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Gay porn stars in peril: Is Knife+Heart the best queer horror movie ever made?

Gay porn stars in peril: Is Knife+Heart the best queer horror movie ever made?

Three Knife+Heart cast members | Photo: Altered Innocence

Take a pinch of the The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s bawdy humour; add a dose of Stranger By the Lake’s eerie eroticism.

Mix in a campy dash of lovingly bad cliched trash, a la A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge.

Finally, finish with a thick layer of colorful absurdity, like the original Suspiria or a Pedro Almodóvar thriller.

The end result? Something vaguely resembling the supremely queer Knife+Heart.

In truth, this pulpy horror, helmed by French director Yann Gonzalez, is unlike anything you’ve seen before.

Set in and around a 70s gay porn studio in Paris, it’s unforgettable, and not just because of the many curly-haired, angel-faced actors playing adult models who fill the screen for much of its 90 minute running time.

Indeed, one performance stands out above all others. She even upstages the dildo-switchblade-wielding, sex club-frequenting madman who drives the plot.

Yes, French actress Vanessa Paradis is utterly fascinating as the main character: adult filmmaker Anne. Not to mention painfully cool, with her bleached blonde hair and sex-worker-chic bottle green plastic trench coat.

Embarrassingly, I better knew Vanessa for her personal life until this film, and had never seen her act before. (I only heard her 1989 number one Joe le taxi for the first time this morning, too. It’s great).

‘Vanessa’s Anne is the Miranda Priestly of gay porn’

Hats off to her: in Knife+Heart, she’s electrifying. Anne is an uncompromising artist and tastemaker, the Miranda Priestly of gay porn, and really, who knew such a role could exist?

Making Anne’s context evermore specific is the fact that she’s apparently exclusively into women – while motherly and protective of her gaggle of guys.

It may all sound rather implausible, but it doesn’t feel so on screen. Besides, I’ve heard real-life stories of verbally abusive straight men calling the shots on gay male porn shoots – this scenario seems far preferable. Without the man in the leather gimp mask bumping people off, obviously…

And while Anne’s a ball-buster, she exudes a pixie-faced vulnerability, squelchy with emotion throughout, after the demise of her 10-year romance with producer Lois (Kate Moran) renders her an emotional wreck.

As her love turns obsessive – part Tinkerbell, part Alex from Fatal Attraction, part Chucky from Child’s Play – you’re left wondering if she is in fact the killer.

‘There’s a plucky trans woman, an elderly lesbian bartender…’

The second-tier characters are in equal parts juicy, unique and totally relevant to 2019.

There’s a plucky trans woman; an elderly lesbian bartender; a talented fluffer who happens to be overweight; police officers suffering from extreme cases of toxic masculinity.

Many inspire the characters in Anne’s latest (utterly ridiculous) blue movie Homocidal – thus, a film-within-a-film narrative unfolds. Things get complex and meta, and while that’s interesting, it’s a slight shame some of the most random characters aren’t more fleshed out.

My only other criticism – and I’m really showing my age here – is the violence shown. Particularly one scene, which goes further than the strongest moments of sexuality and nudity.

Forgive my 30-something pearl-clutching, but it occurred during dreamlike-sequence saturated with colour. By the time I realized what I was witnessing, it was too late to look away! Otherwise, full marks.

5/5

The film opens in New York City on 15 March. This is followed by screenings in LA on 22 March, San Francisco on 29 March, Chicago on 5 April and Denver on 19 April. Additional dates to be announced. For more information visit

See also:

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