Queer horror films exist because horror is queer! Not only does it explore ‘otherness’ but some of the most impactful and celebrated horror films and books were created by queer people. Never let anyone tell you otherwise!
The term ‘queer horror’ means many things to many people, and it has a long and sometimes painful history. For me, queer horror is any story that takes place in a queer space, where the main characters are self-identifying members of the LGBTQ+ community. Other people include books and films that have queer subtext, which is valid of course, but I find the stories that are explicitly queer to be much more empowering and inspiring as a gay person.
The five films listed below are meant to be a starter pack or some gateway films to introduce you to queer horror and with the spooky season upon us, what better time than now to dive in?
Lovelorn Eddie (Dylan Fergus) is joined by his three best friends Chaz, Joey, and Tobey at the West Hollywood Halloween parade and carnival, even though a crazed killer nicknamed ‘Devil Daddy’ is on the loose decapitating people.
We follow the boys’ exploits, hookups, and lack thereof until Eddie runs into Jake. Eddie had been cruising Jake earlier in the day and they decide to go on an impromptu date after bumping into one another. At this point, the group parts ways and Devil Daddy begins to pick them off one by one. Who will survive? And what (if anything) will be left of them?
Reasons to Watch:
Paul Etheredge’s Hellbent is credited as one of the first gay slasher films. Of all the movies on this list, this is the most likely one for you to have seen. It is a straightforward slasher flick with a simple plot and that is why it works. It is just fun! There is no deeper meaning to be found and it is celebrated because it was one of the first horror movies to feature all queer characters (Chaz is bi after all) doing queer things without an explanation or apology.
Watch Hellbent for free using code Stan666 at HereTV.
Thelma is a young woman from a conservative Christian background who is on her own for the first time in college. As she struggles to adapt to campus life, another student named Anja befriends her. Anja awakens sexual urges in Thelma which results in her having seizures which thereby release hidden psychokinetic powers.
The more she falls in love with Anja, the more extreme her powers manifest themselves due to the guilt she feels as a result of her religious upbringing. She soon learns that she can literally alter reality and does something unintentionally disastrous which sends her back home to her father to get some help and some answers.
Apparently, this power is nothing new for Thelma and a combination of religion and her controlling father helped to both keep it at bay and repress the memory of it. Now they must work together again to reign those destructive powers back in before she can hurt anyone else.
Reasons to Watch:
Thelma is a Norwegian horror thriller by director Jaochim Trier. I tend to shy away from traumatic coming out stories but this one is done in such a deliberate and powerful way that enables me to withstand that sadness seen on screen. It’s a coming-of-age story where the mental turmoil and confusion of discovering oneself is projected outward instead of inward. It’s a slow-paced but beautiful film filled with symbolism and features an excellent performance by Eili Harboe as Thelma. If you are not into gore and jump scares, then this is a good movie to start with from this list.
Watch Thelma for free on Tubi (US Only)
Knife + Heart (Un Couteau Dans Le Coeur) (2018)
Anne is a lesbian who produces gay porn in Paris in the summer of 1979. As she tries to win back her ex-lover Lois, a masked killer begins to kill off her crop of adult male stars.
Reasons to Watch:
Yann Gonzalez is the director and co-writer (with Cristiano Mangione) of this period piece this is above all things a queer Giallo movie. Giallo movies refer to Italian police procedural/ murder mystery horror films where the kills are extravagant, and the storylines are often non-sensical and over the top. The sub-genre peaked in the 1970’s and are the films that horror greats Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci are most celebrated for. Knife + Heart is Gonzalez’s love letter to the giallo films he loves, written from a gay point of view. His use of color, framing, and shot choice is all a reflection of that and serves as a visual feast for the eyes.
The movie explores all types of love. There is obsessive love, unrequited love, and the love of friendship and chosen family. Without giving anything away, it is indeed love that ends up being the primary motivator for the killer; but not in the cliché way you would expect.
The movie stars French actress, singer, and model Vanessa Paradis as Anne. She really commits to the role in a visceral way that enables us to still like the character even though she is deeply flawed. Her love story with Lois is tragic and relatable, as is her downward spiral resulting from her failed attempts to repair their relationship. Her love for and acceptance of her boys on the porn set is touching as she takes it upon herself to hunt down and draw out the killer when the cops fail to do anything to help.
All in all, it’s a gripping story with some cool kills and a really engaging storyline. Some see it as seedy given the porn element, but rest assured there is no x-rated material in this movie.
Other highlights include Nicolas Maury as Archie and the killer’s weapon of choice – which is too good to spoil. You’ll have to see it to believe it!
Rent Knife + Heart on Amazon US.
Duke (Diana Hopper) is the leader of an all-female vampire gang. She’s fairly lenient, as long as you follow her rules; the primary one being that her girls are never to sire a male vampire because they cannot handle the power and responsibility. She has good reason to feel this way too.
Laurel (Nicole Maines), new to LA and fresh out of high school, meets Duke and company at a club. After hooking up with gang member Izzy, she is turned into a vampire instead of being used for food. Duke ends up seeing potential in Laurel and decides to try and bring her into the fold and teach her their ways. Things start off well enough but eventually, Laurel begins to have a crisis of conscience over feeding on humans. This leads her to clash with Duke on an ever-increasing basis, ultimately causing her to question Duke’s leadership. It all comes to a head when Laurel’s brother is mortally wounded, and she has to either obey Duke or lose her brother.
Reasons to Watch:
Bit is something very special. It’s a vampire movie that turns the tropes on its head. It is definitely more about gender politics, power struggles, and corruption as opposed to the traditional male-centric tales of seduction and conquest that we’ve become accustomed to in this sub-genre.
In addition, this is a horror film centered on a transgender character which makes it wonderfully unique. The film beautifully handles Laurel’s gender identity by having Duke reaffirm Laurel for who she is just by inviting her into the gang. It’s subtle and a great piece of storytelling from writer and director Brad Michael Elmore.
It is most definitely worth your time and attention.
Watch Bit for free on Vudu (US Only)
Death Drop Gorgeous (2020)
Mutilated bodies are being found drained of all their blood in Providence, Rhode Island. The only thing linking the victims is that they are all somehow related to a gay club called The Outhouse. Will the cops catch the predator before its too late?
Reasons to Watch:
I have to confess right now that this is one of my all-time favorites for a variety of reasons. For starters, this movie is written, directed by, and starring, the unholy trio of Michael J Ahern (Detective O’Hara), Christopher Dalpe (Brian), and Brandon Perras (Tony Two Fingers). Since this is a queer movie made by actual queer people, the writing and dialogue clicks in a way not often seen when straight people try and tell our stories. It feels very authentic, and you will not be able to help but recognize all these characters from your own life and experience.
The movie features Payton St James as Gloria Hole, an aging drag queen trying to remain relevant in the Providence drag scene. Through Gloria, the film explores our attitude as a community towards our elders and how they are often ignored and pushed aside. The film also tackles what it means to be a single person of color in the modern dating scene through the bartender Dwayne (portrayed by Wayne Gonsalves). The movie manages to cover both of these important issues with appropriate pathos while being wildly entertaining.
Social commentary aside, this film also delivers on the gore factor. The kill scenes are impressive! There is one kill in particular that will stay with you long after the film ends thanks to the talents of Dragula alumnist Victoria Elizabeth Black, and Scott C Miller. It’s a bloody good time.
Death Drop Gorgeous succeeds at being hilarious, poignant, gnarly, and most importantly, a lot of fun to watch! Plus, there’s a cameo from horror icon Linnea Quigley if all that isn’t enough!
Stream Death Drop Gorgeous on Shudder.
There is something so powerful about seeing yourself on the big screen. For a long time, queer horror fans had to settle for less than stellar representation in the genre they love. Often times we were portrayed in a stereotypical fashion or as deranged and damaged people. We could only ever hope to be a throwaway victim in these films or the crazed killer whose murderous impulses were linked to our queerness.
Thankfully, horror is moving away from these shameful and damaging tropes. The five movies listed above serve as proud examples of this change. My sincere hope is that you will take a look at these films and be thrilled enough to seek out more like them. Because believe me, there is so much more!!
Cheers to a terrifying spooky season and have a Happy Halloween!!