PYOTR495 Film Review

 In Film Festival

PYOTR495 is a short horror film set in present-day Moscow. The short film follows 16 year-old Pyotr as he is baited over a dating app by an ultra-nationalist group known for their violent abductions, bolstered by Russia’s recent passing of an anti-LGBT propaganda law.

Written in 2014 around the time of the Sochi Olympics, PYOTR495 feels too close to home. The news around the Winter Olympics was and still is saturated with hate crimes against LGBT people, making the suffering portrayed in the film all too realistic.

The film starts by watching the protagonist use a knock-off Grindr to find a discreet hook-up, as the audience follows him though, we learn that he has been lured to the location by an anti-LGBT group planning to torture and then publically expose him.

Playing off the real world risk that you never know who you’re going to meet online PYOTR495 then takes a supernatural turn that shouldn’t be spoiled but rather needs to be experienced first hand.

PYOTR495 is not only a social commentary on the horrors that LGBTQ people face both at home or abroad, but excels as classic Monster-style horror film as well.

*Spoilers Ahead*

There is a definite lack of gay genre films, horror or otherwise, and in this film the fact that the protagonist’s sexuality is central to the plot works. The character’s sexuality is not traditionally exploited in the slasher-horror way of killing off the queer character as a punishment. But, in this revenge scenario it feels like turning the gay character into a Literal Monster, lacks nuance.

My issue with the short is mostly internal. If the character was straight woman, the plot would follow the horror film trope of revenge after a traumatic experience, and would probably be applauded for portraying a strong female character. But, by turning the gay protagonist in the film into a monster, the film seems exploitative in a different way.

When the protagonist turns into a werewolf-esque monster to murder his attackers, you can’t help but cheer him on. We get to watch him not only avoid the death that traditionally befalls gay characters in film but actually win and punish his attackers, preventing them from harming anyone else in the future. Not only that, but he also frees another boy that was kidnapped by the attackers giving a happy ending to this gory, horror film.

But, the idea that people need to fear LGBT people though is all too common and this is only enhanced by the protagonist turning into an actual monster. Monsters as a metaphor for LGBT people is a harmful trope that is played out in many films, in the horror genre in particular.

This “othering” of LGBT people becomes a prominent plot point in many films. For example, the campy portrayal of male characters, or the narrative of being exiled from society. This is shown in characters like Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs, or Tom Ripley in The Talented Mr. Ripley gay people are often portrayed as the villains, with the queerness as the source of this evil.

LGBTQ identities are also exploited in horror films where the character is explicitly labelled queer and then goes on to murder or harm other characters, with that queerness as the root of the crime.

In the French film Haute Tension the lesbian lead Marie, thinks she is defending her best friend from a murderer throughout the film. But, a plot twist shows that she has imagined the murderer the whole time, and it has actually been her trying to murder her best friend because she turned down her advances.

Yet, PYOTR495 does give the characters a happy ending, even if the protagonist becomes a monster, he does not only escape but triumph in the end.

Did this film play into these ideas or subvert them? I haven’t quite reached a conclusion yet. Either way, I would still say this film is worth watching. It’s not only aesthetically beautiful and well done overall, but it’s interesting and worth discussing.
The point of programming this short, as with most films in this festival is to facilitate discussion, and this short film did give me a lot to talk about. After we show this film Friday the 26th, feel free to find me and talk about it as I think the beauty of this short film is that it can be interpreted many different ways.

Kennedy Enns is the current Festival Assistant for Fairy Tales Film Festival. Her pronouns are she/her/hers. 

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