“The monster is often used in horror films and literature to portray the ’other,’ the queer that needs reforming. The monster’s victims are not really victims, but are hyper-exaggerated examples of virile, misguided heterosexuality.” So says the college professor played by Ivan Sergei in the new Lifetime movie Mother, May I Sleep with Danger?, a loose remake of the cable network’s 1996 movie of the same name, which starred Sergei as a sexy psychopath who coerces Tori Spelling’s goody-two-shoes-in-distress to try out a bob haircut and then proceeds to torment her. Aside from a few nods to the original, notable mostly for its bad wigs and a scene in which Sergei’s pin-up bludgeons a girl with a cutting board, the new film’s hyper-self-awareness, stunt casting, and general kitchen-sink approach make it a closer relative to the Scream franchise than the woman-in-peril movie of the week.
Leila George plays Leah, a college student who’s prone to spouting extended critiques on the Twilight series (“The first Twilight book was good because it made teen sex dangerous again”) and who falls for the newest member of a coven of misandric lesbian vampires. Concocted by the Prince of Pomo, James Franco, and written by co-star Amber Coney, the movie is a pop-culture mash-up that miraculously doesn’t buckle under the self-serious weight of its myriad literary references, from Dracula to Christina Rossetti’s “The Goblin Market.”
Leah tries out for, and snags, the title role in the school’s production of Macbeth, while the female vampires—who are, of course, cast as the three witches—are revealed to have a penchant for sucking the blood of male sexual predators. Vampirism as a metaphor for homosexuality or societal vengeance is nothing new, but this being a Sapphic allegory, Leah’s blood-sucking lover, Pearl (Emily Meade), naturally seeks to settle down for eternity. (The movie’s LGBT themes are, chillingly, made even timelier when it’s revealed that Leah’s father was killed in a shooting in Florida.)
In a 2014 piece for Artpulse, Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker examined British artist David Thorpe’s Covenant of the Elect, concluding that the work “reappropriates conventions and techniques associated with postmodernism, yet redirects and resignifies them towards new horizons…[revisiting] these older forms in search of their substance, so as to evoke a context that may have been lost on us 21st-century viewers.” Whether it’s Franco and Travis Mathews’s recreation of the lost footage from William Friedkin’s Cruising in Interior. Leather Bar. as an examination of homophobia in Hollywood, or his and Seth Rogen’s shot-for-shot remake of Kanye West’s “Bound 2” music video as, well, an examination of homophobia in hip-hop, Franco is likewise clearly more interested in intertexuality than pure parody.
Director Melanie Aitkenhead manages to weave Franco and Coney’s allusions and themes seamlessly, and both the sex scenes and action sequences are executed with a kineticism and style that the dull 1996 version lacked. As the pouty, dark-haired Julia, Meade evokes a young Angelina Jolie, and the movie itself is more Gia than ’90s-era Lifetime, with more danger and sexual tension in one scene than the original had in its entirety. Spelling is convincing as a Botox-injected, wine-swilling country-club mom, while Franco, as the college’s drama teacher, wears a stupid grin throughout most of his brief time on screen, ostensibly because his character is tickled by the girl-on-girl action that results from his subversive casting decisions. But it’s more likely because the actor himself is amused that he managed to convince someone to bankroll this ridiculous—and ridiculously fun—experiment in the first place.