Is beauty only skin deep?
A queer short film made by Eurocreme? (known for hardcore porn) Interesting! I started watching “VGL-Hung!” with intrigue and curiosity. But by the end, I was disappointed and a tad bit bored. And that’s even with what essentially amounts to softcore porn including some of Eurocreme’s best “actors”. So how did this short film, featured on Pecadillo Picture’s Boys On Film’s first short film compilation, “Hard Love”, disappoint? Well, let’s break it down and get all nitty-gritty.
Synopsis of “VGL-Hung!”
It’s a regular night out on the town for Terry: despite blasting club music and shirtless men dancing, he just stands awkwardly off to the side. As usual, he gives up and heads home dejected and alone. The guy sitting next to him on the train even falls over onto Terry’s shoulder, barely noticing when Terry finally gets off at his stop. Back home in his empty apartment, he pulls a worn condom out of his back pocket while his dog peers up disappointingly. “Single by choice… not YOUR choice, necessarily.” he mutters to himself. While debating between taking Valium or Cocaine for at least some fun tonight, he finally decides to do a line of coke – but Terry still wants someone to help ease the boredom. He tries to decide between porn or an escort service, but upon seeing his laptop on the counter, he realises: why pay when you can get it online for free!
As Terry peruses through the multitude of profiles online (showing a variety of male nudity on screen), he mutters to himself that everyone is too “something”: too old, too fat, ginger, too MUCH – aka fat! He tries ManFinder next, but simply lacks confidence to even message anyone. Looking into the mirror, he wonders to himself how can he find Mr Perfect if he doesn’t see himself as perfect? Suddenly, a pair of lips appears on his laptop screen with a female voice offering to help! “Do you want to go back to the ways B.C. – Before Computers?” the voice inquires.
Cue a flashback of Terry cruising in the woods and hooking up with a straight guy, giving the guy a blowjob before Terry is shoved away in disgust. At least you can see who you’re taking home, Terry remarks to himself. But Terry realises that the world is full of nut cases – revealing a nightmare-ish vision of a hookup trying to stab Terry mid-sex! If not nut cases, then it’s guys who lie and deceive. Such as the one time when after messaging a sexy young guy but the guy who shows up at the door ends up being MUCH older! Meanwhile Terry cannot forget about Max – who was in the process of becoming Maxine…
Shrugging off all of these dating mistakes, Terry decides to give this mysterious app a try. She asks Terry to describe his ideal partner. Still wary of hidden costs or surprises, he asks how much? “You must decide the price to pay”, the voice replies. Figuring it’s worth a shot, Terry eyes a magazine on the counter showing a skater boy on the cover. “fit, sexy, and hung”, Terry types in for his ideal partner. Suddenly Terry IS a sexy skater punk! While fawning over his new appearance in the mirror, Terry presumes there is still a catch. “No catch”, the voice informs him, before adding the warning “But you only have till midday to find what you’re looking for”. Not wasting any time, Terry hops back on ManFinder and messages one of the hunks online. But despite the fact that the guy is hot, the actual hookup just isn’t what Terry expected. During the sex, the hunk focuses only on himself in the mirror but ends up passing out asleep immediately after he gets off!
Returning back home, the voice app asks if it was what Terry expected. “Um, no.” Terry snaps back. Disappointed but not fully dejected, Terry returns back to ManFinder and finds a profile of two guys looking for a third! This time, Terry describes his ideal guy as “Sexy, cute, straight acting, & skinny” This time around, Terry is transformed into a young punk complete with a shaved head. To top it off, the two guys message back – they’re keen! While punk music plase, Terry cockily strust over to their place. When he arrives, the two guys are dancing in their skimpy underwear. It turns out that they just had their civil-partnership earlier and are still partying; Terry is just another “present” to celebrate. It takes forever before they finally get around to the sex – and it ends up not being a mutual threesome for the one partner has lost all interest and begins arguing as Terry slips away. He was hardly the “meat in the sandwich, but rather a side order of cold unwanted mayonnaise” he remarks to himself on the way back home.
“What kind of fairy godmother are you? You said you’d fix things for me!” he whines upon returning home. But the voice snaps back: “Get over it, Terry. You still have time.” Giving it one last chance, Terry tries “cute, very good looking, hung” for his ideal guy. After becoming this third iteration of perfection, Terry is surprised to receive a message from an attractive guy wanting more than just sex! Intrigued, Terry quickly heads over. In the cab ride over, Terry mentally runs through a mock imaginary interview (with this attractive guy answering with all the right answers, of course). When the two guys meet, they instantly mesh before chatting a bit. And when they eventually got around to the sex – it’s amazing! Terry is falling for this guy, and it’s almost as if time had stood still.
But when the guy gets up to go get a drink, Terry’s eyes open the sudden realisation that his time is nearly up! Back at his apartment, his laptop counts down to zero before the app mutters “Goodbye. Profile reset”. Terry suddenly is back to looking like his true self, and wearing just his underwear in this attractive guy’s apartment. But while he grabs his clothes to dress and quietly slip out, Terry hears crying coming from the kitchen. Presuming the guy saw what Terry really looks like, he tries to apologise for being such a disappointment. But it turns out the other guy isn’t what he initially looked like either – it’s the guy from on the train! They both look each other over rather puzzled, until Terry hears the guy’s laptop also mutter “Goodbye”. And as their initial shock passes, they both chuckle and reconsider each other with a smile.
As my low rating indicates, I was not a fan of “VGL-Hung!” by any means. The only positive thing I can note is that it is a cohesive short film. The production crew aren’t amateurs in film-making. Writer/Director Max Barber has a few documentaries under his belt, and Director of Photography Simon Booth has a handful of films to his name. So why didn’t this seemingly talented crew create something better? Well, Booth’s talent at filmmaking is in porn – in fact, he helped launch Eurocreme’s initial porn series, Dream Boy before branching off into directing their Rudeboiz range. Nothing against the film crew for porn, as they have an important job to do too! However, just because you are good at one style of filmmaking does not mean you’re good at others. The same could be said of Co-Writer’s “skill” at script writing. Coming from a career in PR, “VGL-Hung” is Hugo Eyre Varnier‘s only noted film. After watching the film, I’m not surprised.
Cinematographically, there are a couple things that aren’t atrocious. But overall, the production quality is haphazard and chaotic. While there is decent lighting for the daylight scenes, all of the night & club scenes are way too dark – it’s hard to even tell what’s going on at points. Equally, there’s a camera style that – well, to be blunt – is better suited for porn than an actual film. Between weird closeups on actor’s faces, wide range shots from unique angles in order to capture the action, and more, it’s just crappy. And while the music is typical of 90’s/early 2000’s club scene, there is a balance issue between the sound and the dialogue. Again, it’d be perfect for a porn where there really isn’t any dialogue.
As far as the actors go, the only positive thing I can say is that most are rather hot and sexy! Given that nearly all of the guys who portray Terry’s various iterations are actual porn stars, that’s to be expected! They’re also meant to fit certain stereotypes. They certainly match the stereotypes, but when it comes to actual acting skills… most of them fall quite flat. (And the softcore porn scenes and quick glimpses of nudity still don’t make it enjoyable – which is perhaps the saddest part of all!) But not all characters who are supposed to be sexy hunks. Terry and our mysterious scruffy man who ends up being “Prince Charming” are rather average looking guys. However Marcus Proctor‘s portrayal of Terry is not only horribly cliche and stereotypical, but comes across as a whiny, miserable guy. And that’s actually how his character is written! Instead of vulnerability and the cliche “unable to see the beauty within” vibe though, it comes across as bad melodrama. I had zero relatability with his character – and I should have, because we all have had those same self-destructive thoughts about our bodies at some point in our lives.
Lastly, the script is such a conundrum! Sure, we have cheesy pickup lines and retorts. Heck, even the mysterious computer programs gets sassy with Terry! But they aren’t funny. There certainly are a wide variety of characters, but they’re all horribly stereotypical and underdeveloped. Even the crazy and extreme situations that Terry finds himself in, or mentions during his obsessively long internal soliloquies, should be captivating. They fall flat. In fact, the only enjoyable scene in the film is towards the end when Terry, in his third “ideal image” persona, really connects with the attractive guy looking for more than just sex. But that brief moment is broken as the clock strikes midday and Terry (and the other guy!) return back to their normal selves. This is the pivotal point in the short film, and while it works, it still missed out on its full potential.
I really tried to enjoy “VGL-Hung!”. But even after watching it through a few times for this review, I cannot rate it any higher. The underlying story is the same old Cinderalla tale about finding beauty within, but with a gay twist where vanity and how hung the guy is takes precedence. It should have worked, but multiple issues kept this queer short film from succeeding. Personally, I would skip watching “VGL-Hung!” unless you are curious to watch porn stats attempt to act. Or skip the softcore and just watch one of Eurocreme’s porns – they’re more enjoyable than this queer short!
[BTW, if you are intrigued by the premise of divine intervention to help find Mr. Right, I highly recommend checking out “eCupid” instead!]
Queer Relevance of “VGL-Hung!”
Underneath the softcore porn, male nudity, and sexy porn stars is a charming commentary on how beauty is only skin deep; that it’s what is on the inside matters most when looking for Mr. Right.
Or rather, that’s what Max Barber & Hugo Eyre Varnier attempt to portray.
Unfortunately, the end result is still rather vain and conceited – even despite what should be a pivotal message of self acceptance! To be frank, the only queer relevant point to note about “VGL-Hung!” is the fact that there are some decent eye candy to look at in various glimpses of nudity and softcore porn. But again, what else could you expect from porn stars and a queer short film written by a major porn production company?