Movie fans who love a good whodunnit will want to be on hand at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, July 1, to see Out to Kill as part of Out Here Now, the Kansas City LGBT Film Festival.
Written and directed by Rob Williams, this intriguing and intimately entertaining story welcomes us to the Box Factory Lofts, a beautiful, gay apartment complex in Tampa where a gay private investigator moves in and finds his first case right outside his door. Williams notes that producing an LGBT-themed spin on a familiar set-up like this is in line with Guest House Films’ quest to keep offering their faithful audiences something bold and unexpected.
“I love murder mysteries,” Williams says, “especially the old-school, Agatha Christie-style mysteries — and I thought it would be fun to put a gay twist on this style of film without making it campy or a spoof. I also love tackling new subject matter and genres, and challenging myself as a writer and director.”
In his feature film debut, singer/songwriter Tom Goss plays Justin Jaymes, a gorgeous club singer with the personality of soiled laundry. Jaymes is the self-centered sort who easily draws people to him and makes enemies of them even faster.
“Someday you’re gonna get arrested,” the building’s manager tells Jaymes upon finding him soaking in the spa –sans clothing.
“Probably,” he retorts smugly. “But it’s not gonna be for this!”
Still, everyone is shocked when his lifeless body is discovered floating in the complex’s pool one morning after a sex party the night before. Scott Sell co-stars as Jim Noble, the new tenant who also happens to be a private detective.
As for the suspects … well, they pretty much include everybody who knew the victim, including the buildings’ managers, Gene and his partner Henry, who initially hire Noble to take on the case.
“My favorite mysteries are ones where the murder victim is disliked by everyone, so that everyone has a motive to kill him,” Williams said. “Then it’s up to the detective (and the audience) to determine who’s telling the truth and who’s lying. I also think a good mystery offers some surprises — I certainly hope people are surprised at the killer’s reveal at the end of Out to Kill.”
Vic “the Vicar” Barnaby, played by Mark Strano, is one of the many suspects. The complex’s resident dentist, he’s cute and nicely hirsute, but painfully shy. He actually voices his desire to see the end of Jaymes — but is he serious? In one of the script’s great inside jokes, it turns out that “Vicar” is his real name: “My mother loved English mysteries,” he explains.
Other suspects include the three “Steves”—Steve, Steven and Stephen, a trio of gorgeous, perennially shirtless muscle dudes living in a ménage à trois — and the mysterious figure referred to only as “Mr. Rear Window,” a reclusive wheelchair user who lives at the back of the complex. Not to be overlooked is Ted, a quick-tempered twink who had as much reason as anybody to want to see Jaymes six feet under. In fact, he could be the prime suspect (if he didn’t have an iron-clad alibi, that is).
Nobody is beyond suspicion in this fast-paced thriller with great production values. Jake Monaco and Dave Volpe have done some appropriately creepy background scoring.
The last 10 minutes of the film are mind-blowing, but it should come as no surprise that these climactic moments are Williams’ favorites.
“For me, it was far more fun to write the reveal at the end of the movie and to show the killer’s motives and how the murder was committed,” he said. “That was always my favorite part about Agatha Christie’s mysteries — bringing all the suspects together and slowly revealing who the killer was. That was my most enjoyable part of writing this script, and I hope it’s the favorite part of viewing the movie.”
The film festival is co-presented by the Westport Regional Business League, with support from the Neighborhood Development and Tourism Fund.
Festival director Jamie Rich said Out to Kill was chosen as this year’s “Director’s Showcase Screening” because “Rob [Williams> is an established independent movie director who ventured into new territory to make this gay-themed, psychological murder mystery. The film is also the feature film debut of gay singer/songwriter Tom Goss in a role divergently different from his popular, on-stage personality.”
Both Williams and Goss will attend this Midwest premiere of their film and will answer questions from the audience after the screening.
“I am looking forward to meeting people at the Out to Kill screening that are familiar with my previous films, because I haven’t been to Kansas City before,” Williams said. “I also know that Tom has a great following in Kansas City for his singing career, so I’m really excited to see what his fans think of his work in the film.”
What does Williams hope that viewers will get out of this new feature?
“I just want people to have a good time watching the movie,” Williams said. “So many gay-themed films are heavy and depressing, so we wanted to make something that was fun and entertaining — even as it deals with murder! I also hope people will appreciate the fact that we made a murder mystery with gay characters, but where the murder isn’t caused by the victim being gay.”
For more information about the festival and the films and to purchase tickets or festival passes online, go to Out Here Now. Tickets are also available at the Tivoli Cinemas box office, 4050 Pennsylvania Ave., in Westport.”