Image: A person in a bathtub clutches their head in a negative exposure image. Text: "Death Drop Gorgeous. If you're going to have two faces, at least make one of them pretty."

Salem Horror Fest Review: DEATH DROP GORGEOUS

If you like gory kills involving drag bingo and glory holes (and honestly, who doesn’t?), Salem Horror Fest has the perfect film for you. Death Drop Gorgeous is a campy neo-giallo delight soaked in blood, gristle, and glitter. Written and directed by Michael J. Ahern, Christopher Dalpe, and Brandon Perras — all of whom also play roles in the film — Death Drop Gorgeous has an effervescent DIY vibe that leans into its low budget and delivers fantastic set pieces and striking imagery. The film is a hilarious look at dating apps, the evolution of the drag scene, and society’s obsession with youth, serving as a wildly fun entry into queer horror cinema.

Image: A drag queen in a blonde wig and black bondage gear sits at a mirror surrounded by lights and holds a mirror in her hand. Her image in the handheld mirror makes eye contact with the viewer.

Dwayne (Wayne Gonsalves), fresh out of a bad relationship, returns to his hometown hoping to pick up where he left off. He gets his old job back as a bartender at a drag club and moves in with his friend Brian (Dalpe). Right when Dwayne moves back to town, a serial killer with a fondness for black leather gloves and gruesome murder starts picking off men in the club scene, often using hook-up app “POUNDR” to lure his victims. The film follows the roommates, along with the drag performers at the club and an amorous pair of corrupt police detectives, as they try to figure out who the murderer is and when he’s going to stop messing up their Saturday nights.

Death Drop Gorgeous is just as cheeky and fun as its name implies: the puns and sexual innuendos are perfection, the shade is devastating, and the performances are fantastic. Brian gets many of the best lines, making the viewer laugh out loud more than once at anecdotes about his dubious choreography experience and explanations of funeral wear. Tragedi (Complete Destruction) is a glorious goth enigma, drawing the viewer in even when she’s just dusting a chandelier. Payton St. James steals the show, though, playing Gloria Hole, a revered queen who’s being put out to pasture by sleazy club owner Tony (Perras) for not being modern enough. Gloria Hole is the fabulous love child of Milton Berle and Mrs. Roper, chain smoking in colorful caftans and delivering hilarious lines with the panache of a seasoned stand-up comedian.

Image: A drag queen wearing a brightly colored caftan stares off camera with a cigarette dangling out of her mouth. She sits in front of a white wall with spare white decorations.

The film spends a lot of time on its drag performances, letting each queen’s performance style inform her character arc while also letting the audience simply enjoy drag. Club favorite Janet Fitness (Matthew Pidge) performs appropriately aerobicized routines, complete with insults lobbed into the crowd. In a year of seemingly interminable lockdown protocols, it’s a joy to live vicariously through the club goers who get to see live drag shows every night of the week…even when the performance they’re watching is a particularly painful one from Gloria in an ill-advised attempt to appeal to a younger audience.

Death Drop Gorgeous is campy and hilarious, but it definitely has horror on its mind. The film revels in its over-the-top kills, putting screwdrivers and meat grinders to uproariously nauseating use. The plot and pacing are pure giallo, adding plenty of spandex and sequins on top of its gallons of blood. This movie is fun as hell, combining elements of queer and horror cinema into a refreshing and inventive story about drag, murder, and the lengths people will go to in order to stay on top.

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