5

Queer Mystery Films

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest

Murders, detective, and … Bears? Oh my!

This month’s list of queer mystery films was rather fun to research sift though, partly because most folks don’t think about mysteries when thinking of LGBTQ and Queer films. While the tides are slowly turning, the Queer film oeuvre is better known for coming out stories, HIV/AIDS related storylines, and similar. There’s actually a decent amount of queer mystery films; these are simply some of my favourites.

But there’s a certain allure to mystery films. They captivate and draw the viewer in though intrigue. Murder is the most common plot device utilised. In fact, four out of the five films below involve at least one murder! There’s also a certain cinematographic style to the mystery genre. Queer Mystery films employ many similar devices as mainstream films: dark lighting, ominous music that sets the tone, revealing clues piece by piece (sometimes via dramatic irony where we know something the characters don’t yet know), and more. Four of the queer mystery films below are prime examples of the genre. The last one, a web series, still adheres to the key facets of the mystery genre but though comedy and surprise.

From controversial classic films to newer tv/web series, these five queer mystery films are all worth watching. Read on to discover more about all five films/series.

[Note: Not all of these films have full reviews yet – but they’re added to the quickly growing list of films I plan to tackle soon!]

1

Cruising

A serial killer brutally slays and dismembers several gay men in New York’s S&M and leather districts. The young police officer Steve Burns (Al Pacino) is sent undercover onto the streets as decoy for the murderer. Working almost completely isolated from his department, he has to learn and practice the complex rules and signals of this little society. While barely seeing his girlfriend Nancy (Karen Allen) anymore, the work starts changing him.

“Cruising” is a dark, psychological mystery thriller from the brilliant William Friedkin. Based on actual murders and unsolved cases from the 70’s, this queer film created QUITE a stir – to the point that local New Yorkers protested the on-location shoots. When the film was released, it polarised the LGBT community because of it brutal depiction of the S&M scene. Many felt that it was a negative portrayal of only a small sub-sect of the community, thereby hurting the push of gay rights activism in the 80’s. “Cruising” is also rather infamous for the rumoured 40 min of cut sex club footage, scenes that Friedkin was forced to edit back by the MPAA in order to secure even the film’s “R” rating. While it’s reported much of that footage was hardcore sex or the illusion of, there’s also a lingering question of key storyline elements being lost as a result. The theatrically released version actually has some major story issues with continuity, though some note that that’s also part of Freidkin’s style as it exacerbates the mysterious and often confusing allure.

However, modern audiences have a slightly different viewpoint regarding “Cruising”. While hated by many at the time, there are many others who view this queer mystery thriller as a time-capsule to the past. Through dark imagery and by utilising actual gay S&M bars with real patrons as extras, Freidkin has unexpectedly provided an insight into a pre-AIDS sect of the gay world. In fact, the rumoured missing 40 minutes led actor/director James Franco to “recreate” the footage in his film “Interior. Leather. Bar“. And let’s not forget that even with the major cuts, there is a brilliance to the film that can only come from Friedkin’s cinematographic style.

While “Cruising” is NOT for everyone, it’s actually an excellent queer mystery film to watch on many levels. If you’re intrigued, give it a watch!

2

When Jonas (Nicolas Bauwens) was 14 he met the charismatic but mysterious Nathan (Tommy-Lee Baïk). In addition to guiding him in his sexuality, Jonas soon confronts something dark and even dangerous about his new friend. Now an attractive, sexually assured adult (Félix Maritaud), memories still haunt him. Trying frantically to put the missing pieces together, Jonas becomes determined to break the shackles of the past and finally set himself free.

This film caught me off guard. Knowing that I was a bit late to the party after it dropped on Netflix a good while back, I also knew nothing about the plot until I sat down to watch it tonight. I’m actually glad! “I Am Jonas” aka as “Jonas”, is a new and thrilling entry to the Queer Film oeuvre from the brilliant Christophe Charrier. This mystery balances between two timelines in Jonas’ life, bouncing back and forth with a smoothness that is actually a bit jarring and aids the intrigue. We know that there is something in Jonas’ past that haunts him – but we don’t know what. By the end, the horror unfolds, leaving us with an odd feeling – we don’t get a resolution. But even though this is not your “happy-go-lucky” queer film, “I Am Jonas” is certainly worth watching!

Read my review HERE.

3

London Spy

Danny (Ben Whishaw) is a gregarious, hedonistic romantic who gets drawn into the dangerous world of British espionage in this contemporary, emotional thriller. He falls for the anti-social but enigmatic Alex (Edward Holcroft), both from opposite worlds, and they soon realise they’re perfect for each other. But when Alex suddenly disappears, Danny is utterly ill-equipped to take on his complex and codified world. Young, innocent and adrift he needs to decide whether he’s prepared to fight for the truth?

This five part queer mystery film/TV mini-series from Tom Rob Smith is QUITE a ride! But let’s be honest, a spy thriller-mystery wouldn’t be any good if there weren’t a few twists and turns. “London Spy” delivers all of that and more, even with the overbearing feeling that all is lost. One reviewer even noted that things seemed so dismal and slow moving, that he was bored. However, stick it out through till the end for the final twists are just as shocking as Alex’s disappearance. However, the key reason that “London Spy” is part of this list is because at the heart of the series is a love story between two men, Alex and Danny. Furthermore, Danny’s older friend, Scotty (Jim Broadbent), provides an insight into the days when being gay was not only illegal in the UK but actually was viewed as a disgrace within MI6 and spy agencies. Not only is “London Spy” a great queer mystery series, but it’s also an interesting viewing experience.

4

Third Man Out

Gay detective Donald Strachey (Chad Allen) is commissioned to protect gay activist John Rutka (Jack Wetherall), who is known for “outing” prominent citizens. Strachey abandons bodyguard duty when he feels that Rutka is staging the threats against himself. When Rutka turns up dead, Strachey is faced with an extensive list of enemies all with enough motive to kill.

“Third Man Out” is one of four film adaptations of Richard Stevenson‘s books featuring gay detective, Donald Strachey. Interestingly, although this queer detective film is the first film adaptation – it’s not the first of Stevenson’s novels about Strachey. But I feel it was a wise choice, despite the chronological issues because the story is quite captivating with a shocking twist at the end! While the script and acting are a tad melodramatic (it is a TV , they actually work for the film noire detective genre. “Third Man Out” is a great example of film noire that harkens back to classic films and cinematographic styles – but with a queer twist. Equally interesting is how the story posits some moral issues within the gay & queer community with regards to public outing, hypocrites, and even abuse. If you want something different that is also rather enjoyable, check out this queer mystery film!

5

Where The Bears Are

A comedy mystery web-series that follows the exploits of three gay bear roommates, Reggie (Rick Copp), Nelson (Ben Zook), and Wood (Joe Dietl), living together in Los Angeles, as they attempt to solve the murder of a party guest that turned up dead in their bathtub. Released in serial format on YouTube, the series ran for a total of seven seasons!

I’m mixed on “Where The Bears Are”. I absolutely loved the first few seasons! This queer mystery series is campy, full of bears, ridiculous jokes that will make you laugh or groan, and it all surrounds a murder mystery! But as the seasons continued, my interest waned as the plot became more and more absurd. I also had issue in that unlike most mysteries where clues to the killer are dropped now and then, we get nothing until all of a sudden the killer is revealed along with an unexpected twist. However, I have to applaud the creators and actors on the series. Not only did Rick Copp, Ben Zook, Joe Dietl write, act, and produce in the series, their efforts would have been all for naught without a massive crowdfunding campaign for subsequent seasons. So if you’re game for camp writing and a cast full of bears, give “Where The Bears Are” a binge!

Portrait of Michael J. Deibert, owner of Queer Film Reviews

Hi, I’m Michael!

I have amassed a massive collection of queer and gay-themed films, shorts, series, and more. I’m here to let you know which ones are worth watching – and which ones aren’t!

Find A Review

Can't Find A Film?

Review Missing?

Is your favorite queer film missing from my reviews? Let me know and I'll add it to my short list!
0 0 votes
Post Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Rainbow Pride Flag

Don’t see a review for your favorite queer film or short? Then let me know and I can try to review it sooner!

Don't miss a review

Subscribe and get my Monthly Newsletters: Queer Films & Queer Shorts, both with new reviews!

Unsubscribe when you want