Subletting vs. bloodletting

Posted on 17 Apr 2008 at 6:00pm
By Steve Warren – Contributing Film Critic

Good acting propels gay-stalking thiller — where an unhealthy obsession with a one-night trick inspires evil

A cut above the average queer film, "You Belong to Me" is a throwback thriller that recalls the pre-"Halloween" days when a suspense-horror flick could develop slowly and didn’t have to involve a total bloodbath. It’s been compared to "Rosemary’s Baby" and "The Tenant," but it’s really closer to "Misery" with a touch of "Psycho."

Good acting by the two leads is key to the film’s success. It’s interesting that from certain angles Daniel Sauli resembles Patrick Dempsey, while Patti D’Arbanville looks exactly like an overinflated Michelle Pfeiffer doll. Had their lookalikes starred in it, "You Belong to Me" would have gotten a major release.

The screenplay, by director Sam Zalutsky, is a bit thin — more like an expanded short story than a condensed novel. While this allows the film to breathe, it gives Zalutskyless latitude to distract or surprise us.

Jeffrey (Sauli) is a Manhattan architect sharing an apartment with his sassy black friend Nicki (Heather Simms). One morning, she walks in on him and his date, René (Julien Lucas), because his dog, Max, needs walking. René doesn’t stay for breakfast, but Jeffrey doesn’t take the hint.

Before you know it, he’s moved into René’s apartment building. The former occupant, coincidentally(?) named Geoffrey, left suddenly, without taking his things.

The landlady, Gladys (D’Arbanville) is a bit overly solicitous but not quite creepy — yet. Jeffrey’s hardly moved in before a man named Michael (Kevin Corstange) lets himself in and starts screaming for "my Geoffrey." Gladys has to run up to calm him down.

Being gay, Jeffrey immediately sets about remodeling and decorating his new digs. Speaking of digging, there’s some water damage. When Jeffrey starts pulling away at the rotted floorboards, he hears tapping, then moaning, coming from below, where Gladys has her apartment.

This is one of those movies where soft sounds can sometimes be heard through walls and doors while at other times screams cannot. I always find it annoying, but it pretty much goes with the territory.

For brawn, Gladys has Stuart (Sherman Howard) the super — a deaf-mute who reads her lips (but no one else’s) and does her bidding. Jeffrey can defend himself better than the average queen, but he’s no match for Stuart and is soon more prisoner than tenant to Gladys, whose motivation is eventually revealed.

At some point there must be confrontation. And while the staging of the climax isn’t Zalutsky’s finest hour, it gets the job done. Then the film ends abruptly, without any grace notes.

Well, what can you expect in Manhattan for $1,650 a month?


C+
YOU BELONG TO ME
Director: Sam Zalutsky
Cast: Patti D’Arbanville, Daniel Serafini-Sauli, Sherman Howard and George Loros
Screened by Q Cinema: April 23 at 8 p.m., at Four Day Weekend Theater,
312 Houston St. in downtown Fort Worth. Tickets $8.
1 hour. 22 min. Not rated.   

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 18, 2008.

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