B&B (2017) IMDB Description: “Gay Londoners Marc and Fred plan for a weekend of mischief, baiting the Christian owner of a remote Christian B&B. Events take a deadly turn when another guest arrives, who they think might have something more sinister in mind.”
Why I took it off the list: I’d had this intriguing-sounding little queer thriller on my list for a while, as the premise sounded incredibly promising. Also, genre films centering around gay characters and issues are still incredibly rare. So I make a point of checking them out when I can.
I intended to check it off as a Halloween Double Feature with a recent gay-themed horror. But, in the end, I didn’t have the time in the run-up to October 31st to watch and review both of them. So I decided to split them up. First up, B&B (2017). So, let’s dig in!
Review of B&B (2017)
B&B starts on a jarring note. A montage of loving exchanges between the two main characters accompanied by an upbeat pop track is intercut with ominous shots of a couple being observed at a distance through night vision goggles. By the time they hit the road for a weekend getaway, we already have a potent sinking feeling something bad is going down.
The couple arrives at a picaresque B&B in the English countryside (seemingly somewhere near Bristol). But it soon becomes clear that this is not their first time checking in.
A newspaper clipping pinned to the reception desk soon informs us that the owner of the guest house received a visit from the pair a year earlier. He was subsequently taken to court and charged after, due to strict religious beliefs, he refused to give them a double bed.
It seems that the newly married couple are back to gloat and demand their now legally granted right to share a bed. The unrepentant B&B owner Josh (an excellent Paul McGann of Withnail & I fame) isn’t thrilled to see them. But he goes about offering them service with wary resignation and barely concealed resentment.
The arrogant and confrontational Mark is clearly determined to assert his rights while making Josh feel as uncomfortable as possible. His partner Fred, on the other hand, is obviously not too happy with the return. Adding to his anxiety is the fear that bigots unhappy they won the case might show up to harass them. And Josh definitely has no intention to concede that their rights are equal ‘in the eyes of the lord’.
This is a great set-up for a tense house-bound game of cat-and-mouse to play out between the 2 opposing parties. For a while, it’s a promise the film delivers. The tension ramps up as the couple check in and then settle down for dinner in the dining room. This only increases with the arrival of a mysterious Russian muscle man full of tattoos that read like, as Fred puts it, “Neo-Nazi bingo”.
Gets a Little Lost in Subplots
Unfortunately, I felt that B&B starts to go off the rails a little bit once the film passes its halfway point. Instead of focusing on the escalating tension in the house, the film unwisely decides to leave the premises in service of a subplot involving a local cruising spot. This veer into Stranger by the Lake territory is not unwelcome at first.
But after a violent incident in the park, the film soon devolves into a predictable cover-up-the-murder narrative. This feels unexpected but disappointing, It’s also something other recent indie Brit flicks like Calibre (2018) have done much better.
The involvement of the owner’s secretly gay son, which is not a bad idea on paper, also feels let down by the thinly-written nature of the character. And the attempt to deal with some of the issues of queer rural life, similarly covered so effectively in God’s Own Country, feel undercooked. Josh also gets sidelined later in the narrative, a shame because McGann gives the best performance in the film.
While the cruising scenes are eerie, some of the later developments are borderline ridiculous. And the story gets increasingly convoluted and nonsensical. You get the feeling that it could have been a tighter, more tense experience if they had just focused on the house and the conflicts brewing within.
In the end, it feels like B&B could have gone in another bolder, more daring direction than the filmmakers ultimately chose to take.
Final score: 4/10
B&B (2017): Worth Watching?
It depends. While B&B has a strong set-up and tense first half, I felt that it seriously lost its way in its closing act. This ultimately made it a pretty disappointing experience for me.
For such a promising premise, I felt like it didn’t really fulfill its potential. There is a strong horror/thriller to be made from this idea. But, in my opinion, this sadly isn’t it.
Written and directed by Joe Ahearne
Cast: Sean Teale, Tom Bateman, Paul McGann
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