A few years ago, Carlos Pedraza wrote Judas Kiss (2011). JT Tepnapa directed it and Jody Wheeler co-produced it. The movie was a hit on the gay film festival circuit where it won several awards. TLA Entertainment, the leading provider of gay male films, gave it its Best Drama Award that year. One of its actors, Sean Paul Lockhart, won Best Supporting Actor from TLA as well. It also marked the on-screen debut of Belgian actor Timo Descamps who is well-known in Flemish television and with voice-over work in animated films.
This movie is a re-teaming of all these people. Pedraza and Tepnapa are this time producers. Wheeler is writer and director. Instead of quasi science-fiction or fantasy, Wheeler goes for traditional thriller. Yet, it's still rife with psychological drama. The central character in Judas Kiss was a filmmaker riddled with self-doubt who didn't believe in himself or his talent. The central character here has the almost opposite problem. He believes in himself and his talent, but everyone else around him doesn't.
Blaise Embry stars as Keegan Dark, a young man whose talent isn't filmmaking. It's a kind of hyperthymesia, which he describes as memory like a film camera or more like a digital recorder that he can access and analyze in vivid detail. Occasionally, his memories appear in front of him as if video images on a non-linear editing system. Occasionally, they appear as ghost-like projections being broadcast in front of his eyes as if by an old, VHF television signal. Keegan looks to be in his mid-twenties and at this point has control of this ability but it does at times get the better and bombards him.
Sean Paul Lockhart co-stars as Jake Bishop, the son of Adrian Bishop, a doctor who recently married Keegan's mother, Celeste Dark. Jake is Keegan's stepbrother and from their first encounter it's clear that the two will never be friends. Jake has a violent streak that's off-putting. Even when he's being nice, it's an obvious pretense for psychopathy bubbling and raging underneath. He's like if Macaulay Culkin's character from The Good Son (1993) had grown up.
Timo Descamps plays Wil Roelen, the boyfriend of Keegan who drives them to visit Celeste's wine vineyard in California. They're both surprised to find Keegan's mother has remarried. Wil is way more receptive to the new family members, whereas Keegan is closed off. Like his character in Judas Kiss, Descamps' Wil uses initials to express certain things. He's mainly struggling with Keegan over past events that Keegan refuses to discuss.
Keegan uncovers a murderous plot that threatens his family. His untold events from the past complicate the level of trust for him. Meanwhile, Lockhart plays off the sexy bad boy persona he affirmed in Rob Moretti's Truth. Embry stands out with his perfection of tortured snark. His relationship with his mother is also a focal point and Shannon Day who plays Celeste, Keegan's only remaining, biological parent, is very good in just her contrasting aura and personality of warmth.
Wheeler's direction in certain moments is a little clunky, especially in action moments. His writing is snappy though and a particular scene at the end where certain people argue over who slept with whom is especially funny. Some might find it ridiculous, but otherwise Wheeler is able to infuse a real sense of danger to give the movie proper weight. A lot of the inner-workings are quite smart.
Not having to juggle the quasi science-fiction or fantasy elements help, making this even better than Judas Kiss.
Four Stars out of Five. Not Rated but contains sexual situations and violence. Running Time: 1 hr. and 30 mins. Available on DVD and VOD on December 2nd.