Of all the films at this year’s Vancouver Queer Film Festival, I was most excited to see The Blue Hour (Onthakan) (directed by Anucha Boonyawatana) after my first read-through of the program, because I can’t think of much better than a queer coming of age film, set in Thailand, that is also a supernatural thriller.
The Blue Hour was screened at 9 p.m. and I made the mistake of seeing it alone and sitting in the front row, so it was just as terrifying as I expected it to be and I watched the second half through my fingers. The film starts off slow and atmospheric and focuses on the sweet but troubling relationship between Tam and Phum, two closeted boys who hook up at a dilapidated swimming pool. Things that are scary in real life (abuse, bullying and homophobia) combine with everyday unsettling concepts (abandoned spaces, urban decay, garbage dumps and stains shaped like people) and the supernatural (unexplained sounds, vengeful spirits and the mysterious appearance and disappearance of corpses) to create a feeling of suspense that sneaks so smoothly into “horror movie” terror that it’s almost believable.
Somehow, I don’t think the audience liked it. It was the only VQFF film I’ve attended so far that didn’t garner applause when the credits rolled, and the man sitting next to me—who had taken his shoes off and crunched Skittles through the scary parts—leaned over to his friend and asked, “Did you get that?” The VQFF program guide called The Blue Hour “an exciting new example of what we can expect from the future of queer cinema,” but I think that the specific kind of horror it produced, which meshed dreamlike cinematography and long, quiet shots with minor blood and gore, wasn’t what fans of North American horror movies are used to: there was only a couple jump scares and the film was slow-paced, but if this is the future of queer cinema, I want to see more. There was only one screening of The Blue Hour at VQFF, but be sure to check out its stunning trailer.