CLOSET MONSTER tells the story of Oscar Madly (Jessup), a creative and driven teenager who hovers on the brink of adulthood. Destabilized by his dysfunctional parents, unsure of his sexuality, and haunted by horrific images of a tragic gay bashing he witnessed as a child, Oscar dreams of escaping the town he feels is suffocating him. A talking hamster, imagination and the prospect of love help him confront his surreal demons and discover himself.
People see the term LGBT in film and wince, it can be a turn off for some but when you discover films like Closet Monster, you discover that the voice of the LGBT community can be beautifully disturbing and masterful in its approach to real issues.
With Closet Monster we have one story, the story of a boy whose life is falling apart, his happy family is torn apart and the cracks, the reality of life are exposed to him at a young age, that coupled with a dad whose views on 'alternative living' are very much negative lead to a tough time growing up.
Oscar is a boy in transition, he's at the point in his life where attraction is a real thing but sometimes we can't help who we are attracted to. With a society that's driven home the male/female angle, Oscar (Connor Jessup) finds himself at a crossroads, confronted by men and boys who turn him on and in doing so something deep within him prevents him taking that leap.
Oscar's conditioning to self loathe has built a wall, a wall that prevents him moving forward and taking the plunge, each action towards happiness brings about despair. It's compelling and thrown together with a great script and some horror tropes makes for a truly masterful introduction to director and writer Stephen Dunn.
The thing is, Oscars despair and pain is caused by his own fear, a fear that we all possess, a fear to go against the norm, to do something wild, outrageous, a fear to just be you.
Dunn weaves a web that delves into the psyche of one boys coming out story whilst clearly showing the thoughts of those around him from Oscar's Father (Aaron Abrams) they guy on a mode to self destruct. Right down to the best friend and the mother who left him behind played by Joanne Kelly (Warehouse 13).
The one influence in Oscar's life though is a small rodent going by the name of Buffy voiced by Isabella Rossellini. This hamster is a star, Oscar's guide and concinence through the good and the bad, if only we all had advice giving hamsters like Buffy in our lives, the world would be a much better place.
It's true to say that Closet Monster is a must-see, this is not a typical approach to a coming out story, it's more a dramatic horror that takes a standpoint on life and gives you a character to care for, a life that everyone can relate to. A father we can recognise in ourselves or others, a best friend we all know very well and even gives us that little voice in our head that we've heard time and again telling us not to do something.
It's a clever and unsettling piece of work that ultimately delivers in spades. Look around you, there are people struggling each and every day, trying to come to terms with who they are or who they might be. Nobody's perfect and Closet Monster proves that coming to terms with yourself will lead to better days ahead.
You would be a fool to miss Closet Monster on the big screen. A highly visceral piece of drama that lays itself bare. Intense, witty and a true stand-out. Thumbs up all round.
Be safe folks. Closet Monster is in Canadian cinemas now, heading out to a wider release this Friday through to next week. Look out for Stephen Dunn's debut today.