Vox failed to get any real menace into their characters. That said I have seen a lot worse acting on many independent direct to DVD films.

The sets are fairly well done, the music is dramatic enough and whilst some of the dialogue can be a little staid, and a lot melodramatic, this is the only place where you will hear cracking lines such as “it doesn’t prove that there are gay vampire witches operating a sex club on the island” delivered absolutely earnestly. There are times, however, when the dialogue works very well and just needs better delivery.

Not a bad series, in soap opera terms, and plenty of eye candy and homo-erotic action for the target audience. 4 out of 10 seems fair especially if you compare it to gay interest vampire films such as the awful “I’ve been watching you”, at which point this shows itself to be a much more competent project on just about every level.

The imdb page is here.

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