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By Matthew Sorrento | July 22, 2009

“Weak Species” upturns expectation as if this were its reason for existence. This short concerns a high school youth whom we are likely to call openly gay, only in that he seems to have tapped every closeted boy in the school. Having casual sex with them all – seemingly at random – Steve (Brendan Bradley, with a distinct smirk) is a fresh take on the teen rebel. Buff yet femme, doodling his art with a jock’s grip, he appears to have conquered his high school more swiftly than a bully flexing the fear factor.

He loses hold once he eyes a tall jock, Cliff (Reed Windle), who may just be cloaking his own same-sex inclinations. Cliff’s hardly disturbed by Steve’s watchful gaze, which goes just short of the stalker level – apparently Steve’s appearance aside the school practice grounds is routine. When Cliff attempts to force sexual favors from Steve, the latter is a bit too surprised to let it be a thrilling fantasy realized. Perhaps the insecure Steve must be the one to take them down.

Meanwhile, “Species” weaves in another, more morose yarn about George (Erik Scott Smith), who copes with his repressed sexuality by serving as a plaything for the middle-aged repressed. He cruises a la teen angst, looking Emo and downtrodden, until he’s picked up for some brutalizing diversions within a suburban home. George is the ideological counterpoint to Steve, and in this alternating narrative structure, the two’s convergence becomes a pesky waiting game for the audience.

But, thankfully, the characters are worth more than this expected resolution. Writer/director Dan Faltz – whose script is based on the writings of Dennis Cooper – seems at odds with the formulaic expectations we have for such roles, and serves up an equally disturbing and darkly comic experience. This screened as part of the “Out on the Edge” shorts series at Philly’s QFest, along with “Cowboy,” a tense erotic gothic from Germany; “The Young and Evil,” a misanthropic rant on self-hatred in the African American gay community; and “Bitch,” a one-note in-joke for gay bargoers. “Weak Species” was a worthy finale, as deviously witty as its title suggests.

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