While some of the acting misses the mark, Into the Lion's Den
is one of the more intriguing LGBT films to cross my desk recently thanks to those fine folks at QC Cinema (the LGBT distribution arm of Breaking Glass Pictures).
Directed by Dan Lantz, Into the Lion's Den
is a rather relentless thriller that starts off innocently enough as three friends from West Hollywood grow tired of the scene and decide to take a road trip to New York City. Their friendship experiences a few bumps along the way, but the trio decides to have one last hurrah on their final night on the road in a town where "one last hurrah" probably isn't a good idea. Johnny (Jesse Archer), the free-spirited one, convinces the other two to go along and meet up with someone he's met on a chat board.
Again, not the greatest idea.
Their adventure leads them to a backwoods bar called, you guessed it, the Lion's Den. Nothing is as it seems, and before long our three friends will be tested in ways they'd never imagined as an innocent night on the town quickly becomes much, much more.
Jesse Archer is well cast as Johnny, a free-spirited guy whose influence on Michael (Ronnie Kroell) and Ted (Kristen Alexzander-Griffith) is entertaining to watch even when it's irritating to Michael and Ted. Archer, who folks may remember from last year's Violet Tendencies
plus the entertaining Going Down in La-La Land,
has a tremendous screen presence that is well suited for the free-spirited Johnny, though he convinces less once the film's intensity is amped up and the "thriller" aspect of the film surfaces.
As a lower budgeted film, Into the Lion's Den
is dependent upon actors who can sell both the road trip and the rather horrifying aspects of the film. Unquestionably, the road trip aspects of the film are more convincing in terms of the acting but, in terms of the directing, one must give kudos to Lantz for relentlessly going for it despite the inherent technical challenges involved in creating a thriller on a modest budget.
It helps that many of the "thrills" are set against the backdrop of Amish Country in Pennsylvania, an area that would most likely be rather horrifying for a group of out gay men. Lantz and his production team do the best, taking their budgetary limitations and building a grittier, dirtier film around the challenges. It's a bold approach that pays off quite nicely.
Michael McFadden and Jodie Shultz are disturbingly terrific as the film's villains, adding a dramatic heft to a production that occasionally dances a bit too close to camp. Both would be right at home in any of your mainstream horror films, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see their names popping up again in the future.
Into the Lion's Den
will be released on home video on December 20th on the QC Cinema label with a wealth of extras that will prove to be even more pleasing to fans including deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes feature, a blooper reel, the official trailer and a director's commentary.
For more information on Into the Lion's Den,
visit the film's page on the Breaking Glass Pictures website.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic