We took a week off for the holiday last week, but we return to this retrospective for our fourth installment of Tuesday with Dorty and this time we’ve jumping around a bit. We started with the Trash series with the intention of going chronologically for the remainder of the films… which would have led us to Crazy Fat Ethel (perhaps Dorton’s best known work… at least in genre circles). Instead, I dove into the most decidedly LGBTQ+ themed entry of Brian’s work as part of our cap to Pride month – mind you, highlighting diverse art with inclusive themes isn’t just for June here on The Farsighted. With that, I present to you our look at Brian Dorton’s 2020 horror film Truly, Madly.
While the queer themes in the Trash films are surely present, this one is intentional about highlighting the LGBTQ+ community. The result is something Brian is proud of:
I’m proud that we were about to represent a lot of the LGBTQ+ community without being too cliche.
To this end, the film is highly successful. It is certainly not cliche and the queer characters and themes are woven in in a way that never detracts to the story and genuinely enhances what we’re experiencing on screen. While not everything is as successful, Dorton clearly took some risks with the storytelling, cinematography, editing, and composition of the film.
…it’s a film I look at now and say DAMN, I WISH WE COULD’VE DONE MORE! As the writer and director I see a lot of issues that some may not see.
I think we experimented and somethings worked and somethings didn’t.
Yet, the product here works more than it doesn’t. It takes some of the aesthetics – both in the look of the film and in the storytelling itself – we’ve experienced with the Trash films and builds off them. Many of the same actors are present, the overall feel and look of the the film, the dialog, and the style feel consistent with Dorton’s Trash films in a lot of ways. The biggest difference is in the lack of over-the-top filth and the fact that the film is almost never playing for laughs. Instead, there are some more horror elements and pacing replacing the comedic elements. This is decidedly not a comedy film (at least not in any traditional way at all), while the Trash films decidedly are.
Another interesting point of distinction, is in the character Dorton is portraying. In the Trash films, Dorton portrays Katrina Lizhope – a cisgender woman portrayed by a man for the reason of laughs and an initial lack of women in the cast. In this film, Geena McMillian mentions being born a boy and still having a penis. Never is the transgender thing played for laughs, but it’s also not a central theme or issue for the film – while it is important in the fact that Geena is one of the queer characters that is forced to come face to face with people who don’t understand and/or aren’t supportive of her life. As Dorton mentioned above, including a variety of types of people from the LGBTQ+ was important to him in making this film and doing so without cliche was certainly a successful endeavor.
Some of the film’s central ideas revolve around the obsessions and abuses of Christians, notably in regards to their fixation on sexuality and LGBTQ+ people. As a pastor’s kid myself and someone who likes to look at the intersections of faith and art, these discussions and themes are of extreme interest to me. Exploring the Church’s obsession with the queer community is something I wish more genre film would do and do effectively. And, while not everything about this film is fully fleshed out, the ideas explored in this area are really interesting and present a lot of great points of discussion.
The film is dark, challenging, and certainly worth your time if low budget genre fare is your thing. It’s not as filthy as the Trash films, but that doesn’t make it any easier to watch. This film has some real weight.
In short, the film is indeed a mixed bag, but works far more than it doesn’t. Not only is this a great juxtaposition to where we started this series, but it’s more in my wheelhouse as a viewer and a writer, due to its roots in the horror genre. Next week, we’ll stay in this darker genre world and look at 2016’s Crazy Fat Ethel, a film that seems to be quite synonymous with the name Brian Dorton.