'eVil Sublet' — queer horror comedy to play Balboa Theater

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Tuesday November 28, 2023
Share this Post:
Jennifer Lee Houston in 'eVil Sublet'
Jennifer Lee Houston in 'eVil Sublet'

Allan Piper's "eVil Sublet" (the stylized title) is a queer horror comedy that delivers. It's a supernatural parody on how far people in New York City will go to obtain affordable housing.

The film offers strong laughs and even stronger scares, and features TV legend Sally Struthers ("All in the Family") in a small supporting role. On December 2 at 8pm the film will screen at the Balboa Theater as part of the Another Hole in the Head Film Festival.

'eVil Sublet' director Allan Piper  

Piper will be there in person for a Q & A, joined by Jennifer Lee Houston, the film's leading lady and Piper's real life wife, and by cabaret star Leanne Borghesi, who also plays a supporting role in the film.

Houston and Charley Tucker star as Alex and Ben, a married couple in Manhattan who are desperate to find affordable housing. They're so desperate that they move into a three-bedroom apartment in the East Village that has a history of mysterious deaths; dozens of them.

It doesn't take long for Alex to start seeing ghosts and hearing strange voices. Then a friend of theirs (Patrick Wang) chokes to death in the apartment. Alex becomes desperate to find out the apartment's secret, and to get out of that creepy place.

Meanwhile, a gay couple from Coney Island (Pat Dwyer, Stephen Mosher), one of whom who has psychic powers, takes it upon themselves to help Alex and Ben. Borghesi plays Hedy, Alex's ex-wife and best friend, and yes, the two women have a musical number.

Leanne Borghesi and Jennifer Lee Houston; Sally Struthers in 'eVil Sublet'  

"Jen and I love cabaret star Leanne Borghesi," Piper said in an interview with the Bay Area Reporter. "So we had to find a way for her to not just be one of the stars of the movie, but also to sing in it."

Borghesi, who is a lesbian, is not the only LGBT-identified person in the film. A decade ago, Dwyer and Mosher were featured in Piper's documentary "Married and Counting," which was narrated by gay actor George Takei. That film documented their quest to travel the country and marry in every state where same-sex marriage was legal.

"While they'd never acted on screen together, I knew they were absolutely electric to watch," said Piper. "So I wanted to put them back on the big screen."

Both Piper and Houston love New York, and made "eVil Sublet" in part to pay homage to the city they call home. They also love horror movies.

"But for some reason horror movies are usually set in the middle of nowhere," he said. "And movies that are set in New York, both horror and non, are often shot somewhere else and don't feel like the New York we know. So we wanted to celebrate our city with scenes on the historic Wonder Wheel and Spook-a-Rama and with sideshow performers from Coney Island, USA."

Piper reports that he and Houston got to meet Struthers socially and became friends with her. Struthers told them that doing a horror movie was on her bucket list.

"Getting to work with a star of her caliber in a genre she'd never done was a dream come true," said Piper. "Now I was a filmmaker on the Obama 2012 and Hillary Clinton 2016 campaigns, and I was the supervising politics producer for "Now This" for four years, so I have filmed with presidents, governors and secretaries of state. I don't spook easily. But I'd never asked such a big star to do something completely outside the area of what they normally do, so it was a little nerve-wracking. By the way, she insisted on doing all her own screams, and they're blood-curdling."

Four of the five lead characters in "eVil Sublet" are LGBT-identified, and they're played by LGBT actors, something that was very important to Piper. He knows these actors well, and tailored the roles to align with the performers' identities.

"But I do worry when people make rules about who should play what," he said. "Because acting is a job, and employers shouldn't be grilling job applicants about who or how they love."

Piper added that he is proud of the fact that the lead role in "eVil Sublet" is a bisexual woman who isn't being fetishized for male enjoyment.

"Bi people are underrepresented in media," said Piper. "It's important to represent that bi people can be in a hetero relationship, like Jen and me, and it doesn't negate their queerness."

"eVil Sublet" has already screened on the East Coast and reactions to it have been quite positive, according to Piper. There have been non-stop laughter, screams, squeals and gasps.

"The world is full of real-life horrors right now," he said. "We want to give you 105 minutes of fun. And if we bust some stereotypes in the process, all the better."

'eVil Sublet,' December 2, 8pm, Balboa Theater, 3630 Balboa Street, Another Hole in the Head Film Festival

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.