In a subgenre where jiggling breasts are usually aimed at a male and largely adolescent audience, horror and homosexuality may appear to be strange bedfellows. However, it is ‘fear of the other’ that underpins almost all horror tales, so it should really come as no surprise that there has been a ‘queer’ undercurrent in genre cinema from the beginning. Whereas it was once steeped in allegory and undercurrents, recently a number of horror films have emerged that are made primarily for a gay audience.
MAKE A WISH is almost certainly the first slasher flick made by lesbians for lesbians – and we’re not talking about the kind of silicon enhanced ‘lesbians’ that populate the fantasies of many straight men. So, it was with some interest I watched Sharon Ferranti’s film – could the debut dyke stalk n’ slasher really cut it?
The plot is simplicity itself – something that often works in favour of most slasher flicks. A group women - friends and ex-lovers of Susan (a great performance by Moynan King) - are cajoled into joining her for her annual birthday bash; camping deep in the heart of an isolated nature reserve. Perhaps as an in-joke for the core audience, these hapless campers are made up of a collection of lesbian caricatures: Chloe (Lava Alapai) (the “aggressive vegetarian”); Monica (Virginia Baeta) (Susan’s boyish ex-girlfriend); Andrea (Amanda Spain) (Monica’s new rich femme girlfriend); Linda (Melenie Freedom Flynn ) (the lapsed-lesbian, now living with a man); and Dawn (Hollace Starr) (the new-age hippy, who used to go out with Susan before she dumped her).
Throw into the mix the fact that Linda’s boyfriend – none too pleased about this girl’s day out – has followed them into the woods, and is peering at them from behind bushes (providing the requisite disembodied hand pulling back the branch shot). Plus a furry, roly-poly outdoors man (whose gaydar is definitely off!) who has taken a shine to Susan. And last, but nor least, there’s a psycho on the loose – escaped from the local asylum, who has a bounty-hunter on his on her tail …
The budget for MAKE A WISH is clearly on the low side – and I must admit I was a little worried when the establishing shots of the countryside looked like they’d been shot by someone who’d had more than a sniff of Grandma’s sherry. Still, it eventually kick-starts in the grand tradition: with one the would-be campers (Michelle (Nora Stein)) offed by an unseen assailant, as she makes her way to meet up with the others. However, despite this fairly rousing start, director Ferranti segues directly in L-WORD territory, with much-to-do with lesbian melodrama. If MAKE A WISH comes undone, it’s because – apparently - she wanted to make a slasher flick that was light on the scares, because her core audience didn’t want them. Of course, if true, this makes as much sense as making a comedy with only a handful of punchlines! Ferranti also softens the horror elements with some campy humour – which, perhaps surprisingly, works quite well. She also scores points for incorporating t&a of a determinedly dyke’ish nature.
Having looked at a few reviews on-line, I found that most people found MAKE A WISH decidedly lacking as a thriller. However, despite its soap-opera’rish midsection I found myself pretty much hooked by the last third - and it manages what most slashers don’t, and makes the identity of the killer a surprise. It also ups the ante when it matters: when we get down to the last few campers, we're in familiar (and well handled) territory of the backwoods slashers.
As far as gay slashers go, HELLBENT (2004) is certainly more than a cut above, but despite a rather muddled denouement, MAKE A WISH has enough redeeming features to be worth a look.
female:5 / male:3
1) Female garroted
2) Female has throat slit with knife
3) Male burnt to death with blow torch
4) Female killed with crossbow
5) Female stabbed to death
6) Female drowned
7) Male shot repeatedly
8) Male hit by car