Closet Monster (film)
|Directed by||Stephen Dunn|
Edward J. Martin
|Written by||Stephen Dunn|
|Edited by||Bryan Atkinson|
|Distributed by||Elevation Pictures|
|Box office||$42,166 (Domestic only)|
Closet Monster is a 2015 Canadian drama film written and directed by Stephen Dunn and starring Connor Jessup, released in 2015. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it won the award for Best Canadian Feature. Dunn was subsequently chosen for the Len Blum TIFF screenwriting residency.
The film went into general theatrical release across Canada in July 2016.
When eight year old Oscar Madly finds out that his parents are getting divorced, he retreats into a fantasy world filled with happy memories of times with his father and tries to cope with his loneliness through conversations with his talking pet hamster, Buffy. One night, Oscar stumbles upon a group of teenage boys attacking another for being gay, with the damage by a metal pole being so great that the boy will be permanently paralyzed. Oscar would frequently escape to the treehouse his father built for him in order to be alone.
Ten years later, eighteen year old Oscar is close to graduating high school and hopes to apply to a special effects make-up school in New York by creating a portfolio using his best friend Gemma as a model. He gets a job at a hardware store in order to try to spend less time with his father, who is casually homophobic, childish and ignorant towards his son, and continues to try to push away his mother. Oscar suddenly notices a new employee after one of his shifts, the confident and charismatic Wilder who asks to borrow his shirt. Oscar is immediately attracted to Wilder but when he begins to think about his feelings, a sharp pain in his stomach disrupts him. Upon returning home, Buffy tells Oscar that he seems happier and suggests that he is in love, a notion that he quickly dismisses. When Wilder returns the shirt, Gemma makes a joke and tries to probe Oscar for more information about their relationship but he brushes her off. Later that day, he takes his shirt into a bathroom and starts to smell it, thinking of Wilder and attempting to masturbate but he is stopped by another pain. Oscar's dad makes a scene at his work which embarrasses him. When Oscar goes inside, he finds that his dad has brought a girl back. The three of them talk in the kitchen where Oscar's dad insults his ex wife and makes homophobic comments about her new fiancé. Oscar and his father get into an argument and he convinces the girl to leave, telling her his dad is controlling and bitter.Wilder drives Oscar home and he insists upon seeing Oscar's tree house, which he reluctantly allows but and when Wilder leaves, Oscar's father who had seen the two talking, sprays him with a hose. His dad then asks Oscar how he got home from work and he tells him that he walked.
The next day, Oscar's dad tries to ask Gemma whether she and Oscar have slept together. Oscar quits his job and finds that Wilder has been fired and his planning on moving away but he invites Oscar to a goodbye costume party at his house later that night. Upon returning home, Oscar finds out that he has been rejected from the make-up school in New York (the only one to which he applied), goes up to his room and shouts at Buffy when she tries to ask him what is wrong. He begins trying on some of his mother's clothes, which his father vindictively keeps despite having no need for them, for the party. His dad opens the door and the two begin to argue, culminating in his dad forbidding him from going to a "faggot costume party". Oscar kicks his dad into the closet and runs out of the house. He arrives at the party and quickly finds Wilder, whose roommates give him drugs. Oscar unsuccessfully tries to work out if Wilder is gay using a method two young girls taught him when he was eight. Oscar brushes off Gemma and tries to catch Wilder's attention but he instead ends up talking to another party goer named Andrew, who flirts with him. The two start dancing together when Oscar sees Wilder kissing a girl but once Andrew tries to grope him, Oscar feels another pain in his stomach and runs to the bathroom. Andrew follows him and the two start to have sex however, they are interrupted when the pain causes Oscar to hallucinate throwing up bloody metal. After passing out, he is woken up by Wilder who, upon being told that he can't go home, takes Oscar to his tree house. Lying on the bed, Wilder asks Oscar how long he has known he was gay but Oscar tries to avoid the question but eventually opens up and says that he is confused. Wilder tells him that, if he is gay, he should feel something in his stomach and offers to kiss him. Although hesitant at first, Oscar eventually kisses him.
When Oscar wakes up, Wilder is gone. Not wanting to see his dad, Oscar goes to his mother's house and he finally confronts her for abandoning him when she divorced his father. He admits that he always feels alone and unwanted but his mother comforts him and suggests that he stay with her. Oscar suddenly realizes that he has left Buffy at his dad's and immediately goes to retrieve her. He climbs through a window into his room and finds that his father has destroyed it. Hearing the noise, his dad opens the door and refuses to tell Oscar where Buffy is, to which Oscar coldly says that his dad should not be surprised that everyone in his life leaves him. He goes down to the driveway and finds the rest of his stuff in a pile. His mother arrives in her car and she and Oscar's dad begin fighting while he looks through his possessions and finds Buffy's dead body. He begins to feel a pain in his stomach again and hallucinates a metal rod bursting out of him. He pulls it out of his stomach, hits it against a nearby pile of wood and threatens his dad with it, forcing him to hide inside the house. Oscar then ties the metal rod around the door handle, locking his dad inside.
At his mother's, Oscar tells her that he didn't get into the one college that he applied to. She suggests an artist's colony where he can express his creativity. Before leaving, Oscar reconciles with Gemma. He arrives on the island and begins to decorate his room before having one final conversation with Buffy. After finally beginning to accept the truth about himself, Buffy reveals her truth to Oscar, that she is obviously not the original hamster from his childhood and that she has been replaced at least four times by his parents (who didn't even notice that the most recent incarnation was a male). He places her into a small wooden boat and pushes her body out to sea. He returns to his room and thinks back on some of the happier times he and his father shared.
Closet Monster is Dunn's feature film directorial debut. The film is inspired by Dunn's experiences growing up as a gay teenager in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. Dunn said a series of gay hate crimes in St. John's when he was growing up had a strong impact on him, his coming out and dealings with internalized homophobia.
The film was shot primarily in St. John's, with an additional scene shot on Fogo Island, and is a Rhombus Media and Best Boy Entertainment production. The film was funded and produced with the participation of Telefilm Canada, Newfoundland & Labrador Film Development Corporation, The Harold Greenberg Fund and Rogers Telefund. The film was distributed by Elevation Pictures in Canada, with Fortissimo Films handling international sales.
The film won the award for Best Canadian Feature Film at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. In December, the film was announced as part of TIFF's annual Canada's Top Ten screening series of the ten best Canadian films of the year.
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- Dunn, Stephen (October 26, 2015). Closet Monster director says film inspired by his own life (YouTube video). Daily Xtra. Event occurs at 0:18. Retrieved January 8, 2017.
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- "Closet Monster presskit" (PDF). Strand Releasing. Retrieved 2017-02-17.
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- "TIFF reveals Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival line-up". The Globe and Mail, December 8, 2015.
- Closet Monster review (https://reelrenkovish.org/2016/09/20/closet-monster-is-a-fantastic-directorial-debut/)
- "Closet Monster Metacritic listing" (http://www.metacritic.com/movie/closet-monster). Metacritic. Accessed January 10, 2017.