Into the Lion’s Den
Probably the best thing about Dan Lantz’s film Into the Lion’s Den is that it’s only 74 minutes long, which means the amount of time you spend looking away from the screen, screwing your eyes up in distress/embarrassment only adds up to about 40 mins overall. So that’s cool.
The film tells the story of Michael (Kroell), Johnny (Archer) and Ted (Griffith), three gay men who are on a road trip to New York. Along the way they stop off in some little towns to have fun, see the sights, fellate gas station attendants, look at a train. You know, the usual. Classic Kodak moments! Michael is a bit of a stick-in-the-mud and doesn’t feel like going out that evening, but the innocent Ted and party boy Johnny persuade him to come for one drink.
What Michael and Ted don’t know is that Johnny has been communicating with a mystery man over a Grindr-type application on his phone. The sexy stranger tells Johnny to come to a bar called “The Lion’s Den” (see what they did there?). The three guys rock up at this place but the mystery stranger is nowhere to be found. Johnny and Michael argue – “you’re a slutty, drugged-out party boy!” – and Michael and Ted end up going back to their motel. At which point the mystery guy reveals himself as a crazy psycho and SHIT GETS REAL. Seriously, it gets so real.
Although I was forced to watch and review this film under duress, I am going to attempt to give it a fair critique. So here goes. Into the Lion’s Den is completely mental. I don’t get the appeal! I really don’t! There’s gay porny bits, which might appeal to people who are gay porn connoisseurs, but then it suddenly becomes this mental film where all the gays are persecuted and shot with crossbows and repeatedly called “faggot” and, for some reason, “assclown”. As a horror film, it’s relatively low on what you would call traditional horror – alongside using some of the fakest blood I have ever seen. Admittedly all the horrible bits in it are genuinely horribly but for no apparent reason, apart from being designed to shock.
The only possible explanation I can think of for this film existing is that it’s a a very long Public Service Announcement warning against the dangers of arranging trysts with strangers over your phone – and, in fact, at one point the mystery rapist actually says “Let’s just say you shouldn’t trust everyone on the internet”. Thanks for the warning, rapist-murderer! You might love to torture people but you’ve certainly got your head screwed on when it comes to surfing the web safely!
There are a couple of moments that border on being decent – a vague sense of tension when Michael and Ted turn up back at the bar, for instance, unknowingly walking into a trap – and at points the characters and their relationships feel marginally more fleshed out. Indeed, the conflict between Michael and Johnny over their different lifestyles is far more interesting than any of the silly horror that follows. Ultimately, though, Into the Lion’s Den is exploitative, uncomfortable viewing.