Edith’s review published on Letterboxd:
What makes a modern Gothic?
This question pummeled into a discussion after watching Cruising and sent us on widely different online articles about what “Gothic” even is. Is it Dracula leaning in your bedroom window? Not always, because the setting is as important as the story itself. The characters in Gothic literature often find themselves in strange, unfamiliar places that may be dangerous or sexually enticing. It’s not just Dracula himself that is alluring, but the dark, mysterious catacombs he exists in. This draw to the dark side resides in all of us and the maddening excitement it evokes may be the most frightening of all.
Friedkin channels this exclusively in all the bar scenes with explicit acts happening around us. The fact that this is happening within the BDSM community is also extremely provocative:
Sexual difference is thus at the heart of the Gothic, and its plots are often driven by the exploration of questions of sexual desire, pleasure, power and pain.
Afterwards, I was positive that Steve Burns (Pacino) was struggling with his own sexuality, but now when I write this I think that possibly the allure was what drove him to madness.
There’s a huge conversation to be had about the representation of gay men and the BDSM community, obviously. Apparently, this may have been connected to violence against the gay community and that’s pretty upsetting. I’m not a gay man, so I know, I’m not going to say I think that it was a good fine rep means we’re okay here. Though, I found every scene that juxtaposed consensual sexual acts against the humiliation and abuse by police to be not only heart wrenching, but alluding to the core of the film’s narrative like the townfolk’s torches upon the Frankenstein’s monster. The inner turmoil Burns feels himself is also parallel to the misunderstanding and abuse of the police.
Finally, I really appreciate the procedural aspect of the film. So many crime thrillers rely on the twists-and-turns surprises than the actual viewpoint of investigating a giant pool of suspects (as Jordan pointed out in his review, with suspects and victims looking almost identical) and really managing a pretty decent whodunnit.
So I think all we are left with was Burns closeted or taking his oppressed or homophobia out on the community? Maybe one will never know.