Being a gay man myself, I am still terrified to live a world where most people continue to deny the existence of the LGBTQ community. There are people, especially Republicans, who remain hell-bent on ridding society of all of us. They feel that we are abominations to God and his word. Also, as a citizen, I feel uncertain and afraid to live in a world where the law can be at times definitely lawless. The almost-lost 1983 Canuxploitation shocker Siege, directed by Paul Donovan & Maura O’Connell, combines the two into one very tense and mostly unpredictable action thriller.
Inspired the real-life 42-day Halifax police strike, a group of right-wing goons or “vigilantes” invade the Crypt, a local gay bar. They verbally and physically assault, and eventually kill most of the patrons in it, but Daniel (Terry-David Després) is the only survivor. He gets away and seeks refuge in a nearby apartment complex with Horatio (Tom Nardini) and Barbara (Brenda Bazinet), a couple, their friend Chester (Darel Haeny), and Steve (Keith Night) and Patrick (Jack Blum), two blind students they are looking after. When Horatio refuses to give Daniel up, the goons decide to kill everyone, forcing Horatio and the others to fight back by any means necessary.
There are many similarities between this and John Carpenter’s 1974 film Assault on Precinct 13. It may not be as great as Carpenter’s film, but it comes definitely close. It’s just as tense and bleak though. And it has villains who are just as nasty and reprehensible as the Carpenter film.
However, it isn’t completely successful. It succumbs to a few clichés: the villain have absolutely no dimension to them. They’re just in the film to be awful and homophobic. But, you really want seem die, so I’ll give the film it that. There is also the fact that Daniel, the gay character/sole survivor of the opening scene, comes across as scared and a coward, and actually hides in a closet. I don’t know if that was intended, but that can’t easily overlooked. But, he does get some courage to kill leader Gabe (Doug Lennox) at the end, so again, I’ll give it credit. It does the “dead killer comes back to life” thing too that a lot of horror films often do, but that takes cares of itself fast. Despite these flaws, I wasn’t angry nor taken out of the film. I was genuinely unsettled by it overall. There were moments that were really suspenseful. The fact that none of the actors are well-known does add to the realistic flavor to it all as well.
If you want to see a low-budget film that manages to rise above its B-movie tendencies and have to something to say, then check Siege out. It is disturbing, intense, and sadly relevant, especially in today’s turbulent times. Special features include an audio commentary with co-director Donovan and filmmaker Jason Eisener, an extended cut, and trailer.