Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Haunting 3 : Conclusion of a Milestone in Erotica

Ricky Roman and Arnaud Chagall. Courtesy Cockyboys
NOTE: Whether I am reviewing a book or film, my interest is in appreciating the artfulness and quality of a work, not in blind praise or unfair criticisms. It is my humble hope that through this discussion of plotting as it relates to this film, writers and anyone who deals in narrative as art, can find something valuable to keep. I hope that I can offer the viewer/reader something to think about, and all creators something to consider for future projects. For me, part of supporting fellow artists is giving a fair and honest review of their work; that is a personal ethic that I take seriously. The following review is not PG-rated; if you are offended by sexually explicit language, do not read it. 

This review contains a few spoilers; please do not let those dissuade you from viewing the episode! If you haven't seen Episode 3, please view it before reading.  


"Gay porn awards shows don't give out awards for videography, editing, scores, and scripts, but if they did, this is where all the nominations would come from." - The Sword, review of The Haunting

The final installment of Jake Jaxson's innovative, courageous, and beautifully-made three part gay porn film for Cockyboys, The Haunting, was released today to much anticipation - not only from loyal fans and curious porn aficionados, but from many professionals in the porn industry.  Jaxson in the past year has established Cockyboys firmly as the studio to watch: not only are the short videos increasingly decorated  with the characteristics that set them off from others in the gay porn world as something different, forward-thinking and classy, but his series Project Gogo Boy and The Haunting, are such a stretch from the standard and norm, that they have made many a jaw drop. Beyond the merits of the individual episode or the individual series, Jaxson has indisputably and forever  changed the industry - something for which he can be hugely proud. If he keeps this up, he will force gay porn, and eventually hetero porn, to increasingly consider questions of production quality - and the combination of coherent, intelligent plot with erotica.

I believe that I am the only non-porn blog to review The Haunting. (See my review of Parts 1 and 2.)  Consequently, my review is a bit different: others look at the porn, the camerawork, perhaps the overall production.  I look at the production, and the plot and narrative quality.  I have brought such reviews to this blog because I believe that we have begun our way down an important path - with Jake Jaxson at the helm - at the end of which we will see quality literary narrative merge with explicit sex scenes. And why not? It has happened in literature - we have seen story and explicit sex scene merge in the past decade as never before in the world of books.

Courtesy Cockyboys.
Now, whether we have seen it merge successfully all that often is up for debate. But to have moved forward is enormous! I don't believe that every book needs a sex scene: however, I do believe that - sex being a basic and integral element of human experience - it is not only acceptable and legitimate but healthy, that we as a society have come to the point where books can be beautifully-written, narratively sound, and contain sex scenes that advance and enhance the plot and the reader's experience.  The same should be true of film. Sure, mainstream feature film has given us cheap sex scenes for some time now; sexually explicit in a healthy sense? - I would argue "no". Too many are gratuitous, have little to do directly with advancing plot in any meaningful way, and God forbid we see male frontal nudity. Forget a quality gay sex scene. We have a long, long way to go.

For me, The Haunting Part 3: A Kiss Before Goodnight, was the most challenging of the three installments of this film. Jaxson had previously established with Part 1 a storyline involving flashes into the past, and a strong tie-in with a narrative involving the present. Scenes involving past flashbacks were infused with an old-fashioned feel - accomplished by strains of classical music, soft-focus camera-work, vintage clothing, and antique artifacts - that served both to draw the viewer into the story and add to the creepiness of the storyline. In the ending seconds of both Part 1 and Part 2, there was a startling surprise of a moment that quickened the viewer's heartbeat (and believe me, I'm not exaggerating that!) and set up questions about the next installment. It was genius: fans were engaged through the weeks in between releases.

The viewer's expectation, then, going into Part 3, was a tidy resolution of plot, more creepiness, and the continuation of the mood set in Parts 1 and 2, and of course some quality explicit sex. This third expectation was granted. It's the first two I wish to address, again from the point of view as one whose life is literature.

(Warning: Spoiler!) Narrative tension exists when a conflict is established and draws the viewer/reader along to the end. That may be the "end" of an episode or the end of a series. Timing is everything, and in the world of literature as in the world of film, it is something that takes practice. In Parts 1 and 2, Jaxson's plot design was near-flawless: even as the reader was watching the scenes unfold, he or she was wondering what, whom, why - it never stopped. Right up until the last startling, mesmerizing moment. Here in Part 3, however, the mystery that drove Parts 1 and 2 is revealed and explained in literally the first few minutes, ending narrative tension. Now Jaxson might argue - and I think rightly - that he was trying to then shift the tension to another conflict - that of an artist who finds his well of creative inspiration empty.  I have to admit, I didn't get this clearly: I was a little surprised to find it in Jaxson's introductory note to the episode: I had been so anxious to view the episode that I hadn't read it until I was 2/3 of the way through viewing the film. I thought "Really?"  I don't know if a little more in the way of showing the private life of the artist, revealing what others gossiped about him, or dialog, would have helped; as a writer I could think of several ways to accomplish it. The point is, this conflict - which could have and should have replaced the first and driven the entire episode from there - was not clearly established. It is a shame, because it reduced this episode to more porn film than a plot-driven erotica piece, as were the first two.

Roman, Chagall. Courtesy Cockyboys.
The biggest issue was the lead character himself. One thing that is difficult for a writer to learn is that a lead character must be sympathetic: he may be a pig, but he must demonstrate that he is human, understandable and relatable, and worthy of pity if not respect. If he is not three-dimensional in this sense, the audience is not interested in him. The lead character here, artist Klaus Heist (played earnestly and adeptly by Christian Wilde), is not a nice person: that is all well and good. The problem is that Klaus has no redeeming quality, nothing that allows us to understand him, relate to him, or care what happens to him. As a viewer, I got excited when I saw a spark of something late in the film - when a few paint strokes upon his canvas incite a vision experience in which he sees the past and what has happened in the house. I thought that it would somehow have an effect on him, that he would finally have some revelation and exhibit an iota of humanity.

This brings us to the second element necessary in successful plot, besides conflict: there must be change. Usually, this change must happen to the lead character or characters: he or she must experience a revelation, make a decision, take an unexpected turn. If it had been clear that Klaus Heist was struggling with his inspiration, and if it had been clear that the vision led to his successful resolution of that problem, the plot would have worked. As it was, we are given a decidedly unpleasant lead character, with dubious conflict (certainly none that we care about), and a merely interesting moment that should have led to resolution.

It is very difficult for a writer - or a filmmaker - to clearly see a difference between what he understands about his own plot, and what the reader/viewer will be able to glean.  How many hints to you give? When are you being too obtuse? And what is the point at which you pound the audience over the head and insult intelligence?  The work of an artist is to learn what these boundaries are, and that comes with experience.

There were other things that were very interesting indeed about this film. Particularly intriguing was the dichotomy between the two sex scenes. Both were very drawn-out but never less than hot, and Jaxson used them to make a point about sex and pornography. In the first, unlikeable lead character Heist seduces - through intimidation as much as heat - the young real estate agent (Max Ryder - in a really nice performance) selling him the house. This scene occurs very early in the film. Heist is a practiced lover, but not a very passionate - or COMpassionate one. He is one of those you see in porn films, where if he were in your bedroom, after five minutes of the near-continuous degrading, demeaning, and decidedly mean-spirited dirty banter, you would be tempted to slap him and scream "Just shut up for chrissakes!". It's enough to make you lose a hard-on. (Well, you know what I mean.)  It was so excessive that I wasn't sure whether I wanted to giggle or scream at the screen; that combined with the coldness established by the lead character, made me want to fast forward through the scene. But I sat tight and trusted Jaxson's instinct, and I was right to do so: at the end of the scene, Heist throws a towel at the young agent and spits out a chilly, "Now clean up and get out", leaving the young man hurt and confounded. (Ryder is excellent here - the emotion on his face is subtle but convincing - you feel used for him.)

In the second scene, which occurs at the end of the film and takes place within Heist's vision of the past, and between lovers Raif and Joe (played quite competently and movingly both in this episode and previous, by Arnaud Chagall and Ricky Roman, respectively - lesser actors in these roles would have altered the effectiveness of the films greatly), the romance is palpable, the mood quite different. Here, the occasional dirty talk is done lovingly, in stark contrast to the previous sex scene. This enormous contrast provides considerable food for thought, both about the porn world and about sexual human nature.

Self-portrait, Jake Jaxson, 2012.
I missed the creepiness factor in this episode. The storyline which provided it was gone when the mystery was blurted out early.  After that, we seemed to be taken in a direction in which we hadn't traveled before, which was never creepy and much less interesting. I wonder if a few minutes of ending - both to show the change evolution in the lead character and to revisit the poignancy of the love story shown in the earlier episodes - would have wrapped this all up more successfully.

The same high-quality production values that were present in the first two episodes of The Haunting are evident in this one: soft, gold-tinged lighting, alteration of focus to change mood, very competent acting from amateur performers, beautiful setting and music. In earlier episodes the beauty of the decor and the soothing nature of classical music made a stark contrast with the tension of the ghost story. Here, without much ghost story, these elements were simply a pretty setting.

I want to emphasize that which I said in my earlier article on The Haunting: watching this will amaze you. Early in the hours after the release of Part 3, Zachary Sire wrote in a review for the gay porn blog The Sword that "...Cockyboys' Haunting finale should make other gay porn studios very, very scared . . . no other studio is taking adult film to places . . . that it's never been before." Sire is right. Jaxson has dared to tread on untested ground: explicit, story-driven erotica and good quality filmmaking can be successfully combined, and he has proven it.
“Gay porn awards shows don’t give out awards for videography, editing, scores, and scripts, but if they did, this is where all the nominations would come from.” - See more at:

Watching this film is fascinating, thought-provoking, and hot. Considering the overall package - episodes 1-3 of The Haunting - Jaxson has established himself not only as an innovator in his industry, but as a storyteller and innovative filmmaker. As is true with any artist of unusual creative vision, or any filmmaker of talent, he can only get better and better, his vision can only stretch further and to new, even more unexpected limits. I can't wait to see what he does next: it's guaranteed to be no less than inspiring.


The three episodes will be available soon on DVD as a complete film. Check in coming months for details. 
no other studio is taking adult film to places like…well…places that it’s never been before. - See more at:"
CockyBoys’ Haunting Finale Should Make Other Gay Porn Studios Very, Very Scared - See more at:

See the official trailer for The Haunting.  The trailer for Part 3 alone is here.

The price of a trial membership at is well worth seeing these films for literary and film-making merit as well as for some beautiful men doing what they do best.

Visit Cockyboys and Jake Jaxson on Twitter at @cockyboys .
See Jake Jaxson's website at


  1. Jake Jaxson would very much like to hear what people think about the above discussion! Please feel free to comment excessively. :)

  2. Who would ever have thought the day would come that we have a serious discussion about a gay porn production on a writer's blog? Yet, here we are, earnestly discussing the filmmaking values & storyline of The Haunting Part 3.

    Whilst I don’t really feel qualified to contribute in any way, I’m going to give it a go anyway.

    On the porn side of things, I liked it far more than I thought I might because up until now I have not been a huge fan of either Christian or Max when it comes to the sex, yet I enjoy them both as people and like their personalities as I see them, in their social networking enviroments & other things such as cam shows and so on. I actually quite enjoyed their scene, I thought it was one of the better ones I've seen Max in, not that it's been that many because I simply don't watch him all that often, and Christian was Christian, probably more involved in this scene than some others I've watched him in. The sex was good, the scene was great! I thought both characters were brilliantly portrayed.

    The other 2 surprised me, I usually find Arnaud to be a bit subdued for my liking in normal scenes, but he has been wonderful in this. I loved his submissiveness at the beginning of the scene, he was so beautiful, I really enjoyed watching him. Ricky was great, I found something in him I hadn’t noticed before and the whole scene was pretty damn hot in the end. I loved their interaction in the other moments also, they have both been excellent in their respective parts in the whole production, parts 1, 2 &3.

    The Heist part in the middle was interesting, Christian did a fabulous job for someone who is not a professional actor as such. He was perfect for this character. I enjoyed his performance thoroughly. Max was great too, he was very Max.

    I sort of felt the story was over at the start because that’s when we had the resolution, the reveal, maybe it could have been interspersed differently, and perhaps a more poignant ending as it was a sad tale. The ending was a bit of a let down, I just wanted a tiny bit more of ………… something (so sue me, I’m a woman, I need drama & romance dammit!)

    Bravo to all of the actors in all 3 parts, they have been amazing, as have all of the production staff involved at all levels.

    I've read your review, it is a very professional review of the film as an actual whole production and has valid points. It will be interesting to see what sort of feedback you get to it. Of course people are going to say that you've taken it too seriously, and it is a porn film not cinema, but really, it all depends on what exactly Jake Jaxson is trying to achieve here, doesn't it? If he is taking his films that step further and wants to be even more serious about his filmmaking, I feel your points are valid and constructive and will be construed as such.

    I'm also looking forward to reading other's views.

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your analysis of The Haunting. Seeing the production evolve from start to finish, it's very hard to step out of yourself to analyze it from the perspective on the viewer. Most often there's a point where it's impossible for those involved in the production to do so. So to be able to read this and step outside of our bubble analyze it from the world of a viewer and writer is really important.

    I really enjoyed reading your praises as well as your critiques, and I definitely learned a lot of very important things reading this. The fact that you started this discussion in the first place fulfilled Jake's goal with this film-- that we're able to discuss this film in relation to film and literature, rather than have it rated from the benchmark of just another porn scene.

    Thank you Lichen!


    Benny Morecock

  4. I think you have made a great point, Benny. In writing a book, it's hard to see clearly too - we often rely on "beta readers" to help us get perspective on the finished book and make necessary changes. Funny how when you are "inside" a long project you lose perspective a bit.

  5. Hi Lichen,

    I'd love it if you'd email me at
    I really enjoyed your comment on my blog post about human sexuality and would like to know more about the book you wrote.

    Christian Wilde


Please keep your comments civil. Thanks!