June is Pride Month. It’s a special time of year where everyone is encouraged to celebrate equality and diversity. In the LGBTQ community, it’s also a time to remember the roots of the gay rights movement. June 28th, 1969 was the day that the Stonewall riots started, when homosexuals stood up for equal rights.
We’ve seen strides forward in cultural equality, and with that, more positive portrayals of gay characters in the media. No longer are stereotypical gay characters used just for a comic relief, but now they are being seen as common, and normal. Just about any character in a TV series or feature film could be gay, and even those that are not cis-gendered, heteronormative characters are real, not just over-the-top caricatures to be laughed at or killed off.
Gay horror fans have seen more queer-centric characters popping up in horror movies lately. Movies like BEAR CREEK, PITCHFORK, and CONTRACTED are just some of them. My personal favorite LGBTQ-themed horror movies would have to be CRUISING, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE, HIGH TENSION, and HELLBENT. I believe that representation is important, and as a gay horror fan, I expect more inclusive, smart, and subversive queer cinema. Witnessing the increasing representation of the LGBTQ community in horror films got me wondering what other people’s best-loved gay-themed horror films were. I reached out to different creative professionals to find out what their favorites are, and why. Here are their responses.
In my years running the BOY, BEARS, AND SCARES website, I’ve dug up so much gay horror goodness it was difficult to narrow it down. I went with these five recent films for being out and proud. First is the 2011 film BITE MARKS because it’s specifically gay horror, is bloody funny and sexy scary, and has shirtless vampire boys in the same, um, vein as my own gay horror novels. Up next, two zombie flicks with lovable lead gay characters—the gay guy in the zomcom BUCK WILD (2011) is goofy cute, comical, and spends most of the film almost naked, which is in complete contrast to the kickass yet vulnerable gay hero of the retro cool zombie film DEAD INSIDE (2016). And finally, there are the burly men representing gay raunch in horror: CONDEMNED (2015) is like a sleazy version of QUARANTINE and features a nasty-hot BDSM beefcake couple, while the 2016 zombie spoof RANGE 15 stars real military men making a movie for a good cause…and being so politically incorrect and homoerotically inappropriate that they’d be discharged from the army if DODT was still in effect.
MALCOLM INGRAM (director, SMALL TOWN GAY BAR)
David Cronenberg’s CRASH is a horrific, beautiful and brilliant film that shook me to the core. It may not be directly LGBT….but it’s queer as fuck.
I also adore Peaches Christ’s ALL ABOUT EVIL, a lovingly told ode to the genre. Peaches, please make more!
JAY LENDER (directer, THEY’RE WATCHING)
Are you kidding me?! This question is internet suicide! Horror hates everything about sex, let alone gender identity. I suppose James Cameron’s ALIENS offered a less hostile view than most, especially in its day, because it completely uncoupled sexuality and gender from value — nobody on the Sulaco cares who you fuck or what parts you have as long as you can shoot straight.
Setting aside politics for a moment, I guess a highlight (lowlight?) in LGBTQ horror would have to be THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Transsexuality is apparently so revolting that we’re rooting for the cannibal. I suppose they make up for it a bit by letting a lesbian be the good… er… guy.
Honorable mention must, of course, go to DEAD RINGERS, for making masturbation, cake and orange pop forever gay. Yikes — someone get me out of this political minefield!
ROBERT TAGLIAPIETRA (fashion designer, JC#RT)
When I was a teenager I spent every weekend either at the video store in town next to the McDonald’s or at the local multiplex attempting to consume every single horror movie available. THE NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series, however, held a very special place in my heart — it was campy, it was gory and it was strange. Part three was the first I saw in the theater, part the one I watched on HBO without my parents knowing, and part two was rented at the aforementioned video store. It wasn’t long into part two before I realized that Nancy was not going to appear in this one, and it felt more like a fucked-up John Hughes coming out movie that never happened that also somehow became a horror movie with Mr. Krueger. That gay bar scene, alone much like the one in POLICE ACADEMY or CRUISING (yes I somehow snuck that one in junior high video viewing as well), left my 13-year-old self questioning so much. Now on rewatching, I can’t believe anyone can believe this isn’t some huge horror coming-out story… and I still love it!
ANTHONY BROWNLEE (producer, FREDHEADS: THE DOCUMENTARY)
Horror is many things — it scares you, traps you in the moment, makes you laugh, has the ability to be open in many different ways, and lets us explore ‘what if.’
Growing up in the ’90s, there were dozens of horror films circulating, and I got my fix of ’70s and ’80s horror through various outlets, like TNT’s MONSTER VISION and USA’s UP ALL NIGHT. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE actually came out the year I was born and I never saw it until I was eight. It was radically different from the first NIGHTMARE film (which I had seen first) and being so young I didn’t quite grasp the subtext that was underlying the film, not until I hit my teenage years did I pick up on the gay-themed tones. I thought it was more interesting the older I got; a taboo subject like this for an ‘eighties film where it wasn’t popular to do so, I thought it was bold, and I think it was a film before its time and it gave a lot to the horror community. I have to give it up to Mark Patton for playing the pivotal role of Jesse Walsh and letting himself be so vulnerable in a role that other actors may have run from; the diverse character types and situations that were introduced were definitely a landmark to be introduced to genre and to something as big as a Freddy Krueger film.
Another horror film that grabbed me was 2006’s OCTOBER MOON, directed by Jason Paul Collum. The film was blatantly queer, not afraid to break the rules and expand the rules of horror. The characters were real, not stereotypical, and they experienced real-life problems. The film is one that brought horror to the forefront when obsession, stalking, and forlorn characters are intertwined to create a real, breathing human monster. The ideals of religion and what society wants make a deadly combination for one young man, who tries to come to terms with who he is and who he thinks he’s supposed to be; all of which pretty much made this film a horror parable and very unique horror cinema.
B. HARRISON SMITH (director, DEATH HOUSE)
I chose 2011’s INTO THE LION’S DEN. I know the screenwriter [Philip Malaczewski] and when I finished reading his script, I said I would love the chance to direct, but unfortunately I did not get a chance to direct Phillip’s script. It was poignant and a truly terrifying social horror. It was a road trip with DELIVERANCE and a little Tarantino thrown in. His script had something to say and it wasn’t just a “gay movie” and most of all, it avoided the bad stereotypes and cliches.
Unfortunately, the final film doesn’t turn out that way. A staple of heterosexual horror is “the hot chick” and all hot chicks have to get naked or undressed in some way. Before the feminist-minded start decrying me as a sexist pig, imagine any FRIDAY THE 13th with no nudity.
Turnabout is fair play and INTO THE LION’S DEN knows to show off its trophy guy, Ronnie Kroell. Whether sporting tight black briefs or full-on front nudity, the guy also gives a layered performance of a young man facing his mortality from HIV.
What could’ve been a DELIVERANCE ends up “HOSTEL: The Bad Version.” When you have to show extreme close-ups of a hypodermic needle going into a guy’s dick (no different than 1981’s HALLOWEEN II with the hypo in the eyeball), you’ve shown you have nothing to say. You can make your audience squirm in better ways and I say the same if it were a woman bound to that table. I am straight and don’t want to see a woman tortured in closeup, no matter how hot she is.
INTO THE LION’S DEN degrades into a geek show and squanders some good actors and mishandled a truly terrific social horror script. I would like a shot at a remake.
SIMON BAMFORD (actor, HELLRAISER)
I was lucky enough to see Peaches Christ’s movie ALL ABOUT EVIL at a film festival in Vienna. With a wickedly sinister plot, it has the audience both falling about laughing and rooting for the villains. It stars Cassandra Peterson in a non-Elvira role.
Coming soon is the DARK DITTIES series: Episode 1 has HELLRAISER’s Nick Vince as a gay failed theatrical actor, whilst Episode 3 (which only wrapped principal photography this week) includes a gay couple who run the local garage and village store. I’m biased, as I’m working on all six episodes, but they are really excellent, twisted, dark, and gory. A rainbow of filth.
When given the opportunity to write a few words about my favorite LGBT or LGBT-ish Horror Film I was salivating with delight. I thought at first I’d write about my favorite horror film, ROSEMARY’S BABY, but except for the story of Frank’s ex saying about Sinatra marrying Mia Farrow — “I always knew he’d end up with a boy” — there wasn’t a very gay angle. Then I thought of the operatic, nefarious terror of NOSFERATU, made by the German Homosexual F.W. Murnau, but dismissed that for being impossible to capture.
Then I thought of CARRIE, but who didn’t? The ultimate outsider, I figured there’d be another CARRIE or two in the bunch. That girl had spunk.
But then my mind turned to dirty, rough, sweaty, butch homosex, as it often does in late Spring and the rest of the seasons, so of course it was minutes before CRUISING started playing in my mind. That’s it, I thought — although technically not a horror film, I suppose, it has most of the elements you’d find in a more traditional horror movie that has a young girl being knifed to pieces by a cabin in the woods.
I was in my early twenties when I started following the Arthur Bell pieces in the Village Voice, urging folks to take to the street and shut down the production of the film. We had riotous protests running through our blood and this was one more I viewed from far away.
It was thought that this would be the worst depiction of gays on screen to date. This at a time when there were no non-negative depictions, but don’t wish too hard, for not long after that, the positive depictions started blooming. Now I swear I’ll go Trotsky to the eyeballs if I see one more sweet, innocent, coming-out while coming-of-age story of two wholesome soccer-playing youth. But back then, we wanted that. And we didn’t want to see us being killed. I was cheering the protests – it seemed like power. Time changes everything, and now I would not feel the same way, but that is the fun of growing older — watching everything you know turn out to be wrong.
Thankfully, I had enough sense to go check out the movie when it was released. If I was going to bitch about it, I should know what I was bitching about. I went expecting to hate it, to be offended when that was more of an occasional mood than a lifestyle. Still, I figured it had Al Pacino and it was made by the guy who did THE EXORCIST, it had to have some value. But yeah, I still figured I would hate it.
But I didn’t hate it. I loved it. It made me tense up. It frightened me. It excited me. It turned me on. I had me rocking in my seat to the incredible music by folks like Germs, Mutiny, and Willy DeVille. But my most overwhelming thought when it was over was “That is MY life.” It was the first accurate depiction I had seen of the sex and drugs and leather scene I had grown quite fond of and still think back on with nothing but the best thoughts. And there was always a danger to it. The danger was part of the excitement, which is something I don’t think young LGBT folks will ever know. Not that we wanted to be killed — that struck terror in my heart. But it was not a reflection we liked to face very often, the reflection that the film shows. That dance with danger. The killer may be inside of us all. Certainly not the first film to come to that conclusion, but the gayest one.
This movie was based on a real case — actually, a couple of them. We were disposable. No one missed us. We got what we deserved. I don’t think showing that is a negative portrayal of gay life — I think it is a negative portrayal of the rest of the world.
Now it is a little time capsule of an era and a place that will never exist again. We will never again have the sexuality in the center of our movement, as we did at one time — heck, there doesn’t seem to be ANY sexuality to our movement now. We are as pure as those teenage boys in love in the newer movies.
I did a monthly celebration of pop, gay, camp, underground, and trash culture in Seattle called The Gay Uncle Time. Each month was a different theme. I used CRUISING as the theme for one show. I told the story of the making of the film and the overview of the story, the actual murders and went from there. I invited a few of the local leather boys with beautiful bodies to come and writhe and feel one another while dancing in the background as I told part of my story. For a brief moment, I was right back there again.
The story of murders in the gay community taking me right back to one of the happiest times of my life. Now that is good filmmaking.
Right before I sat down to write this, I got a message from a friend in town. He is down two hosts for a monthly film series he puts on. He was wondering if I could fill in — the movie will be CRUISING. Just a little kiss of kismet and a few fresh blows with the whip.
NICHOLAS VINCE (actor, HELLRAISER)
My choice is HELLBENT (2004), directed by Paul Etheredge.
I recently had the pleasure of introducing this to an audience of both gay and straight people and they loved it! It’s a damn good slasher film, where the protagonists happen to be unashamedly gay — having fun at Halloween in West Hollywood.
I was first attracted by the video box, which showed a young man with a scythe blade about to pierce his eye. Then I spotted how the serial killer is a hunky guy stripped to his waist and wearing a devil mask. The reason why I recommend it, though, is that the characters are well rounded, there is plenty of tension and gore, and when someone dies, you care.
ANGUS MAPLE (adult film star, SWINEY’S PRO-AM)
ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW! Is there any antagonist in cinema history cooler than Dr Frank-N-Furter? Divine, kinky, arch, unapologetically transgressive, and cool AF! The good doctor occupies a rare space in the pantheon of “B” movie characters; he wins you over to his way of thinking. He may be selfish and vain, but he has the chops and earns it. His entourage of weirdos and freaks buzz around him like flies in monster makeup. Straight laced Brad and Janet easily fall under his wicked charms and sexy wiles. Even Dr. Scott succumbs to the subversive vibe with his paralyzed legs sporting fishnets and high heels. Frank-N-Furter is his own Frankenstein’s monster, with parts stolen from Bowie, Gay chic, Cabaret, and winking salaciousness! God he was sexy, even to a straight Northeastern geek male like myself!
The thing is he’s RIGHT! Frank-N-Furter is living his own truth to the hilt! The pool orgy draws your attention, but the hypnotic chorus of “Don’t dream it, be it!” locks you in. Then, when you’re vibing on the sensuality, he blasts you out of the water with “wild and untamed thing” reminding you that rock-n-roll belongs to the freaks and outcasts, and our tribe is bigger than you thought. The torchy “I’m going home” adds a layer of pathos and humanity. If you don’t love the good Doctor by that point, you aren’t human. That’s the magic Frankie works; despite being a decadent alien from another world, Frank-N-Furter is the most human character in the whole movie.
ADAM MARCUS (director, JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY)
They say some people are raised by Wolves. If that’s so, then I can safely say I was raised by Choreographers. From the day I was born, my family home was filled with flamboyant artists from all sides of the theatre world. In our house, there was an LGBTQ movement simply in that this was part of our family that never seemed out of place. It just was. As I grew up, my parents never shied away from entertainment that represented alternatives to straight relationships. CABARET, MIDNIGHT COWBOY, LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, THE NIGHT PORTER, DOG DAY AFTERNOON (a favorite to this day), NEXT STOP GREENWICH VILLAGE, VICTOR VICTORIA, TOOTSIE or FAME. At 17, I would dress up as Columbia for midnight screenings of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW and perform the movie in drag at the theatre I worked at. Before I entered NYU, I ran my own theatre company, where I directed the play DEATHTRAP and played the writer Clifford Anderson, who has an torrid affair with the older Sydney Bruhl.
When it came to horror specifically, I saw MIDNIGHT EXPRESS when I was eleven (not traditional horror, but show me a horror movie as hard-core as MIDNIGHT EXPRESS). In it, the only comfort in this hideous Turkish prison nightmare was the love between two men. CRUISING (another personal favorite) was a darker imagining of the world I grew up in: New York City. Here, repression is the evil that causes horror to occur. DRESSED TO KILL (all hail DePalma) again being gay is not the problem, repression is the enemy. In Paul Verhoeven’s thriller THE FOURTH MAN the idea of sexual identity is as malleable as the turns in the plot. And Peter Jackson’s stunning HEAVENLY CREATURES (his finest work in my opinion) is an amazing exploration of the mystery and experimentation of youth. Truly stunning stuff.
All of this has played a serious role in my own filmmaking. In my first feature, JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY, there is more homoeroticism that you can shake a… well you get it. Just remember, it’s the only FRIDAY film where a naked middle aged MAN is tied to a table with his legs in stir-ups while he’s shaved by Jason in the Coroner’s body and then kissed. Yup, that was me. And that’s truly the tip of that iceberg. In TEXAS CHAINSAW, which I cowrote with my remarkable partner Debra Sullivan, Leatherface wears the skins of the women he kills. Which is an abhorrent version of Transvestism that’s created by acute Gender Dysphoria. In my latest horror-comedy feature, SECRET SANTA, there are several gay and a few surprising gender-identified individuals that are not there for horror sake, but just to create a tapestry of what our world looks like. But that’s the power of horror. We’ve always been able to tell stories that other genres couldn’t get away with. And while it may seem that a lot of the use of LGBTQ characters in the horror films of the past have been purely for exploitation purposes, (SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, PSYCHO, we’re looking’ at you), I think that’s ultimately unfair. It’s not being different that creates the conflict or violence — it’s the shaming and ridicule that creates the monster. Acceptance is the societal cure. For me, horror has helped pave the way for the more diverse cinematic landscape that we have today.
KAYCIE DANNIEL (writer/illustrator, ELLO MIDNIGHT…)
Although RAW, (written and directed by Julia Ducournau) isn’t a queer movie by pure definition, it’s one of my favorites, because Justine’s personal journey and struggle of self-discovery, from an obedient vegetarian to a raw-meat-craving beast is relatable to the LGBTQ experience, in the sense that in our lives, there will be core elements of our identity that will surface unbeknownst to ourselves. We might at first try to suppress and hate what makes us special, out of fear or expectation, but we should embrace it unconditionally — it’s what makes us who we are: unique, existing beings. And like the master she is, Julia Ducournau packed this important life lesson under 99 minutes with extra gore, a dash of supernatural, and served steaming with lust. Bon appetit or better yet, pass the barf bag!
JARED COHN (director, DEATH POOL)
I wrote and directed two LGBTQ style women and prison movies JAILBAIT and LOCKED UP and I feel they tell of the connection of the soul. Regardless of sexual orientation — I don’t differentiate love of one person to another — or one person to several. The heart is a complex thing, and we don’t control it, the universe does. So in art and reality, when emotions are evoked, truth is experienced. I chose my movies because I lived them by making them. But there are many great movies such as MOONLIGHT that were amazing.
NATHAN ERDEL (writer, HEADLESS)
Maybe it’s the obvious choice, but what is better way to celebrate Pride Month as a horror fan than by revisiting A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE. Directed by Jack Sholder and written by David Chaskin, much has been made of this overtly queer film, and many critics have written of its “is it or isn’t it?” intentional gay subtext, which is laughable only in the fact that subtext is supposed to be… well, subtext… and the queer content of this film — from the humorous touches including a board-game called “Probe” and the main character’s… ahem… butt-dance… to the more serious and dark touches of BDSM and gay-panic within the character of the gym coach – is hardly subtext. This is the overt text of the film, and no amount of queer-whitewashing that can take that away.
It doesn’t take an extreme film-literate to read main character and male scream queen Jesse (played with sensitivity and resolve by the great Mark Patton) as an analogue for gay youth, or, at the very least, a young man questioning or struggling with his sexuality, and, by the inverse, see the taunts and threats of everyone’s favorite dream demon and child killer, Freddy Krueger (the incomparable Robert Englund) as homophobia, both of the internalized and external types. Whether it’s a cheeky ready of “you’ve got the body, and I’ve got the brains” or a literal read of Jesse’s best-friend (straight crush?) Ron Grady’s “And you want to sleep with me?” when Jesse is trying to protect himself and girlfriend/friend Lisa Webber, or Jesse’s plea of “He’s inside of me, and wants to take me again!,” or references to the gym coach having a “stick up his ass,” or the many, many whitey-tighties and jockstraps, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE is about as queer as you can get, and stands as an endlessly compelling example of gay horror, as well as being an entertaining, if arguably bad, NIGHTMARE film.
JT HABERSAAT (comedian, ALTERCATION PUNK COMEDY TOUR)
The obvious one has to be A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2:FREDDY’S REVENGE, right? Intentional or not, the homoeroticism is off the flipping charts in that flick. The recent NIGHTMARE documentary does a pretty good job at diving into the thoughts of both the cast (“Yeah, totally gay”) and the director (“I honestly do not see it”). Grab your tightest whities and a tennis racket and shimmy along!
GINGERSNAPS I think is a pretty underrated horror flick, and the sexual tension between the lead gals is fairly simmering if largely unspoken. VAMP also earns high marks, simply for the badass vampire action of Grace Jones. Still, the ultimate for me in this field is one that somehow gets largely overlooked altogether in the horror genre — HEAVENLY CREATURES. The obsessive teenage romance that ultimately leads to one of the most horrific and realistic onscreen murders in cinema history changed the way I look at a large rock forever.
Huge thank-you to all of our distinguished participants!