Death Drop Gorgeous (2021)

The no-budget slasher Death Drop Gorgeous has the best drag-themed horror title since All About Evil.  That’s good!  It also has one of the worst laugh-to-punchline ratios in the genre since 2003’s Killer Drag Queens on Dope.  Ooh, that’s bad.  It packs a few truly gnarly kills that make you squirm in your knickers.  That’s good.  But those kills are spread thinly across an outright criminal 104min runtime.  That’s bad.  It’s one of the few horror movies I’ve seen in recent memory that features erect onscreen peen.  That’s good!  That mutilated cock was made of silicone, not flesh . . . That’s bad.  Can I go now?

Death Drop Gorgeous is a dirt-cheap regional horror set on the Providence, Rhode Island drag scene.  Its entire cast & crew appear to be staffed by drag performers & gay men, recalling the queer communal immersion of no-budget drag classics like Isle of Lesbos & Vegas in Space.  We join the Providence drag circuit at a point of generational warfare, when classic cabaret queens like the seasoned & embittered Gloria Hole are left clawing for the scraps of spotlight leftover by disrespectful newcomer novelty acts like Janet Fitness, a total brat with no respect for their queer elders.  That tension is escalated by a gloved killer who’s been slaughtering patrons & performers who frequent the local drag spots, draining them of their blood for a mysterious purpose.  Cops get involved, our protagonist ends up being a looky-loo bartender who’s barely involved in the main action, and the whole thing just ends up feeling overloaded with too many non-sequitur time-fillers that dilute its core entertainment value (including a wasted cameo from 1980s scream queen Linnea Quigley).

This film works best if you imagine you’re watching an early-00s SOV slasher and not its modern digi equivalent.  Its drone shots & Grindr jokes constantly drag you by the wig into a post-Knife+Heart world, where a glut of straight-to-streaming horror titles and queer #content feel more like a matter of course than a welcome novelty.  Twenty years ago, in a less crowded field, this might’ve stood out as something truly special, necessary even.  Its flat digi camerawork does a good job of time-traveling back to that headspace too, especially in the tasteless grime of its crueler kills: screwdriver stabbings, mirror shards smashed into faces, dicks fed to meat grinders, etc.  And it even conjures some singular images I can confidently say I’ve never seen elsewhere, like a goth drag queen playing the theremin or a slimy latex hand beckoning victims closer through a glory hole.  For the most part, though, Death Drop Gorgeous struggles to carve out its own unique space despite the specificity of its local cast & setting.

Still, I’m overall fond of this film’s let’s-put-on-a-show community theatre charm.  It might be the kind of regional slasher that earns its value as a cult curio over the years, especially for Providence locals as their drag scene inevitably changes with the times.  I’m sure there’s someone out there who’s already giddy to own any movie starring Gloria Hole on DVD, regardless of its overall quality.  Even as an outsider from 1,400 miles away, I appreciated that novelty myself.

-Brandon Ledet

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