Movie Review - Kiss Me, Kill Me

Swedish director Casper Andreas has directed a lot of romantic comedies, involving gay male characters, but this film is his first murder-mystery. It's also his first thriller. Writer David Michael Barrett (Such Good People) is basically paying homage to Alfred Hitchcock's films, specifically Spellbound (1945). The plot is what's most similar, but other elements from Hitchcockian films come into play. For example, the opening theme mimics that of Bernard Hermann's opening theme in Psycho (1960).

Van Hansis (As the World Turns and Eastsiders) stars as Dusty, an actor who is dating a Hollywood producer named Stephen, played by Gale Harold (Queer As Folk and Desperate Housewives). During Stephen's birthday party, Dusty learns he's not getting a job on Stephen's new show. The job is going to Stephen's ex-boyfriend, Craigery, played by Matthew Ludwinski (Seek and Going Down in LA-LA Land). Craigery is also trying to steal Stephen back from Dusty. When Stephen ends up dead, Dusty becomes the prime suspect.

If one recalls Spellbound, Hansis has the Gregory Peck role because like Peck's character, Dusty is not only the prime suspect but he also suffers from amnesia. Dusty doesn't have amnesia to the point where he doesn't remember who he is. He's only forgotten the night of Stephen's murder. In Spellbound, Peck's character has a therapist with whom he falls in love. That therapist is played by Ingrid Bergman. Dusty has a therapist named Jeffrey Kinlan, played by Craig Robert Young. So, if Dusty is the Peck-equivalent, then Jeffrey is the Bergman-equivalent.

Yet, the comparison doesn't wholly work. In Spellbound, Peck's character is only in love with Bergman's character and that's really the only relationship he has in that film. Here, Dusty is in love with Stephen first and then hooks up with Jeffrey immediately after Stephen's death. The swing that Dusty makes from one person to the next in the wake of a murder doesn't feel smooth enough. It's actually a bit too jarring.

That, and Hansis never seemed like he had much chemistry with Harold. Hansis is an Emmy-nominated actor who became known as being half of daytime TV's first gay super-couple. He also had the first-ever, gay male kiss in daytime TV in 2007, opposite Jake Silbermann. Hansis definitely had chemistry with Silbermann. The two were electric or had fire whenever on screen together. Hansis and Harold never had that same fire. Neither did Hansis and Young.

Hansis had more chemistry with Ludwinski who was his antagonist in the movie. Ludwinski is himself one-half of a Los Angeles-based, comedy duo called Cool Kid Adjacent. The other half of that comedy duo is Kevin Grant Spencer who has a cameo in this movie. As a guy who looks like or at least has a similar body-type, I almost would have preferred if Spencer were cast as Stephen. Spencer seems to have qualities akin to Silbermann, so his chemistry with Hansis might have been better.

What Spellbound had that this movie lacks is an iconic, dream sequence. This movie does have several, dream sequences. One involves a tiger that was a bit clever, but it doesn't compare to the one conceived by Salvador DalĂ­ over 70 years ago. That dream represented a puzzle that had pieces for characters and the audience to put together. Here, Barrett isn't assembling a puzzle. It feels like he's dangling a carrot in front of us that he keeps arbitrarily out of reach until the end.

This would've been fine, if the two police detectives here weren't written with so much camp and had some realism to them. I don't need HBO's The Night Of or even NBC's Law & Order, but something more resembling reality would have been preferred. Detective Annette Riley, played by Yolanda Ross (The Get Down and Treme), and Detective Noah Santos, played by Jai Rodriguez (Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and Malibu Country), don't do any real detective-work, aside from making snide remarks about gay men and West Hollywood, while needlessly stalking Dusty.

A creepy clown who is caught on camera assaulting the victim at the time of the murder would seem like a suspect, but the detectives have no interest in pursuing him or trying to find the creepy clown at all. Dusty is arrested for Stephen's murder and two seconds later he's out on bail and it seems unrealistic, but maybe the movie is jumping around in time but at no point is the passage of that time demarcated.

There aren't many thrillers or even horror films with LGBT characters in the lead or even as the predominant cast. There have been queer themes or homo-eroticism to be had in thrillers or murder-mysteries like Hitchcock's Rope (1948), Cruising (1980), A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985) and Basic Instinct (1992). Thrillers with outright gay protagonists are few and far between. However, the independent film world has provided some good ones like Stranger By the Lake (2014), Bound (1996), The 24th Day (2004), Urbania (2000), Third Man Out (2005) and Hellbent (2005).

Not Rated but contains language, sexual situations and nudity.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 40 mins.

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