Years ago, Sam Mraovich unleashed a small independent movie called Ben and Arthur. He directed, wrote, and produced and starred in a story about gay anxieties over marriage equality. The movie is terrible in the same neurotically sincere way that The Room is terrible, which means its amazing. With multiple murders, churches being set on fire, coffee shop temper tantrums, and a deadly sibling rivalry, the weirdness of Ben and Arthur is only compounded by the inept acting in front of the camera and the basic work behind it.
It’s only through Ben and Arthur that I discovered a queer anti-bullying horror movie called A Slice of Terror, written, directed and starring Michael Haboush (who played Ben’s psycho Christian brother). Well, I say horror movie, but, like Dead Boyz Don’t Scream, it is also a “softcore” pornographic movie. Actually, A Slice of Terror is more of a horror movie ANDmore of a pornographic movie than Dead Boyz, even if it is far more inept.
Haboush plays Zaffo, a geeky part time high school janitor and pizza delivery boy still bullied by the high school cool kids, other employees, and even the pizza clients (including special guest Bobby Trendy of The Anna Nicole Show). Because this movie is all about Haboush and his insecurities and sexual fetishes, the worst bullies are a group of high school jocks. During a particularly fraught incident, the high school coach catches the jocks mid-bullying and lines them up against the wall for a dressing down laden with homoerotic tension…though that could just be because the actors are gay and terrible at hiding their actual orientation. Despite the coach’s punishment, Zaffo exacts his own revenge by kidnapping a bunch of the boys, hypnotizing them and forcing them to perform sexual acts on each other against their will before he covers them in cheese and kills them to get the pizza sauce flowing.
If you’re giving me a big fat stink eye, it’s well deserved. This movie belongs to the “bullied into becoming a monster” horror genre, but the vengeance isn’t as delicious or as sweet, or horrifying as one might think. This movie is actually pretty damned rapey and gross – the hypnotized zombie sex scene seems to last at least 20 minutes and just goes on and on while Zaffo tells each naked dude what to do and who to do it too – while Haboush half-assedly justifies the grotesque acts because Zaffo was bullied. To say that this movie doesn’t need to be watched by anybody is an understatement (unlike Monday’s softcore Dead Boyz which justifies its own existence by being a critique of another genre). If you’re wondering why I’m writing this up, A Slice of Terror was yet another rather pornographic queer horror film that I found outside of the porno section of the video store. When I rented it, I didn’t expect that amount of blatant non-consensual sexuality.
The more disturbing part is that A Slice of Terror provides a counterpoint to the queer sexuality (or lack thereof) in Dead Boyz Don’t Scream. Where Dead Boyz Don’t Scream celebrates the naked male body, A Slice of Terror mainly uses it in the most pathological of lights. On the other hand, where Dead Boyz has only the most sterile of gay kisses, A Slice of Terror goes into full on sexual simulation. Both regard queer sexuality as an act that leads one down the road to murder, but one at least feigns some form of celebration.
Common wisdom holds that horror movies can be the most conservative anti-sexual films, punishing people for having sex while ensuring that the virgins survive through the night. Obviously, this isn’t necessarily the only formula, but its one that spread widely enough for it to be a safer bet. But, part of that was probably so we didn’t have to see the same girl have sex multiple times. Many horror movies tended to include a celebration of consensual sexuality before they punish the victims; the nubile teenagers are allowed to enjoy their lust before being massacred. The horror movies that include non-consensual rape usually attempt to feign some sort of disgust with it, even if they might be hypocritically indulging through depiction.
To Haboush’s credit, he at least tries to make the non-consensual sex feel creepy by giving it a lurid dark setting with eerie music and a disconnected voice giving droning orders. The problem is that Haboush’s camera takes on the point of view of the abuser. It’s not shaky or handheld, but it is definitely from Zaffo’s point of view, leering over the objectification of the abuser. The dark nature of the revenge might add to the horror atmosphere, but it also might just be a look into the dark mind of a vengeance-seeking geek.
I don’t know if Haboush is a skilled enough director to think of these things. This is a movie where Bobby Trendy, a very minor celebrity who has exactly one scene, is palpably frustrated at the rank amateurs demanding he deliver a line in a situation that makes no sense. As he sits on his throne, Trendy rolls his eyes and sighs, “I order pizza” without having a phone or speakerphone in sight. This is a movie so low budget that somebody’s kitchen is supposed to stand in for a full on pizza joint, and the owner is a white boy with a Rastafarian dreadlocked wig with an accent that’s halfway between Muppet and Martian. If it wasn’t for the very human sentiments behind the plot (bullied geek seeks vengeance on his bullies) that make this movie seem like a creepy masturbatory fantasy, I’d wonder if there was an actual human behind this production.
The last movie Michael Haboush directed, 2006’s Boybot (a movie that claims to combine Buddhist visuals and beliefs with the Frankenstein myth and bisexuality) is said to be “straight to video” on imdb, but I have only found a trailer and a green screen test to prove its existence.