JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Closet Monster (Director/Writer: Stephen Dunn) - January 11, 2016
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Closet Monster

4 4
90 min.

Reviewed at the 2016 Palm Springs International Film Festival.
Exorcising your demons

Writer-director Stephen Dunn has created a truly fanciful tale of how a traumatic experience at far too early an age can, finally, be exorcised from a continuously troubled soul.

The title is a marvel of meaning: closet, in its most literal sense being a storage place for clothing—in this instance the partial wardrobe of a woman (Joanne Kelly, dutiful at every turn as Brin Madly), left behind in the family home due to a malicious father (Aaron Abrams, readily convincing playing Peter Madly: a dad whose own dreams turn to nightmares for all around him), taking the "divide everything equally" to the nth degree as young son, Oscar Madly (Jack Fulton showing impressive maturity in the production’s early scenes), simultaneously receives a hamster (beautifully voiced—of course beloved pets can talk!—by Isabella Rossellini) and the announcement of the family breakup.

In the more metaphorical meaning, Oscar gradually comes out of the closet to accept the fact that he is a gay boy/man--whether or not he curls his fingernails inwardly (a foolproof sign of queerness, right?). And at one of the film's several moments of high drama, the closet serves as a temporary cell of punishment when events transpire for Oscar to act out his anger rather than take parental abuse on the chin once again.

The first monster is truly cruel: grade school bullies inserting a metallic rod in the posterior of an unfortunate, apparent Nancy boy surrounded by the deadly confines of a cemetery. Those horrific images are the stuff of nightmares most foul when the implement of unwanted penetration—eventually—is replaced with a stiff phallus in a bathroom during a drug-infused costume party for the, now, much older Oscar (Connor Jessup provides a wide range of emotions and “looks” in his deft portrait of a burgeoning makeup artist who fights to strip away his own mask then embrace his true self).

Second on the monster list is Peter, as he continues to push all who might have loved him far, far away: mentally, emotionally and physically.

And perhaps the most telling monster of all stems from within every viewer who comes across this well-crafted production: who amongst us hasn't felt the heady desire to purge our own demons or the "need to get out of here"?

In supporting roles, Mary Walsh brings her customary warmth, wisdom and wit as Oscar’s big box store employer. Sofia Banzhof makes for a charming fag-hag-in-training, while Aliocha Schneider’s sultry good looks might cause many sitting on the sexual fence to take a walk on his wild side.

Dunn’s first feature aptly demonstrates that he too has come of age and deserves to apply his considerable skills and talents to another project—hopefully sooner than later. JWR

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