By Jeff Walsh
"Dante's Cove" is a sexy, gothic, campy soap opera that combines elements of Melrose Place, any horror movie involving centuries-old legends and spells, and Queer as Folk. Watching the first season on DVD (a second has already run on here! TV, and a third season has been ordered), my first impression is that watching this with a group of people would have definitely heightened the experience, primarily because it is the kind of movie that begs for people to cry out in disbelief, but at the same time it walks the line fine enough to pull off the whole crazy premise.
In a nutshell, a woman catches her groom-to-be having (graphic) sex with another man in the 1840s. Sadly for him, she has magical powers and sentences him to spend eternity in a sub-basement of the house chained up until some "handsome young man" kisses him. But then, she makes him look into the mirror to see that he is no longer the striking gay lothario he formerly was, but a wrinkled old coot with crazy-long grey hair. Somehow the inability of no one to find him there in the first place is now compounded by the fact that no one would want to kiss him anyway? But this isn't the kind of show where you sit around and dwell on these things for too long.
Cut to the present day, and we see Kevin a... hmm, "handsome young man," who decides to move to Dante's Cove to be with his boyfriend Toby. Toby lives with a gaggle of queer and queer-friendly roommates in the same house where old whatshisface has been locked in the basement for the past 150+ years. They all mention to Kevin that the place is rumored to be haunted, but apparently only Kevin hears voices beckoning him to the sub-basement. Will he go? What will happen if he does? Find out for yourself.
Dante's Cove handles the balancing act pretty well by intercutting the supernatural story with sex scenes, similar in tone and exposure level to Queer as Folk (right down to having a token lesbian sex scene, girls!). It does make you wonder how they're able to bang one out after some of the weird, haunted stuff, but maybe they're just using it as a way to think of something else? Honestly? Who cares? All the guys are pretty darn hot and the scenes, despite all of the carefully situated legs and such getting in the way, even try to get some plot advancement in with the pillow talk. And the main relationship does have some sweetness to it, you do see them trying to make the relationship work, despite the "obstacles."
But overall, the cast seemed to have fun with it all, the script (although highly unbelievable) didn't collapse under the weight of its own nonsense, and they ended the season (a stretch calling two TV movie length "episodes" a season) with a cliffhanger that makes you wonder what will happen next. I did hear that with Season 2, they got a little more budget, as it seemed they were stretched pretty thin on this version. All of the stuff from the 1840s just looked like modern people wearing period clothes without as much as a different film effect, and the special effects was more like someone's pupils glowing red than anything else.
So if you want to see a gay supernatural campy dramatic show with hot R-rated sex scenes, this may be the only show in town, but that doesn't mean it's not worth checking out.