Friday, October 20, 2006

OpenCam: My review for This Week In Texas.

While chat rooms might feel like familiar territory for many gay men, thrillers aren’t familiar territory for many gay movies. In fact, thrillers often feature gay villains and gay stereotypes. OpenCam might include a gay villain—considering that the entire cast seems gay—but it also rises above stereotypes.

After giving up on a lasting relationship, Manny (Andreau Thomas) spends much of his time trolling a chat room for gay men in Washington, D.C. That distraction often keeps him from his artwork, and from his best friend, Maurice (Ben Green). Maurice obviously wants their friendship to go further, and his emotional openness sometimes gets a bit scary.

An attempted robbery causes Manny and Maurice to cross paths with Hamilton (Amir Darvish), a detective who later asks Manny to help him solve a series of murders. The murders not only involve the chat room Manny cruises but also involve people he knows. As it turns out, several of Manny’s acquaintances seem suspicious.

Amir Darvish creates an intriguing hero—seductive, dangerous, and concerned. However, Andreau Thomas is the star, giving Manny enough faults to make at least one of his acquaintances want to kill him but enough charm to make audience care what happens to him.

Writer/director Robert Gaston keeps taunting viewers by making certain characters seem like the obvious culprit but then planting doubts about the killer’s true identity. Gaston moderates the pacing by focusing on the relationships between the characters, while interspersing scenes of danger. He also makes good use of shadows and light, especially in scenes where a character on the Web cam obviously receives an unexpected guest.

Sex and nudity play an important role in the film, but the emotional conflicts and the growing sense of danger make it even more engaging. A little bit of humor even sneaks in now and then, usually from sarcasm, but also from some playfully romantic scenes between Hamilton and Manny. The soundtrack features an enjoyable mixture of dance music and alternative rock, with artists such as Warren Cuccurullo (a lead guitarist for Frank Zappa, Missing Persons, and Duran Duran) and 2005 Outmusic Award Nominees Keyth Lawrence and the Purple Circle.

Without giving away any of the ending, something apparently happens between two of the characters that doesn’t quite show up in the film’s concluding scenes. Maybe it’s implied and I just didn’t catch it, but it seemed distractingly missing. That is my only complaint about the entire movie, though. OpenCam is sexy and suspenseful.

Read more about this movie at OpenCamMovie.Com.

--DuaneSimolke.Com, author of The Acorn Stories, Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure, Holding Me Together, and New Readings of Winesburg, Ohio.