The last installment The Series Project was on the Rocky movies. I typically try to write about movies that my readers may already be familiar with. Coming up very soon, I will cover the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies, the Pink Panther movies, and maybe even Police Academy, on the assumptions that you have some experience with them already; it only makes sense that we should all have a lingering interest with my chosen topic. Occasionally, though, my editor (perhaps unwisely) allows me to indulge my need to delve into the darkened backwaters of cinema, and cover a series of films that is totally obscure to most mainstream audiences, and whose coverage really is only for my own twisted benefit. First case in point was when I took three weeks to write about Andy Sidaris' infamous L.E.T.H.A.L. Ladies movies. For these next two weeks, I ask that you humor me, and marvel as I trek through all 6 ½ of director David DeCoteau's little-known homoerotic warlock movies known as The Brotherhood.
Before I get to the movies, a brief introduction:
Whither went softcore porn? When the internet exploded in earnest, sometime in the late 1990s, my own personal notions of pornography had to be entirely realigned. As a horny youth in the early 1990s, pornography was not an easy “get.” You couldn't just fire up your computer and look up the word “threesome” like the youths of today; if you weren't yet eighteen, you actually had to go through some pretty seedy channels to secure a single Playboy magazine, or single photograph. You usually had to ask a friend of a friend who somehow had secured access to an issue of Hustler, and either pay them or trade them something of value in return (a small amount of rum would typically do) in order to acquire the sexual imagery you so desperately desired. If you managed to get your hands on a legitimate pornographic feature film on VHS, you were an expert high school black marketeer.
Much of our pornographic cravings in the early 1990s, however, when we couldn't get our hands on the real smutty stuff, could be temporarily curbed by a trip through the softcore porn section of our local video store. I think you know what kind of film I'm talking about; the so-called “erotic thrillers,” or “sex comedies,” or “psychological horror” movies usually on the bottom shelf. Movies that were made for little money, were trim on plot, cheap in production value, and each contained several sporting actors and actresses who were willing to disrobe on camera. Femalien. The Red Shoe Diaries. Stormswept. The Erotic House of Wax. Gator Bait. Anything with Julie Strain, Sybil Danning, Athena Massey, Maria Ford, or Shannon Tweed. If you saw the phrase “Zalman King presents” on a VHS box, you knew you were in for an after-hours treat, enjoyed illicitly in your bedroom after your parents had gone to bed. The history of cinema is littered with thousands of these kinds of movies. Cheap melodramas whose sole existence is to strip attractive people and have them simulate sex on camera, but all eschewing the pornographic details of the hardcore ethos. Softcore porn was everything to the horny teenage boy living in the pre-internet world. Nowadays, you can find hardcore porn by accident. These days, sexual imagery is so prolific, it makes up a large percentage of the internet (I've heard stats ranging anywhere from 30% all the way up to 85%. I imagine the truth is somewhere in the middle. Which is a DANG LOT of sex).
It's odd, then, that softcore porn should proliferate the way it does to this very day. I suppose even online streaming services like Netflix don't carry hardcore sex films, but anyone with a smartphone and semi-decent internet service can access a king's ransom of bare breasts and wide-open castor candensis to their genitals' content. Why watch a steamy shower scene when you can skip past the undressing and go straight to the orgy? With so much hardcore smut now instantly available to the masses, does softcore smut even have a place anymore?
Judging by how much is still being produced, yes. I suppose softcore horror thrillers are still a quick buck, and are still consumed in great quantities by anyone with a Netflix account. And indeed, there is something to be said for the softcore aesthetic. True, you have access to smuttier things, but that doesn't mean watching a lithe model slipping out of underpants and getting into a hot tub isn't going to be sexy anymore. The audience for softcore smut is still alive and well in this modern age of LiveJasmine.com. This is where prolific B-movie luminary David DeCoteau steps in.
DeCoteau (pronounced “D'Koto”) is the man behind over a hundred B-movies, starting in the 1980s. He has worked for Roger Corman, Charles Band (the mogul behind Full Moon Pictures), and now heads up his own production company Rapid Heart Pictures, which is largely devoted to a long-running series of gay-themed horror pictures called 1313 (which I will likely also write about someday). He has made space nudies, Puppet Master sequels, Linnea Quigley vehicles, and even the odd children's film here and there (I am very much looking forward to his 2013 opus A Talking Cat!?!). He has worked under the aliases Victoria Sloan, Ellen Cabot, Julian Breen, and Jack Reed.
Starting in 2001, and coming to a close in 2009, DeCoteau conceived and directed 6 ½ films that belonged to a series called The Brotherhood, which were a largely unconnected string of homoerotic thrillers, each typically about a different secretly evil college fraternity that would seduce otherwise decent kinds into their Satanic fold. The films are all pretty trim on plot and characterization, and feature many sexy scenes of taut young twinks sliding out of their undies, taking showers, rubbing their own chests (a DeCoteau trademark), and running around in briefs. The “good” kids typically wear white briefs, while the “evil” fratboys typically wear black ones, although this rule is not so hard and fast (no pun intended). There were six films in the Brotherhood series, although after part three, there was a spinoff film called The Sisterhood, which was the same shtick, but with the genders flipped.
I use the term “homoerotic” and not “gay” because, well, there is no actual gay sex in any of these films. To be sure, all of The Brotherhood movies openly and lovingly fetishize the smooth, muscular bodies of their hot young male stars, and David DeCoteau has some perfectly gay moments in these movies (just wait for the pool scene in The Brotherhood II with the tear-licking), but none of the characters are homosexual, and aside from some bromantic regard, and numerous two-male-one-female softcore threesome scenes, there is no actual overt homosexuality in these films. All the lead male characters are straight. I don't know if this is a particular fetish of DeCoteau's, or a clever marketing ploy (the video boxes imply that these films should be watched at teen girl slumber parties; probably the perfect venue). But the gayness in these movies is overt without ever being sexual or explicit.
In each of my write-ups, in the spirit of L.E.T.H.A.L. Ladies, I will be listing the exact timecode when a hot young man first removes his shirt. I will also list several lines of dialogue that sound gay when taken out of context, just to be naughty.
Anyway, enough by way of introduction. It's time to delve into these oddball little flicks. Join me in this low-budget world of underpants and orgasmic tear-licking. Let's take a look at…
The Brotherhood (dir. David DeCoteau, 2001)
a.k.a. I've Been Watching You
First Shirtless Man: 12:30
Kind-Of Gay Dialogue:
“It's a lot bigger than the other ones I've seen around here.”
“I was scoping a chick, and accidentally whacked my front on a bush.”
“I'm pretty big for a freshman.”
“I think he wants you, Chris.”
“I usually don't get deep until my second bottle of rum.”
“Let me enter you. So that I may fill you with myself.”
“I want you to pray for me to drain you dry.”
Also: some variation of “I'm just screwing with ya, bro” is used four times.
Shot entirely in a remote building somewhere in Mexico, The Brotherhood is a college drama (of sorts) about a hot young boy who is seduced into the fold of a cadre of evil warlock fratboys. The notion of an evil college fraternity is not exactly a new one; I described this film to several peers, and they immediately shot back with “Oh yeah! Like that movie The Skulls!” The Skulls was a 2000 thriller with then-hot Joshua Jackson, and a secret society of evil fratboys. I've seen it. I think I can say The Brotherhood, while strikingly similar, is the better of the two. It seems more honest in its intentions, as both, I think, are intended to be seen as intense sex fantasies.
Nathan Watkins (a.k.a. Sam Page) plays Chris, a completely good-looking newbie at a remote college called Drake U. He's good-looking, charming, is on the swim team, and has a body that most film critics can only ogle with envy (we're a doughy lot, we film critics). Despite his clear genetic superiority, Chris is still supposed to be perceived as a loner nerd outsider who can only manage to hang out with his roommate Dan (Josh Hammond), a more legitimate nerd, but still more charming and good-looking than most movie nerds. Seriously, why this guy would need to join a frat to “fit in” is beyond me. He's the kind of good-looking guy you used to envy in high school because he managed to land girls with no effort at all, the bastard.
The film's bad guy is Devon (Bradley Stryker), a blonde, spiky-haired d-bag with a perpetually open shirt, and a big chunky amulet around his neck. In an introduction, he is seen murdering a wounded peer with his other frat brothers. Now he is patrolling campus, looking for a new initiate of some kind. His fraternity is called Doma Tau Omega, and I was very quick (as were you) to notice that “doma” is not actually a Greek letter. When we see the frat's name on a plaque, it's spelled “ΔΤΩ.” That's a delta. Devon throws the best parties on campus, and is essentially the college hero. All of the films in The Brotherhood series, by the way, are those frustrating schooltime dramas where we never see any of the kids actually going to class. I took many classes when I was in college. If movies are to be any guide, I was clearly doing it wrong.
Anyway, Devon manages to get Chris, Dan, and a pretty girl named Megan (Elizabeth Bruderman) into one of his parties. At the party, Devon is quick to get Chris alone, gets him drunk (an activity he is loathe to do) on some super-magical absinth, and manages to prick him with a needle of something and drink some of his blood. There will be a good deal of blood-sucking in this film, but Devon will be very insistent and explicit that he is not a vampire. All of the Doma Tau Omega guys, by the way, look like broody Calvin Klein models by way of Hot Topic. Chiseled abs, rock-hard jaws, and just enough eye makeup to get them past the door at a Goth club, but not enough to have them really pass as proper Goths. They look like fratboys slumming as Goths.
It's not long before Chris begins spending more time with Devon than he is with Dan and Megan. He decides to join Tau Omega as a sociological experiment, but also because he is allured by being in what amounts to be the school's studmuffin club. He wears a big spooky amulet, and has threesome with Devon and a random 30-year-old college girl who moans orgasmically as the two boys strip down to their undies and each suck blood from one of her arms. The threesome scene goes on for a really long time, as threesomes typically do. Notable though: the woman does not strip entirely. She just sort of writhes around in her underpants as well. As these films progress, you'll find that writhing around in underpants, or some other skimpy costume, is a trademark of David DeCoteau. These scenes are sexy, I suppose, as watching half naked people making out for extended periods can be fun, but they also seem kind of tame and suspiciously like padding. If the threesome scene were shorter, the film would probably only be about 70 minutes.
Dan, by the way, is also being sexually hunted by Megan, the pretty girl from the party and the only female character in the movie with more than two lines of dialogue. He is so self-pitying, however, that he doesn't really notice when the pretty girl is coming onto him; he feels he's too much “the nerd.” I understand that most college dramas bank directly on well-known college archetypes, and it's typical to have a “nerd” character, but it's so rare that the “nerd” character is actually, legitimately socially awkward in any way. The “nerd” is usually described as awkward and virginal in dialogue, but ends up with the girl anyway. How I would love to see a nerd who actually has bad skin, or better yet, looks average but actually is socially awkward. Maybe even noisy and dorky and belligerent, and then self-pitying in private. I'm a film critic. I have spent time with many nerds. The movies have never gotten them right.
Dan, jealous that Chris is spending so much time being a fratboy douche, decides to do some investigating, and finds a scrapbook in the frathouse that reveals Devon has been a BMOC on several campuses for almost 200 years. He also finds that Chris has been deliberately targeted for some sort of black rite. It's eventually revealed that Devon is indeed an immortal, and the blood-drinking is what keeps him young. He's not a vampire, but a warlock, and every 200 years or so, he needs to shunt his soul into a new body, where he'll remain for another 200 years. Chris, being the stud that he is, has been targeted. The black rite, we shall see, involves a lot of boxer briefs and really suggestive dialogue: Devon actually says “Let me enter you. So that I may fill you with myself.”
In a whirlwind finale, Chris manages to slip Devon's clutches, Megan reveals herself to be evil (!), and Dan and Chris manage to interrupt the rite, killing Devon. The two good boys leave together, claiming they'd never join a frat. I'm trying to suss out the sexual politics of this movie. Women, clearly, ain't no good in this universe, as the only one we get to know turns out to be evil. Rich, good-looking fratboys are also evil, as they are always part of some sort of warlock cult. It seems the only pure relationship in the movie is the one between Chris and Dan, the good boys. Aside from teenage girls, I suspect The Brotherhood was intended for young gay men who resented being rejected from a frathouse (or were merely uninterested in Greek living), and who felt that the hot guys were dangerous, and their roommate crush was more healthy.
Nathan Watkins, by the way, will be the hottest boy from any of these first three movies.
The sequels will all be pretty much autonomous, and will feature no common characters, and no common warlock covens. Let's take a look at…
The Brotherhood II: Young Warlocks (dir. David DeCoteau, 2001)
First Shirtless Man: 2:18
Kind-Of Gay Dialogue:
“He's prettier than most of the girls I've gone out with.”
“If you were a girl, I'd do ya.”
“Get down on your knees! Tell me there's no one in your life but me!”
Also, see below:
You don't really need to know the story of The Brotherhood II, so I'll be brief: A trio of dark-haired college outcasts (led by Sean Faris), now at a totally new college, but filmed, I think at, the same building as the last film, are enlisted by a mysterious newcomer named Luc (Forrest Cochran) to join his coven. Luc is openly a warlock and doesn't belong to a fraternity, and required three others to, I dunno, grow more powerful or something. Luc instructs his new charges to break all ten commandments (although we only see them breaking seven or so), and then they will be a proper coven. Eventually our hero catches wise that Luc is an evil warlock (as opposed the the regular type), as Luc transforms into a ghoul and turns his two buddies into ghouls. He also asks that they murder their most hated enemies, which include the school headmistress (!). Some people die, and our hero flees into the arms of a blonde girl named Mary (Stacey Scowley). It's also revealed that one of the teachers is a good witch, and she's ultimately the one who will use white magic to counteract the dark magic of the evil Luc.
The sexual politics of that are a little more difficult to figure out. I'll let you muse on the images of a “good” older woman saving a young man from an “evil” gay-coded warlock.
Here's what you do need to know about The Brotherhood II: the scene where Luc reveals to our heroes that he is a warlock takes place in a pool. The four young men, swimming around in their boxer briefs, drink heavily and splash each other. Luc wears black boxer briefs, and the other three wear white. They gather in the corner of a pool, and agree to be part of a coven. In order to seal the deal, Luc begins crying, and asks that the others drink his tears. When then drink his tears, they have orgasms. Our hero, named John, licks a tear directly off of Luc's face, and moans in pleasure. Lord Byron would snicker at this scene. It's a pretty gay scene, but more than that, it's a broody and indulgent scene.
A second thing you need to know: There is an attempted shower rape scene. John is cornered in the shower by the college's lead bully Harlan (ice cream stud Noah Frank), and he threatens to write sexual words on his nude body in permanent ink (which is actually just a regular Marks-A-Lot marker, but whatever). Seeing wet shirtless men threatening to commit sexual acts on one another is apparently fulfilling someone's sexual fantasies. John, however, is rescued by Luc. Even though a bunch of naked men are bunched up together, we never see any bare bottoms. Despite all the sexual energy in these films, there is no actual male nudity. For the boys and girls who wanted butts, you will have to go elsewhere.
A third thing you need to know: There is indeed another male-male-female sex scene. Although John is dating Mary, he and Luc feed booze to and seduce her best friend Trini, played by prolific softcore/fetish porn actress Holly Sampson from the Emmanuelle 2000 movies and The Exotic Time Machine II: Forbidden Encounters, and perhaps known as Tiger Woods' mistress. Sampson does remove her top, but the nudity is eschewed. Like the threesome in the last film, this one seems to be less about the two men pleasuring the woman, and more about the fraternal bonding the boys seem to have with the act. Again, this is a sort-of sexy scene just because of the sex acts, and Trini does seem to be enjoying herself, but there is still a kind-of tameness to the proceedings. If you're going to stop the movie for ten minutes to have a threesome scene, can it skirt up to the edge of smutty please? But no. That is not DeCoteau's MO.
Here's something kind of funny. Much of the film takes place right before winter break, and there's some talk as to what the characters will do once they're on vacation. Oddly, the kids keep referring to their vacation as “semester break.” They do it three times, I believe. I don't know anyone who refers to their Christmas vacation as “semester break.”
Also, tear-drinking underwear pool orgasms. The reason we go to the movies.
I have one more film to cover this week, and it is the weakest in the series so far. Let's look at the abysmal…
The Brotherhood III: Young Demons (dir. David DeCoteau, 2003)
First Shirtless Man: 27:00 (!)
Kind-Of Gay Dialogue:
The dialogue in this movie is so spare, that there are no choice lines to choose from. Here are some things I shouted while watching the film, though:
“Did leatherman just force that guy to fellate him?”
“You are being remiss! Eat the blood!”
“I'm bored. I wish we'd get back to the underwear shower scene.”
So Young Demons starts with a rather promising premise: a group of high school students in Canada (well, it's supposed to be America, but all the actors say “aboot”) have gathered in their closed school building to play an elaborate “Dungeons & Dragons”-type game called “The Brotherhood.” The players have all dressed in costume, and they must search the school for hidden trinkets, while avoiding other students dressed as monsters, and evading real-life booby traps set up earlier by the game master. The game master is Lex (Kristopher Turner), perhaps named after Lex Luthor, and he, from a centralized location, can see most of the players at all times, and give them cryptic hints over the school's loudspeakers as they progress through the game. This sounds like a fun, fun game actually, and a fun premise for a horror film. I wouldn't mind if more aspiring horror filmmakers ripped off this notion.
Of course, there is a monster also stalking through the halls of the school, and we also learn early on that Lex is under the psychic influence of an ancient spellbook that has somehow made its way into the school library. The monster is a giant guy in a cheap-looking leather demon outfit, clearly purchased from the local Halloween supply store. When the demon encounters a hapless victim, he stares them in the eye through his mask, and then pushes them onto their knees. The implication being, I can only assume, that he is forcing his victims to fellate him before he transforms them into demon minions.
Students of B-movies will notice that this premise is actually identical to a rather impressive (and totally bonkers) killer animal flick from 1990 called Shakma (a.k.a. Panic in the Tower), which featured a closed-off pathology lab as the D&D game setting, Roddy McDowall as the game master, Christopher Atkins and Amanda Wyss as players, and a killer baboon named Typhoon as the monster. I never thought I'd make this comparison, but The Brotherhood III only wishes it had the awesome B-movie impact of Shakma. Seriously. Just skip this movie and rent Shakma instead.
Upsettingly, the hunks-in-the-shower aesthetic has been downplayed considerably for this film; no tear-licking orgasms in this one. All of the male sexuality on display (aside from the implied demon fellatio) comes from a single extended scene where a lithe young man takes a shower in white briefs. It's a long scene, and the camera does linger on the actor's translucent underpants for a the bulk of it, but it's only one hunk scene in a movie that is bogged down by a thudding dullness that I will now describe.
DeCoteau is known, it should be noted, for what The Brotherhood III displays in spades: long, long slow-motion scenes of people fleeing down darkened hallways, while scary music plays on the soundtrack. There is also a noisy heartbeat often playing during these scenes, intended to ratchet up tension. This film is only about 83 minutes long, but there is so much slow-motion and heartbeat pounding, it feels like a 52-minute TV special padded to feature length. The slow-motion heartbeat running is not scary, tense, or even all that atmospheric. DeCoteau is clearly fond of this, though, as he uses it in most of his movies. Aside from the chest-rubbing, and morally color-coded boxer briefs, this is one of his trademarks.
Eventually the demon is revealed as a supporting character we saw earlier, and Lex is exorcized. The school BMOC Ramsey (Paul Andrich) manages to beat him up. Why the demon villain needed to gather these kids here to play this game on this night is kind-of explained, but I forgot his reasoning; I was beaten into submission by the dull, interminable slow-motion running scenes. Andrich, by the way, is supposed to be the stud of the movie, as he wears a letterman jacket, the universal sign for either douchey villain or gee-whiz all-American hero. Andrich, however, with his permanent goofy grin and stilted line-readings, comes across more as a mentally defective bully than a hero type. It's hard to watch the guy in this film. The film's final shot reveals that the aforementioned warlock tome (or whatever it was) is still in the school library. Seeing as these films don't connect in any sort of way at all, the book will presumably just remain in the library, wreaking evil magic that we don't get to see.
Something kind of notable: The characters make a reference to the 1982 TV movie Mazes and Monsters, which starred a young Tom Hanks who is corrupted by the evil influence of “Dungeons & Dragons.” It was a classic scare film for parents, and featured Vera Miles and Anne Francis as concerned moms. Only Tom Hanks fans and scholars of cheesy TV movies have seen this film. I suppose I admire The Brotherhood III for bothering to mention such an obscure movie.
And that's where we'll leave it for this week, kiddos. Limping along on the wings of slo-mo heartbeat marathons. Be sure to join me next week as I tackle the one sapphic half-entry in the series (which will actually feature some nudity!) and the final three chapters of the shirtless boy warlocks. The Brotherhood is not over, and I am determined to cover them all. Be sure to join me for my findings. I promise more magic.
Witney Seibold is a featured contributor on the CraveOnline Film Channel and co-host of The B-Movies Podcast. You can read his weekly articles B-Movies Extended, Free Film Schooland The Series Project, and follow him on “Twitter” at @WitneySeibold, where he is slowly losing his mind.