I have never been to Fire Island but when I imagine going to Fire Island I imagine it as a Horror Movie, and so Last Ferry immediately felt like it was speaking directly to me. Joseph (Ramon O. Torres, also credited as writer) is an introverted, or perhaps depressed, New York City lawyer who's decided to suddenly abscond off to this little slice of supposed gay paradise for distraction, mayhap affection. Unfortunately his impulses were a few weeks off the mark and he arrives ahead of season, where parties consist of four other people and speedos seem more premature than de rigueur.
His impulses don't stop with the whole "being wrong" thing there, and before you know it he's wandering the barren dunes with the first attractive stranger that whispers him sweet nothings. Lucky guy that he is he's promptly drugged and assaulted and robbed before he can even tear the tag off his cute new swim-trunks -- and then even worse, adding injury to injury, in his doped-up confusion he seem to possibly witness a murder? Fire Island, house of horrors y'all.
The best thing about Last Ferry is how straight, pardon the pun, the film plays all of this -- I've watched enough "gay horror films" or "gay thrillers" use tired Camp as a crutch to last me a lifetime. Last Ferry, save some finger-snapping bromides in its somewhat meandering middle-act -- which technically aren't out of place, given the crowd -- has a sparse mood as purposefully washed-out as its empty beaches.
It's reserved in an admirable way, on point with its main character, and when the movie does try to be funny I appreciated the way it sometimes sprinkled a low-key but pointed gallows humor on -- the morning after Joseph has been attacked he comes to in a strange house among strangers and they're all more interested in hitting on the cute lawyer than listening to his tale of woe. Nobody's ruining nobody's vacation.
The film very clearly wants to be an American Stranger By the Lake, a noble ache indeed, and perhaps it does end up being that but with an emphasis more on the Americanization -- the beautiful simplicity of Alain Guiraudie's 2013 cruising thriller gets here a little too bogged down in plot and misdirection. The kernel of the idea turns out to be the same -- danger can be a draw, especially when it looks like Sheldon Best or Myles Clohessy or Christophe Paou's now legendary pornstache -- but Last Ferry strains for Lake's ambiguous affect with its last shot in a way it doesn't quite earn.
Last Ferry screens at NewFest this Friday night
-- get tickets and watch the trailer over on their site.