DVD Review - Judas Kiss

The idea of Judas kiss comes from the Bible and represents betrayal by someone you trust or love. That idea is buried like a seed deep within this movie. Perhaps a better simile is virus. The Judas kiss is a virus that insidiously weaves itself through the movie until it hits its main characters and the audience at the end.

Charlie David stars as Zachary Wells, a former filmmaker who attends the film festival of his alma mater, Keystone University. He's invited to be a judge because 15 years ago he won the festival's top prize. Winning that prize was supposed to catapult him into the upper echelons of Hollywood, but instead he becomes a burn out in more ways than one.

Richard Harmon co-stars as Danny Reyes, a student at Keystone University who is submitting his short film to the festival and who is being interviewed by Zachary and the other judges. Danny is a little bit cocky. His cockiness obviously masks an insecurity that reveals itself in other ways like how he allows his even cockier boyfriend to behave.

What Zachary realizes is that he's entered the Twilight Zone because it becomes evident to him that he and Danny are the same person. Rather, Danny is the 15-year-younger version of Zachary. No explanation is ever given to reconcile this. I assumed that Zachary traveled backwards in time, but it's not that simple.

Regardless of the explanation, the movie makes a step forward in something that isn't really done. The majority of gay films that are produced are either contemporary dramas or comedies. Hardly any delve into genre territory. For example, there are none if hardly any gay westerns, gay action films or even gay animated films. This movie, however, can easily be filed as one of the few gay science-fiction films, probably the rarest of them all.

The needles in the haystack include the British TV series Torchwood, as well as the web series Star Trek: Hidden Frontier and Star Trek: New Voyages. Marvel Comics introduced a gay superhero in the early 1990s and the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer introduced a lesbian character in the late 90s, but that's it. Gays and lesbians have been largely excluded from the mainstream, science-fiction realm.

David Gerrold, an openly gay science fiction writer, contributed to Star Trek, but never saw LGBT issues openly explored in the 40-year run of that franchise. The two aforementioned web series in the early 2000s were the first to change that. Actor J.T. Tepnapa worked on both those web series, which probably influenced the creation of this movie, which Tepnapa wrote and directed.

It may just be me reading too much into it, but, being about time travel, I saw references from some of the greatest time travel movies and TV shows in Judas Kiss. The most obvious was Back to the Future (1985). Keystone University, for example, has a huge clock tower. It doesn't become as integral to the plot as the clock tower in the Michael J. Fox comedy, but it's still pretty striking.

The one thing that Back to the Future did that is a bit more relate-worthy here is that it had the main character go back in time and have his mother fall in love with him and even try to have sex with him. Nothing happens though. Judas Kiss has something similar. It's not funny or comical in the same way. It's quite shocking in retrospect, and it's that Danny falls in love with Zachary, which becomes a literal example of narcissism.

I'm not sure if Tepnapa saw the gay sci-fi film Hirsute (2007), but, in that short, a man travels back in time and tries to have sex with his past self. Tepnapa's character succeeds where A.J. Bond's character fails. Zachary and Danny have sex, and Danny pursues Zachary even after that.

Unfortunately, it presents this issue and then backs off. It's more intense but never truly explored. Zachary who realizes what's occurred never comments on it. What was it like to have sex with your past self? It's not as big a boundary as having sex with a parent, but is there a moral issue to it?

Tepnapa never answers these questions. Tepnapa is more concerned with examining what a person is willing to sacrifice in order to make it in Hollywood, balanced with a character who could have been Al from Quantum Leap and another who could have been Eloise Hawking from Lost. All the while, an undercurrent of betrayal and the effects of abuse run through.

Three Stars out of Five.
Not Rated But Recommended for Mature Audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 34 mins.


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