LGBTQ streaming: what to watch in October

Still from "Love, Spells, and All That."
The Turkish romance “Love, Spells, and All That” is out on VOD October 11.
Courtesy of Ariztical Entertainment

It’s October, and that means some Halloween-themed films for LGBTQ viewers to stream — but there are also a handful of other queer films available this month. Here is a rundown of what to watch.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism” (September 30, Prime Video)

“My Best Friend’s Exorcism” is a teen film based on the popular novel about two besties, Gretchen (Amiah Miller) and Abby (Elsie Fisher of “Eighth Grade”) who are so close they hold hands in school. But one night, after taking LSD, Gretchen is possessed by a demon and starts misbehaving and alienating her friends. She humiliates Abby, outs Glee (Cathy Ang), and gives Margaret (Rachel Ogechi Kanu) a horrific case of tapeworms. Abby tries to help Gretchen — she just wants her friend back — so she enlists the aid of Christian Lemon (Christopher Lowell) to expel the demon. The queer inclusive “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” is more endearing than scary because of the female friendship at its core. Fisher is ingratiating and Miller has fun playing up the evil. But overall, this is a slight film geared towards younger viewers.

“Phantom Project” (October 4, VOD)

The phantom in the Chilean drama, “Phantom Project,” is seen periodically as a naked, animated figure. He haunts Pablo (Juan Cano) a gay, unemployed actor, among other characters, in a way that is more low-key than scary. The amiable Pablo has a series of encounters that range from a strange sexual experience and a weird episode at a Holistic Center, to upbeat exchanges with a neighbor, an actress, and even a promising first date. But much of “Phantom Project” is aimless and dull, and not very gay, which will make viewers wish this wisp of a film had been stronger and more compelling.

Queer for Fear: The History of Queer Horror” (now available on Shudder)

This a four-part series that analyzes and unpacks LGBTQ representation in horror films. Parts 1-2 (which were available for preview) look at classic literary creations, including Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” and how both writers had same-sex longings. Out gay director James Whale’s quartet of Universal films — “Frankenstein,” “The Invisible Man,” “The Old Dark House,” and “Bride of Frankenstein” — are also discussed for their obvious queer content, along with the various gay actors who performed in them. Jumping ahead in time, the series examines the gay text and/or subtext in Alfred Hitchcock’s films, from the lesbian Mrs. Danvers in “Rebecca” to the gay men in “Rope” and “Strangers on a Train,” and the cross-dressing killer in “Psycho,” starring closeted actor Anthony Perkins. The series features a fabulous cast of talking heads, include filmmakers Kimberly Peirce and Justin Simien, to film critic Alonso Duralde, writer Carmen Maria Machado, and even singer Michael Feinstein.

“Love, Spells, and All That” (On VOD October 11) 

The Turkish romance “Love, Spells, and All That” has a terrific set up — after 20 years, Eren (Ece Dizdar) returns to the island of Büyükada, where Reyhan (Selen Uçer) still lives, claiming she cannot live without her. Reyhan is Eren’s first, true, and only real love. But Reyhan, who is currently living with a man, Gökhan (Uygar Özçelik), is not so quick to want to relive what was a teenage romance. As Eren tries to convince Reyhan to leave her life behind and be with her, she eventually learns that her powerful all-consuming love for Reyhan is the result of a spell Miss Aliye cast decades ago. Despite some rekindled affection and discussions of why they have not been in contact, the women try to find Miss Aliye to have her undo the spell. “Love, Spells, and All That” is a very sweet film that charms viewers as the characters consider what their lives have been like together and apart. Writer/director Ümit Ünal also chronicles the attitudes and difficulties same-sex couple faced — and still face — being openly gay in Turkish society. His film is both touching and picturesque.

“Shall I Compare You to a Summer’s Day?” (screening at Newfest virtually October 13; available on VOD and DVD October 25) 

The highly stylized “Shall I Compare You to a Summer’s Day?” is more “One Thousand and One Nights” than Shakespeare. Director Mohammad Shawky Hassan’s film is all about storytelling. Narratives in the film recount amorous, impassioned young men meeting for a night of unimaginable pleasure. Through animation, songs, and a series of striking visual tableaus, a dozen plus vignettes about love are recounted, such as one about a merman. There are also discussions of open and polyamorous relationships, jealousy, as well as episodes involving a photo shoot or a car repair that turn into sexual encounters. Hassan features several attractive men acting out the stories, and one monologue featuring a guy in direct address recounting sharing a cigarette on a balcony at a party allows viewers to imagine the scene and what transpires. Such is the power of Hassan’s storytelling. This experimental film may not be for all tastes, but it does provide some real poetic and imaginative moments.

“Waking Up Dead” (October 25 on demand)

The sophomore feature by Terracino (“Elliot Loves”) finds Danny (Gabriel Sousa) in a slump. While he is struggling to find work as an actor, his boyfriend Eddy (Caio Ara) is moving on — without him. What is more, Danny’s estranged mother, suffering from substance abuse, is dying. He tries to get his life together while housesitting for a friend (he has been evicted). Danny thinks tapping into his pain may help him land a part on a series. Sousa is handsome, but at times he tries too hard with his shrill character, and some of the film’s jokes — about Danny showering with dish soap, or his agent Phyllis’ (Tracy Lords) hapless assistant — are tired even before they start running. Lords is arguably the best thing in this scrappy film made during the pandemic because she possesses the self-confidence Danny lacks.

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