"Hard," a strident, grisly thriller about a gay serial killer in Los Angeles who plays fiendish cat-and-mouse games with a closeted gay cop assigned to his case, isn't exactly the Jeffrey Dahmer story, although there are some obvious similarities. The killer, Jack (Malcolm Moorman), a handsome super-macho type who preys on young hustlers, drifters and hitchhikers, doesn't store his victims' body parts in a refrigerator in anticipation of tasty cannibalistic treats.
The few victims who aren't garroted and castrated after being tortured and sodomized are transported to the cavernous basement of an abandoned theater where they are bound, gagged and strung up like slabs of meat to await further torture and possible execution.
The movie, directed by John Huckert, might be described as a crude, independently produced corrective to "Cruising," William Friedkin's ludicrous homosexual horror film of 1980. "Hard" isn't ludicrous, just unrelentingly grim and depressing. Almost as villainous as the serial killer in the world of "Hard" are the Los Angeles police officers the movie portrays as rabid homophobes.
The film's main character, Raymond (Noel Palomaria), is a freshman homicide detective who is deep in the closet when the story begins. While investigating the slaying and mutilation of a gay man, Raymond visits a bar patronized by the victim and encounters Jack, who, intuiting Raymond's homosexuality, aggressively pursues him, eventually breaking down his defenses. The two go home to Raymond's for sex. But when the detective awakens in the morning, he finds himself handcuffed to the bed. Instead of releasing Raymond, Jack makes off with his police badge and taunts him to come find him. When the detective's straight, hard-boiled police partner, Ellis (Charles Lanyer), shows up, Raymond's secret is out. Ellis is the only male officer to stand by Raymond, who is taunted and beaten up by two fellow cops. A subplot follows Jack's seduction of a married man (Michael Waite). Moving into the man's house as a supposed guest, Jack menaces his host's young son and arranges for the boy's mother to catch him in flagrante with her husband.
"Hard" is a nasty piece of work whose sadism and visual fixation on bluish, blood-stained corpses recalls David Fincher's "Seven".