What do you get if you take the 1970s gay porn industry and cross it with a slasher film?. The answer is a glorious mix of fantasy horror that shines with pride. In the truly unique 2018 film Knife + Heart. A film that provides us with a fantasy horror that miraculously works on every level, despite its mix of styles and genres. As its camp slasher horror credentials glow with energy, humour, and style.
Set in Paris during the height of the late 1970s boom in low budget gay cinema porn. Matriarch auteur Anne (Vanessa Paradis) spends her time persuading amateur men to perform in her low budget movies. Offering each one an escape from their menial day jobs in return for their bodies on camera. Her schlock movies providing instant celebrity status in XXX Cinema’s for each young man. With overblown, tongue in cheek stories that are laced with imagery that glorifies the male form. However, when her young buff film stars begin to die at the hands of a hidden leather faced murderer; his weapon a large bladed dildo. Anne quickly decides to incorporate the murders into her new film, changing its title from ‘Anal Fury’ too ‘Homocidal’.
In turn leading to a production where art mirrors reality and reality mirrors art. As the film progresses toward its final edit in a blaze of unexplained murders. The mystery of the leather faced killer slowly emerging through a haze of neon, sex and celluloid.
In both direction and vision Yann Gonzalez delivers a film that not only celebrates the interface between porn and horror. But also pays homage to the role of cheap porn in furthering gay sexual liberation in film. However, this is also embedded in a world of dreamlike passion, voyeurism and fetish. Twisting the heterosexuality of mainstream horror into a gay world of blood, sex and hidden desire. Thus creating an intoxicating mix of styles and genres that strikingly explores desire, art and death. While echoing the brief freedom, creativity and acceptance of late 70s and early 80s life just as AIDS sat in the wings waiting to unleash its invisible reign of terror. The films landscape of hard one freedom ultimately hunted by an invisible killer. Offering a clear evocation of the horror sitting in the wings as a new virus marched forward.
Meanwhile, Knife + Hearts soft core sex, beautifully reflects the innocence of early gay porn. A medium where the visual beauty of the male body found itself embedded in camp theatre. The end result providing a momentary escape for men who made clandestine trips to seedy theatres. Often fearing discovery while buzzing with adrenaline as they settled into darkness of the auditorium. However, Gonzalez also proudly mirrors the world of mainstream horror from Psycho to Peeping Tom and An American Werewolf in London. By holding a queer mirror to the heterosexual world of mainstream horror. In turn, subverting this world while embracing the links between sexuality, porn and the emerging 70s slasher film.
In conclusion Knife + Heart provides us with a unique, beautifully structured and gloriously queer horror. One that echoes with a love and admiration for a creative porn industry long since vanished. In a world where hard won acceptance unknowingly sat on the precipice of disaster. Ultimately creating a film that revels in its queer identity while reflecting the bonds between love, sex, blood and horror.
Director: Yann Gonzalez