The Series Project: The Brotherhood (Part 2)
For this week's project, and to gear up this week's episode of The B-Movies Podcast, I watched both 3 ½ films in The Brotherhood series, and about a dozen Arnold Schwarzenegger films respectively. This means I've seen more shirtless men in the last nine days than I did during two years of my high school swimming class. I feel overfed on beefcake. I feel like I need a hot cup of tea and some old Porky Pig cartoons to cool off.
Welcome back, my dear long-suffering readers, to the second and final part of my coverage of all 6 ½ of David DeCoteau's celebrated (?) homoerotic horror thrillers known as The Brotherhood in this week's installment of The Series Project, here in the hallowed pages of CraveOnline. I have now seen seven-ish (7-ish) films in this series, and I sincerely hope you people appreciate what I go through for your elucidation and entertainment. The Brotherhood series entire, it turns out, has warranted very, very little in the way of cogency, entertainment, or even the proper gay kisses that it so tantalizingly promises. Seriously, when I'm promised a series of gay-coded warlock movies, featuring a long string of twinky, shirtless twentysomething model dudes, I'm going to want more than what this series gave me. To be sure, there are plenty of shower scenes, about 300 pairs of boxer-briefs, and there's even an actual boy-on-boy makeout scene in (only) one of these films, but I expected there to be wall-to-wall homoerotic sexual tension. Overall, the entire series proved to be a disappointment.
To recap from last week's article, the Brotherhood movies were all made by prolific straight-to-video-or-cable B-Movie luminary David DeCoteau (rhymes with “DeSoto”), the man behind several films in the Roger Corman canon, and even more from Full Moon Pictures. These films do not interconnect in any sort of way, other than through their common themes of 1) evil college fraternities who wish to seduce innocents into their folds, and 2) a lot of shirtless twink boys rubbing their chests or showering (oddly without soap) throughout several extended passages. The films are indeed noted for their gayness, and, as you will see this week, the final two films in the series were co-financed by Here!, the gay-friendly cable network. The Brotherhood movies, as a whole, seem to function as a gay male counterpoint to the scads and scads of straight male exploitation movies in the world, which tend to feature acres of female flesh, often barely wrapped in bikinis, lingerie, or tight revealing jeans shorts. Why not make an equally cheesy, equally poorly-written horror franchise that essentially fills the same niche, but replaces all the bikini babes with briefs-wearing lunkhead prettyboys?
Even though the films feature similar lugubrious pacing and bland, cheap photography, there is no inter-film continuity at all. There are no common characters, no common cult members, no common brotherhoods in any of them. Each brotherhood is different, and some are only loosely-knit groups of shades-wearing evil bro-doggs. Indeed, The Brotherhood V doesn't even feature a brotherhood. David DeCoteau, for an unfathomable reason, decided to interconnect these movies and give them all the same title. These films have even less continuity than The Howling movies. A few things you can count on: Good Guys wear white underpants. Evil Guys wear black underpants. And sometimes sunglasses.
I'm going to continue my habit of citing the time code when the first shirtless man appears in each of these, and will be collecting lines of dialogue that sound kind-of gay when taken out of context. Since the first film in this week's article is a female-centric distaff counterpart to the series, I will also include the first shirtless woman for that one, and list dialogue that sounds kind-of lesbian. I want to play fair, after all.
To clarify: there was, in 2004, a gender-flipped, female-centric sub-heading within the Brotherhood franchise called The Sisterhood. This is why I consider the series of be only 6 ½ films. The Sisterhood isn't really an official chapter. But, in the interest of critical integrity, I actually bothered to track down a DVD copy of The Sisterhood (I had to buy one), and watched every breast-smothered moment of it. It's time to slowly slip out whatever your wearing, kids, and slide gracefully into your finest, most package-hugging unmentionables. We're going to be kicking off this week's article with…
The Sisterhood (dir. David DeCoteau, 2004)
First Shirtless Man: 0:40
First Brassiere: 0:40
Kind-Of Lesbian Dialogue:
“Welcome to Beta Alpha Toy!” (the film's central sorority is actually Beta Alpha Tau)
“Men are powerless. Women are the ones who know pleasure.”
About the evil sorority: “You can't let them entice you into doing something you've never done before. Otherwise you're one of them.”
“You only go this way once. You must get every drop of pleasure from it that you can.”
The school in question is, I think, Kreeman University, but I couldn't quite make out the name. The heroine of The Sisterhood is the female version of the heroes from most of The Brotherhood movies. She is innocent, virginal, and ripe for sexual exploitation at the hands of the most powerful Greek house on campus. She is Christine (Jennifer Holland from American Pie presents: The Book of Love). Christine is given a hot-to-trot roommate in the form of Reagan (Kate Plec), who constantly encourages her to ditch her studies and go to parties, which is, after all, what college is all about. Even though we don't see a lot of it, it was kind of refreshing to see these college kids talk about actual classes and needing to study. Although the film's “smart” character Josh (Storm David Newton), who is really a hot model hunk in geek drag, is vilified for the amount of studying he does; when he has to finish a school assignment instead of going to a party with Christine, it's depicted as a form of neglect.
Barbara Crampton from The Re-Animator and From Beyond plays a benevolent psychology professor named Ms. Master who spends a lot of time discussing witchcraft and the like. Call it paranormal psychology. I wish they taught that class when I was going to college. I just had boring old Ancient Greek History and stuff. It won't come as a surprise when, later in the film, Ms. Master reveals herself to be a holy soldier in a centuries-long battle with evil on-campus vampires. That she is called Ms. Master lends her a weird sort-of sexual dominance over Christine. Well not dominance. More like a calming and benevolent sexual mentorship at the hands of an older woman. Meanwhile the film's villainess, whom I will discuss in a moment, is always trying to directly seduce Christine, and have bisexual group sex with her. She's dark-haired and hedonistic and a heavy drinker. In a way, this is a battle over what kind of lesbian Christine will be when she grows up. Although she's into dudes too. In a way, this film is remarkably open about the fluidity of female sexuality. We don't have this sort of dynamic in The Brotherhood movies otherwise. Male sexuality is, after all, typically less fluid.
The film opens with a hot male-female sex scene, which leads to the film's unseen villainess chasing the woman in question off of a roof. Like in The Brotherhood, the evil people tend to wear black underpants, although for the ladies, this rule extends to brassieres as well. The villainess is Devin (Michelle Borth from the new "Hawaii Five-0"), a feisty lesbian seductress who runs Beta Alpha Tau, or BAT, the most powerful sorority on campus. They throw the best parties, get the cutest boys, etc. etc. etc. I never had “powerful” Greeks on my own college campus. Devin immediately hones in on Christine, and, over the course of several scenes, slowly draws her closer and closer into her web of heavy drinking and back-bedroom girl-girl makeout sessions, some of which involve watching (more trademark DeCoteau chest rubbing), some of which involve actual participation. So, typical college, amirite? Christine is frequently warned by Ms. Master that the BATs are evil, and Christine only continues to go to BAT parties to sort-of investigate what's going on and to look for signs of witchcraft.
The villainess in this film is named Devin, and the heroine is named Christine. The villain from The Brotherhood was named Devon, and the hero was Chris. Hm…
For the straight male readers, I have to hasten to report that the sexy girl kisses is about as far as this film will go. DeCoteau seems uncomfortable with nudity, and his sex scenes tend to be stiff and stagey. We do still, in all his movies, often get to see half-naked model-types stroking themselves or kissing on each other, and all of that is plenty sexy I suppose, but the sex in his movies (if there is any) rarely looks like real sex. Not-so-heavy heavy petting is about as much as DeCoteau's libido can tolerate.
Anyway, Christine becomes torn between following Ms. Master and being seduced by Devin's casual and vague philosophy of hedonism. Hints are dropped that Devin is immortal. Like all DeCoteau films, it's delivered kind of clumsily. Of course it's revealed that Devin is in fact a vampire, and who bathes in the blood of her victims to stay young. I guess some of the girls she seduces are intended to be used as blood resources, and others are intended to be occasional threesome partners. It's revealed, indeed, that Devin is actually the legendary Elizabeth Báthory, the infamous Hungarian Countess known to have murdered hundreds, and who supposedly bathed in her victims' blood in the hopes that it would keep her young. It should come as no surprise that Christine actually, at the last minute, resists Devin, waves a cross in her face, locks her in a coffin, and flees. I believe the last line of dialogue is comparable to the last line of The Brotherhood, which was “I told you I'd never join a frat.” I could be mixing up those events, but frankly, it hardly matters.
The Sisterhood was slightly better than the previous Brotherhood movies because the sexuality between the characters was a little more open (the women actually make out with each other, which is more than I can say for most of the boys), and it seems to have a little bit on its mind. A little bit. There is a moral here, however flimsy. I hesitate to recommend it, though. As I wondered last week, who wants to watch these notoriously coy movies in 2004, when the internet already provides all the free porn your poor eyeballs and genitals can stand?
This will also be the only film in the series wherein the women are not openly vilified. All the other women in this series will be wicked in some way. As seen in…
The Brotherhood IV: The Complex (dir. David DeCoteau, 2005)
First Shirtless Man: 0:30
Kind-Of Gay Dialogue:
“We were all nervous when we first did this, but it changed our lives.”
“Where do I go?” “YOU GO DOWN!”
“They're insidious. They go deep.”
“No more big stick, Spider. Now what are you going to do?”
“We got an understanding. You're under, and I'm standing.” (Bonus point for this line, as it's one of the dumbest I've heard in any movie ever)
Back to the boys.
The school in question this time is Port Nathan Academy, a naval institution. Since naval academies don't have actual fraternities, as far as I know, the evil Brotherhood is actually a freelance Secret Society called The Black Skulls, which is in no way affiliated with Yale's infamous Skull and Bones society, and certainly has nothing to do with the 2000 film The Skulls. The Black Skulls are led by the evil beret-wearing Victor Thanos (Graham Kosakoski), a typical, mean-spirited d-bag who bullies his buddies and beats up a guy named Spider for being a wuss. At the film's outset, we see Victor and the other Black Skulls initiating a new pledge by taking him to a hidden basement room, stripping him to his boxer briefs (you expected less?), and forcing him to place a candle on a small alter in a tiny chamber. When he drops the candle, he is eaten by lightning or something. It's hard to tell. Needless to say, The Black Skulls are up to something supernatural.
The film's hero is Lee Hanlon (Sebastian “Get Me A Corin Nemeck Type!” Gacki), a super-genius who has previously excelled in naval battle strategy, even though he is not so interested in being a part of the military. Because of his smarts, Victor offers to enlist him in The Black Skulls. Many scenes seem to take place in the lobby of some sort of convention center. Victor also bonds with Lee over their shared resentment of Capt. Morrissey (April Telek), the only female on campus, and the only female in this movie. Morrissey is a tough-talker and is almost convincing as a military captain, even though she's pretty dainty.
What happens in the film? A little bit happens, I guess. Lee sneaks around to spy on The Black Skulls, and sees some of the lightning ritual. At one point, Lee is sort-of hypnotized by Victor and taken to a secret boudoir where a bunch of shirtless boys in black boxer briefs strip him and force him to perform oral sex on Morrissey. It's unclear if this is really happening or if it's a dream sequence. Either way, the film treats us to a grinding, underwear-on half-nude six-way with five guys and one woman. Oddly enough, this is not the most titillating scene in the film. That comes when an unnamed supporting character, granted about 20 minutes of his own screentime, strips to his white undies for no reason, and goes hot tubbing. He rubs himself with water. He gets out of the tub, and there is a slow-motion and very loving buffalo shot of his wet underwear from the front. He then goes to shower off, and spends a good long time rubbing himself there too. Then he's killed. David DeCoteau can't be accused of not appealing to his base.
Again, the characters in these films, for as often as they flirt and go hot tubbing, are not gay. They do not have sex with each other, date men, or kiss one another. So far, all the men have been straight guys. DeCoteau has a very, very specific fetish.
Another fun detail: the military uniforms on display in this film consist of berets, and regular black turtleneck sweaters with epaulettes sewn onto them. They are clearly not military uniforms of any stripe. They are sweaters with epaulettes. I'll have to remember that shorthand the next time I need a quick military uniform for Halloween or something.
The film's big twist: bitches ain't no good, bro. Yes, it turns out that the only female in the movie (and this has happened in previous Brotherhood movies) is actually the mastermind behind the evil Black Skulls. Morrissey is not only the one controlling the “evil” brotherhood, but is actually an ancient evil succubus who feeds off of young men's libidos. The lightning we saw earlier was her sucking out a guy's soul by remote or something. I guess. The mechanics aren't made very clear, and I forgot what The Black Skulls did to seduce our hero other than hypnotize him and have a six-way with him. One would think that a wild college-age six-way would be an end in and of itself. Having a ménage à six shouldn't necessarily lead to anything bigger or more sinister. It's just a wild, zesty evening in college.
DeCoteau has a horrible editing habit of cutting to sinister imagery during moments he is trying to make tense. When someone makes a threat, DeCoteau will not let the threat stem abstractly from their supernatural evil, but will cut to closeups of candles, skulls, and other things seen earlier in the movie. The edits will be accompanied by loud, metallic “chung” noises. He also tends to flash back to scenes that we saw not ten minutes before. Not to reveal any new information, but to emphasize their importance. His editing is typically pretty annoying.
What else? Nothing really. Evil succubus sucks the energy from naval students, and, uh, the good guys win. Oh yeah, the films with the hero taking a list of famous Black Skulls alumni in the hopes of tracking them down and killing them. The end. I should perhaps emphasize here that The Brotherhood IV is not the worst film in the series. I would give that honor to either The Brotherhood III: Young Demons, or…
The Brotherhood V: Alumni (dir. David DeCoteau, 2009)
First Shirtless Man: 10:07
Kind-Of Gay Dialogue: N/A
First Boy Kiss: 40:20
This film and The Brotherhood VI were both co-financed by Here!, the gay cable TV network, which means the gay quotient will be significantly upped. The first three Brotherhood movies were clearly catering to a gay base, but weren't necessarily intended to be put in the queer section of the video store. With The Brotherhood IV, and it's now-famous hot-tubbing scene, the series' intentions were finally being revealed. With The Brotherhood V, Here! got on board, and we are now treated to the first, and only, gay characters in the whole series. After teasing us for 4 ½ movies, we're finally – finally!– treated to the boy-on-boy makeout scene that we've been waiting so patiently to see. It's too bad, really, that it had to be uncomfortably rammed into a suckquake like The Brotherhood V.
The film opens with, I'm not kidding, a 20-minute shower scene. A character named Leslie (Oskar Rodriguez) sneaks into his high school after the prom (there are no people, but discarded balloons and half-empty punchbowls), sneaks to the girls' locker room in the hopes of meeting a girl there, and proceeds to strip and shower, rubbing his amazing abs for 20 full minutes. No dialogue, no explanation. Just a boy showering. To be fair, he's a really hot boy, but the lack of context has the scene reeking amusingly of outward gay exploitation. When he finally does get out of the shower (wearing a low-slung towel), he is stabbed to death by a hooded figure. Oh no! Immediately thereafter, a sextet of other teens, two girls and four boys, all in their promware, storm into the locker room and begin weeping and panicking. It turns out that they lured Leslie to the locker room in the hopes of stripping him and mocking him. We don't know who the killer was. The Emo of the group, Holden (Nathan Parsons), insists that merely being at a crime scene will mess up their futures, and the sextet swear themselves to secrecy. The don't use the word “brotherhood,” but they should have.
A year passes, and the school has been shut down because of the murder. Not only has it been shut down, but no one has entered it in the last year. When our sextet returns to campus, we find that the half-full punchbowls and prom balloons are still in place. We also see later in the film that the biology lab is still open, and there are animals still living in it. Surely someone has, at the very least, been breaking in to feed the iguanas and bunnies. The name of the school, by the way, is Sunnydale High. It was pointed out to me that Sunnydale was the name of the city where Joss Whedon's cult TV series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" takes place. To piss off every Whedonite I can, I'm going to openly declare that "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and The Brotherhood V take place in the same continuity.
Anyway the plot of this thing is very much akin to I Know What You Did Last Summer. Our sextet (well, quintet, one of them is now in prison) are invited back to the school on the one-year anniversary of Leslie's death to look for, I dunno, some sort of clue that will exonerate them. Or implicate them. Or something. It's not really made clear. They're locked in the school, and instructed by a note to look for a tape of some kind. They split up. One of the two girls, Betty (Maria Aceves) seduces the black guy (Preston Davis), who is named Schwartz. The black guy is named Schwartz. Yikes. Schwartz strips in the shower, takes a long, long time rubbing himself, and is then killed. We also see the Emo boy, assumed to be in prison, stalking around.
Two of the boys, meanwhile, sneak off to the gym, and spend a good 20 minutes undressing and actually making out. It's stiff and unerotic, and the boys don't seem to be going at it with any sort of passion, but we're finally treated to the boy action the series has been promising. The two boys smooch a bunch, and rub each other's chests while standing about two feet from each other. Good job, DeCoteau, you took the gay sex we've been longing so desperately for, and turned it wooden and dull. At least the boys are cute. One of the boys, in a later dream sequence, will have a threesome with Betty and the Emo kid, and it will be equally stiff and unappealing.
Like The Brotherhood III, the bulk of this film is made up of insufferable padding. There are extended sequences with no dialogue, where kids run down hallways in slow-motion, wander down hallways in regular motion, and sit in chairs in hallways without any motion. All of this is accompanied by a heartbeat, which is DeCoteau's central trademark. In all his “tense” scenes, a heartbeat immediately fires up, sometimes playing over music. There's a masked killer picking off all our characters one by one like a proper slasher, but there's no grace or fun to the killings. The deaths are almost incidental. When it's not padding itself with long hallway scenes, The Brotherhood V distracts itself with tedious flashbacks to the night Leslie died, and we see a Murder on the Orient Expresst wist unfolding, wherein each of the kids in question reveals that they hated Leslie for vague reasons, and that they each snuck back into the locker room after his death just to stab his corpse. It's unclear as to whether or not the ancillary corpse-stabbings took place before or after they all swore themselves to secrecy.
Eventually Amy (Lindsay Landers) is the last woman standing, and the killer reveals his identity. I couldn't tell you who it was, though, because I was unable to see through my self-produced fog of bored, wrathful indifference. Amy, it is explained in the climax, is the “smart” one of the group. I believe it. Actually, any one of them is the “smart” one. Whatever. This film is so vague and convoluted. Clearly the filmmakers did't bother sussing out the details, and I'm hardly about to sort it out for myself. The Brotherhood V is just awful, dull nonsense.
We're in the home stretch now. Let's wind down briefly with the campground slasher…
The Brotherhood VI: Initiation (dir. David DeCoteau, 2009)
First Shirtless Man: 10:07 (seen as a still image over the opening credits)
First Live-Action Shirtless Man: 21:31, but it's five guys stripping at once.
Kind-Of Gay Dialogue:
“You guys can do whatever you want with me! I'm down for anything!”
“You don't want any chicks to see what's gonna happen to you this weekend.”
“We're gonna have fun with you.” “I'm a fun guy to have around.”
“It gets harder and harder from here.”
“This is bear country.”
The word “bitchboy” is used twice.
The school in question is now Wickman U. The Brotherhood is now a fraternity called Gamma Kappa. The titular initiation is actually just regular fraternity hazing. There is, again, only one female on the cast, who is only heard on the phone, but still manages to betray one of the boys. Oh wait, there's a woman on camera too, but all she does is whine about her boyfriend's lack of sexual prowess, and then gets killed. There aren't any demonic cults this time, and there are no more gay characters. The Brotherhood VI is actually just a limp summer camp slasher with underwear twinks instead of topless chicks. I'm so frustrated with the way the tone of these movies vacillates so dramatically. For the most part, they are about satanic warlock vampire cults, but occasionally we'll stop for a slasher of some sort. The slasher in this film is a supposedly-resurrected fratboy pledge who was essentially hazed to death a few years previous (the caption says it was four years ago, but the dialogue indicates that it was three). He now stalks about a remote lake wearing a ski mask, a flannel shirt, and wielding an axe.
The film stars off with, again I'm not kidding, a 10-minute sequence of a random unnamed character wandering around the camp looking for friends who haven't arrived yet. He wanders into an empty house. He wanders around a lake. He calls out for friends. He seems bored. It's like he arrived before the movie started, and he's just waiting for the other characters to show up. Then he's murdered by our axeman. Then the movie begins.
The story is pretty basic: five pledges have come here to be hazed by two older students. They all stay in a really nice-looking cabin, and will spend their days being paddled (very gently) and running around the woods in their underpants looking for hidden Easter eggs. Well, ribbons really. While the pledges run around in undies (seriously, a lot of screentime is devoted to long shots of young boys running in underpants), the older fratboys discuss the horror that took place 3 (4?) years ago. Then the axeman shows up and starts offing the cast one by one. The only notable characters are Morris, the film's Emo (played by Tyson Breech), and the slightly-less-hot-but-a-much-better-actor-than-we've-come-to-expect-from-these-movies Kevin (Aaron Jaeger) who ends up being the only survivor.
I'm not sure what I can say about this movie. It was shot outdoors. That's about the most notable detail. There is no real mystery; they give a lot away pretty early on. There's a conceit that cellular telephones don't work out here, but Kevin can still take calls from his girlfriend. When Kevin realizes that everyone is being picked off, his first thought is to get a car out of there, and the only way he can think to do that is to get a pizza delivered out to the lake. Why not just ask someone for a ride? Or call the police? He does those things later. Also, as the pledges and fratboys are being axed to death, no one thinks to dress, and the pledges spend almost the entire film in their undies. There are no shower scenes, no gay makeout scenes, no chest rubbing, and no threesomes. As such, the film is largely without incident.
There's a twist. What is it? Turns out Morris was related to the killer all along, and that the killer is indeed a resurrected zombie madman kind of like Jason Voorhees. How he came back to life is never explained. There's a lot of heartbeat in this one as well.
That's it. I'm done. I'm not talking about The Brotherhood VI anymore. It's now up to you to seek it out. Watch all of these movies and you will, like me, be part of The Brotherhood of People Who Watched The Brotherhood Series. We are a small and elite group, and membership affords you with a hot body, untold financial privileges, regular threesomes with hot B-movie actresses, and a steady supply of free boxer briefs.
David DeCoteau just had a birthday. Happy 50th, sir.
I don't know Mr. DeCoteau personally, and I mean no libel or gossip by the following, but to wrap up my coverage of this series, I am going to postulate a miniature fictional biography of his early years, trying to suss out what led to his very, very specific fetishes as displayed in his Brotherhood movies. I want it understood that I'm making all of this up, and none of it was DeCoteau's actual experience (as far as I know).
When David DeCoteau was about 18, he left home to attend an all-boys boarding school. There he developed a crush on his roommate (as so many 18-year-olds do), who would often hang around in their dorm room in his boxer briefs. DeCoteau also took up the habit of half-naked lounging. DeCoteau was also active in the school athletics department, and would often spend time showering. I'm guessing his school's showers were separated by waist-high partitions, as he could only see his classmates' bare chests. He and his roommate shared a sexual tension, and maybe even fell asleep in the same bunk once or twice after some magical walpurgisnachts of drinking and carousing, but the two of them never kissed, and they definitely did not have sex.
After a year, DeCoteau tried to join a fraternity. It was a large, imposing organization, and he was fascinated by hazing rituals. He never made it too far past the first level of hazing (his love of movies probably distracted him from committing to a frat), but he continued to be both enticed and repelled by the monolithic Greek houses he would often pass on his way to classes. He would often see other pledges outdoors on the lawns of these houses, always wearing matching black boxer briefs. The hazing rituals were never fully explained, and remained alien to the nascent filmmaker.
While developing his warm friendship with his roommate, DeCoteau would often be called by Stacey, his high school girlfriend, who would only call to complain about her life, and how she kept scoping out hot boys. This made DeCoteau bitter about dating, and he wouldn't have a proper girlfriend all through college, preferring to hang out with his roommate, secretly harboring their friendship as a pure form of romance. This was what real romance was. A sexless, half-naked camaraderie between roommates, punctuated by showers.
Eventually, DeCoteau graduated (with honors), and moved to Hollywood to make movies. These days, he reenacts his sexless homoerotic romance fantasies with the hot young boys he invites over to his house to star in his long-running 1313 series. He lives the dream.
This biography is, no doubt, completely inaccurate. But the person I described would be capable of making the 6 ½ Brotherhood movies, right?
Witney Seibold is a featured contributor on the CraveOnline Film Channel, co-host of The B-Movies Podcast and co-star of The Trailer Hitch. You can read his weekly articles B-Movies Extended, Free Film School and The Series Project, and follow him on “Twitter” at @WitneySeibold, where he is slowly losing his mind.