Carter Smith Takes Queer Fear Mainstream
By Savas Abadsidis
On the surface, at least, Carter Smith's feature debut, The Ruins, bears resemblance to previous forays into 'teens on spring break' horror territory -- Turistas and Hostel come to mind -- with the critical exception that Smith is one of the great young queer fashion photographers of our time. And if you saw his short film Bugcrush, you'll know to drop your preconceptions at the door.
Based on a short story by Toronto-based queer punk activist Scott Treleaven, Bugcrush concerns one boy's obsession with another, in which the venom of a particularly revolting species of burrowing caterpillar is used to bring on an erotic ecstasy. 'When I read Bugcrush it truly hit me like a calling that this was the short film that I could make better than anybody else,' Smith says. 'I started working on it in my head immediately.'
Bugcrush was as unlikely a film to win fans as it was to win the 2006 Jury Prize for Short Filmmaking at the Sundance Film Festival, but it did both, landing Smith an agent in the process, and a first look at the superhot Ruins script when it became available.
Smith, who began his career shooting fashion for Jane Pratt's groundbreaking Sassy magazine, is a master of rich, saturated colors, and he has an eye for strong, supple images that lends itself well to making movies. 'Carter makes ordinary people look sexy, and celebrities feel accessible,' says Pratt, who commissioned Smith to shoot Drew Barrymore for the inaugural cover of Jane. Former Abercrombie & Fitch creative director Sam Shahid concurs. 'Carter's like a little mischievous boy, and his subjects sort of fall in love with him and his sexiness,' he says.
According to Smith, the secret is all in the casting: 'I have to on some level fall in love with whom I am shooting. That's how it works.'
Having emerged in the mid 1990s to challenge the overly art-directed style of the time with an engaging simplicity (including a series of editorials for this magazine in collaboration with gay author John Rechy), Smith is now about to do the same in the formulaic world of teen horror movies. If Bugcrush is any indication, we're in for a ride.