Before getting into my mini film review, I want to express my excitement for finally purchasing a subscription to revry.tv, a queer entertainment streaming service full of films, shorts, television, podcasts, and music. Aside from categorizing content into familiar genres, the streaming service breaks their content into fun, campy collections. I mention this detail because the categorization makes picking out a show to watch far easier than going through an “LGBTQ” tab within say Netflix or Hulu. My hope is that my excitement with revry.tv continues to grow as there’s already an abundance of short-films and shows I want to encourage others to watch!
To digress no further: Stall (2017), a short, horror film directed by Andrew Daniel, is one piece I came across revry.tv. My fascination with Stall is the fact that the entire ten-minute film follows an unnamed protagonist (John D. Harding) through a solo-lead, cruising misadventure. The establishing shot displays a men’s restroom off the side of the freeway that appears more abandoned and tarnished than a suitable cruising spot. Regardless, the protagonist waits and readies himself in a bathroom mirror—an eerie detail as the cutaway from the close-up shot of the protagonist’s face to his full body shows zero mirrors.
As the film progresses, the protagonist begins to notice a growing rash on his neck, a sign of anxiety manifesting from an unknown source. The film’s tension expands on the protagonist’s paranoia by heightening the sounds of toilets flushing, faucets running, and doors shutting on their own. I find the setting to be true-to-life given the history of gay cruising sights, making the horror of Stall draw from the anxiety that comes with giving into the thrills of exhibitionism. I also find that the film shows the horror in humility, because who the hell wants to die with their pants down?
To increase the viewer’s anxiety to reflect that of the protagonist, the direction of Stall uses harsh, flickering lights, allowing for an easy maneuver between shots in the claustrophobic, three-stall restroom. Shots comprise of capturing the tight, open-door stalls, to jump-scares at the other end of the restroom, to extreme close-ups of the protagonist’s face in order to convey tension and fear. In the camera’s close-ups of the character’s face, I appreciate the attention to the protagonist’s emotions more-so than what is actually occurring around him, because then the direction of the film forces the viewer to feel just as apprehensive as the lead without a trace of what’s happening in the setting. Stall uses the style chiaroscuro to create the unknown, slightly-humanoid shadow that antagonizes the protagonist into a frenzy, playing on the anxiety and humiliation of cruising.
Overall, the fear of Stall manifests by the way of heightened senses, like those of toilets and faucets operating on their own, to gross, growing rashes, and murderous shadows. My appreciation of Stall is that the horror of the film draws from an exclusively queer experience as the setting and situational anxiety draws from gay cruising sights. Through conventional, horror-genre camera angles, shots, and lighting, Stall delivers a uniquely queer film experience.