Last year Richard Mansfield brought us the odd but sometimes effective The Secret Path, and now it’s the turn of his husband, Daniel, to direct a gay-themed Brit Flick, Drink Me. Both movies share being on the verge of the supernatural, as well having a love of somewhat perplexing horror, but while Secret Path was set in the past, this is a more modern affair.
Andy and James are a couple living a pleasant suburban life, which seems to offer everything they’d want. However when Andy is made redundant their financial stability comes under threat and they decide they need to take in a lodger. The arrival of the sexy Sebastian puts increasing pressure on Andy and James’ relationship and major cracks appear, especially as Andy gets increasingly paranoid and suggests that a series of disappearances may have something to do with the man staying in their house.
Sebastian meanwhile is a mysterious figure, flirting with both of his landlords and perhaps hiding a deeper, vampiric secret.
Initially I was in two minds about whether Drink Me was good or not. I definitely enjoyed it but I couldn’t help wondering if I’d been swayed by the fact that it is pretty damn sexy. This is a film with some exceedingly horny sex scenes featuring some pretty hot guys, complete with semi-boners, plenty of full-frontal nudity, lots of writhing and the fact the whole movie has sexual tension exuding from it. And if you’ve ever wondered whether two naked men having sex while rubbing blood over one another could be sexy, Drink Me shows that, yes, it can.
There’s also entertainment to be had with the main story of a couple whose relationship is on the rocks, partly due to their own issues and partly due to the arrival in their midst of what may be a genuinely malign force (while leaving open the idea that Sebastian may be as metaphorical as he is real).
However there are other aspects it was more difficult for me to decide about. The main issue is that it’s difficult to know whether the movie is being mysterious or just completely random. Every few minutes the film jumps out of the domestic narrative to something strange and/or creepy, but it’s often difficult to figure out how these moments fit together with everything else. It happens so often it becomes tough to know what’s real, what’s a dream, and what’s purely metaphorical. A lot of it is apparently the latter, but it still feels random and occasionally as if some major things have been missed out.
Drink Me works hard to create an eerie, unsettled atmosphere and some of the story jumps are pretty effective, while with others you get the impression the filmmakers knew exactly why they were doing it, but haven’t done particularly well in communicating that to the audience.
These oddities certainly aren’t a deal-breaker, although they will be extremely annoying to some people. What helps ensure it doesn’t completely go off the deep-end is how it deals with Andy and James’ relationship and the problems they face, with sex not just being about pleasure but also a form of communication. There’s also the fact that with Andy, there are hints towards him being uncertain about the potentially stifling nature of his increasingly traditional and unadventurous domesticity, while also toying with the possibility that he may have more to do with the disappearances than even he consciously knows.
How far this goes depends on how you read the ‘random’ bits of the movie, and how you think they fit together (I half wonder whether the original script pieced everything together in a different way, but they’ve been re-ordered with only partially successful results). Is Andy being tied to a tree in the woods while a seemingly zombie-fied James is controlled by the sinister Sebastian about Andy’s fears of being trapped – or is this actually what should have been the final few minutes that have instead been interspersed into the main narrative? Is James running in the woods and then seeing himself naked in a tree about the beast within all of us that society hides away? Is Andy following a man in a white rabbit mask a simple Alice In Wonderland allusion, or is it evidence he’s going nuts? Did any of this really happen at all, or is it all metaphorical? And what’s with the guy in the skeleton mask who keeps popping up?
To be honest even now I’m not sure, but I did decide that overall I think it’s a pretty good movie. And one of the main reasons for that comes down to the sex, not just because it’s horny, but because irrespective of its oddities the film manages that rare thing of catching the vagaries of sexual intimacy between two people in a believable way. One of the problems film has always had with sex is that it’s generally so coy about the importance of sharing someone else’s body in a relationship, but by being a little more fearless Drink Me captures it well.
It also undoubtedly keeps you pulled in and guessing about what’s going on. At the end you may be hoping that everything will become clear, but unfortunately that doesn’t really happen. Well, you can piece what you think is going on together, but there’s a bit of a ‘Choose you own adventure’ feel to it. I will acknowledge though that perhaps I’m missing something and that everyone else will think the whole thing is utterly obvious. Ultimately I’d say Drink Me is worth a look – especially if you want something sexy – even if it does make you go ‘Huh?’ more than once?
Overall Verdict: Drink Me’s sexual frankness is both extremely horny and also manages to capture a surprising amount about the intimacy of relationships, even while a lot of the stuff going on around it is a weird and confusing. It’s entertaining, but it’s often unclear how we’re meant to react to its more supernatural, horror elements.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac