Short Film, Short Review: LGBT Horror Short CONVERSION THERAPIST
The intention of a short film, short review article is to be as concise as the running time is. Short and sweet. But there is much to be said about Bears Rebecca Fonté's LGBT horror short film Conversion Therapist so 'bear' with us for a moment longer than usual.
Their LGBT horror short film had its U.S. premiere at the All Genders Lifestyles and Identities Film Festival (AGLIFF) last night but it has been on our radar since it's world premiere here in Toronto back in May so we are happy to be able to catch up with it and report back to you.
Conversion Therapist follows a pansexual, polyamorous trio as they set out to kidnap and convert a ‘pray-the-gay-away’ therapist, using some of the same methods he used on queer youth, and some that are maybe a little more extreme.
To help set up Fonté's short film we should know why it's here. Conversion Therapist was born after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. In their director's statement Fonté wrote...
In the aftermath of Pulse, I couldn’t believe the bigotry of certain “ministers” who did more than hint that they believed the terrorist had done the world a favor. I poured my anger into this script and project.But I also had started a ticking clock. I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to bring this story, with its transgender character, into the world and honestly discuss the story with the actors, crew and audiences without first being honest about myself. When I launched our Kickstarter campaign, I also announced to the world that I was Transgender.
Yes. If we have anything to thank the Christian right for, is that they are encouraging the horror filmmaking community to respond to their bigotry. And respond Fonté has, personally and artistically.
First, it was important to Fonté that they cast a transgender person in the transgender role of Salina. "Transgender actors should be able to tell their own stories". Sound familiar? Does that sound like something that the genre community has been back and forth on recently? So Fonté found Evalyn Jake, a first time actor. While their craft is pretty raw they are called upon to work through the emotional crux of the story and they do okay with the material. Coming from a transgender person the monolgue is more authentic through it's rawness. However, they do stand out against Fonté regular Sara Fletcher and her deliciously seductive and vengeful Justine.
Film wise, Conversion Therapist is a bit clunky. The timeline in the narrative lacks a bit of fluidity, where character emotions flip-flop unnecessarily it seems. Still, when a character expresses that they are tired, I don't think this is meant to be literal but metaphorical, that the community is tired of facing all this hate, but the moment of expression feels out of place in the edit.
As this is a horror short film as well does Fonté deliver on the genre front? Yes. Yes they do. Teetering on falling into the realm of torture porn Fonté decidedly keeps most the violence off camera. When the trio start carrying out their revenge the blood and the horror does fly. On that it delivers what we want to see happen to the therapist, to see him pay for his sins. There will be no forgiveness here.
This short film is nothing if not a dark dream of what it would be like to lash out at the hate that is flung at the LGBT community. If anyone ever responded the way that the trio do in Conversion Therapist they would not be helping the cause because conservatives would be crying foul and raising a ruckus. The trio would be no better than the animals that hunt them down. Liberals are held to a higher standard, to ironically turn the other cheek as Scripture says. But it costs nothing to dream these nasty little dreams of revenge against those who act out of hate.
Conversion Therapist is how we wish we could act against the hate and bigotry raging against the LGBT community.