Horror films have long been a favourite genre for Queer film fans. While LGBTQI people rarely feature prominently in horror, Queer subtext does abound. While narrowing down a suggested fright fest catalogue was a scary task, these films are all worth a stab. I recommend seeking out these films to curate your own LGBTQI horror film fest at home this Halloween. I’m not tricking you, they are all a treat.
One of the greatest horror films ever made, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho set the standard for violence on screen at the time of its release. The unforgettable Anthony Perkins, in a role which came to define his long career, plays a very bad boy with an extreme mother fixation. While Norman Bates isn’t overtly gay, his repressed sexuality suggests a larger struggle is at play. A long, hot shower will definitely lose some of its appeal after watching this classic. A brilliant film which only gets better every time you watch it. (Stan)
The Haunting (1962)
Directed by Robert Wise, this film starring Claire Bloom and Julie Harris is an adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s novel The Haunting of Hill House. This truly scary & atmospheric film is one of the first major Hollywood films to depict a lesbian character (played by Bloom) whose sexuality is not depicted in a threatening or anguished manner. (YouTube)
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
While not technically a ‘horror’ film, it is undeniable the enduring popularity of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, has come to define the term ‘cult film.’ Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon play hapless couple Brad and Janet who break down and seek help at the castle of Dr Frank-N-Furter, played by Tim Curry in an iconic performance. The soundtrack is also absolutely killer. If you haven’t seen this seminal film yet, what the heck are you waiting for? (Amazon Prime)
The Hunger (1983)
Underrated by critics and largely ignored by audiences at the time of its release, Tony Scott’s new-wave horror film is notable for the erotic seduction scene between Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon. Deneuve plays a centuries-old vampire who promises eternal life to her lovers, whose blood she feasts upon.
Visually stunning; the film now has a devoted cult following. The film was also seen as an allegory of the growing AIDS crisis. David Bowie, who rounded out the deathly love triangle was quoted as saying, “The first twenty minutes rattle along like hell – it really is a great opening.” Bowie is right. The opening is a doozy. The controversial love scene resulted in Sarandon’s mother actually receiving hate mail after the film’s release. (YouTube)
High Tension (2003)
A truly violent and nightmarish film, High Tension was directed by the talented Alexandre Aja. The film was part of a group of films which became known as New French Extremity movement; films noteworthy for extreme depictions of violence and sex.
Cecile De France and Maïwenn as two best friends who are visiting Maïwenn’s family in a remote farmhouse with a homicidal maniac stalking them. To say more than that would reveal too much. Suffice it to say, the gore quotient is extraordinarily high. Like Aja’s other films, High Tension packs a bloody punch. (Amazon Prime)
Stranger By The Lake (2013)
In the French countryside a man witnesses the murder of another man at the hands of another, decidedly attractive, man. Our hero finds himself instantly and irrevocably drawn to the killer, despite the obvious danger. The film features some surprisingly explicit (unsimulated by body doubles) sex and violence and good performances by the two charismatic leads. (Google Play)
Let the Right One In (2008)
This Swedish vampire film, directed by Tomas Alfredson received almost unanimously excellent reviews upon its release. A strange young girl moves in next door to a bullied schoolboy. Over time a friendship develops between them, although his newfound friend is hiding some dark and sinister secrets of her own. Meanwhile bodies are turning up around the neighbourhood at an alarming rate. (Stan)
Someone’s Watching Me! (1978)
Somewhat of a curio as it is largely forgotten, which is a shame because it’s great fun. This nifty, tightly paced thriller features scream queen Adrienne Barbeau as the friend and colleague of heroine Lauren Hutton. The film, written and directed by horror master John Carpenter, has Hutton moving into a high-rise apartment building only to discover…you got it…somebody’s watching her! Barbeau’s character is unusual in that her being a lesbian is presented in a matter-of-fact fashion, which was a refreshing change from most films of the 1970s. It’s a terrific film which was shot in only 10 days! You will never want to use a basement laundry room again. (Google Play)
Grossly underrated at the time of its release, the film only has a tangental resemblance to the film it is a ‘remake’ of. Actually let’s call it a reimagining. While no LGBTQ+ characters feature in Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Dario Argento’s classic, a lesbian sensibility runs throughout the film. Set in a modern dance academy run by a coven of witches, there is no doubt that the women perceive men as superfluous, annoying creatures. The peerless Tilda Swinton dazzles in a multitude of roles, while Renee Soutendijk, a favourite of cult film fans, makes a welcome appearance as a witch with a most heinous cackle. (Amazon Prime)
Fans of this seminal horror film may wonder why Alien makes this list. Sigourney Weaver’s performance as Ripley is notable in that she is never presented as having any sort of physical or romantic interest in any of the male crew. Her heroism breaks down traditional gender roles in that Ripley most definitely doesn’t need a man to save her.
Alien also makes the list for a recently unearthed bit of film trivia. In Aliens, a scene where the crew members of the Nostromo are being discussed by the search team, a screen shot shows the character of Lambert (played by the estimable Veronica Cartwright – who possesses one of the best screams in Hollywood) was actually transgender. It is a blink or you will miss it moment, but adds another layer for Queer film fans to enjoy.
Les Diaboliques (1955)
This classic French chiller stars Simone Signoret and Vera Clouzot (the wife of the director, Henri-Georges Clouzot) as two schoolmistresses who conspire to murder the latter’s abusive husband. While neither character is specifically said to be lesbian, it is definitely implied, particularly in the muscular performance of Signoret. The twist-ending packs a wallop. (YouTube)
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Many may be annoyed by Silence making it onto this list for the problematic basis of the film. Buffalo Bill is a serial-murderer who is kidnapping and skinning women to create his own female suit. The gender dysphoria of the killer is certainly an ugly reason for his murderous motivations, but the film is so brilliantly made and the performances so good that it is essential viewing. Ted Levine, dancing in front of the mirror to Goodbye Horses by Q Lazzarus, with his penis tucked back, is a scene that instantly raises goosebumps. (Stan)
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)
This film makes the list not because it’s good (it’s not – it’s terrible) but because the gay sensibility and subtext is off the chart. Starring now-out actor Mark Patton (in a truly wooden performance), the film is worth viewing based on the jaw-dropping shower scene that is so wrong it’s right. It is a truly stupid film, but one that you may just want to check out for that very reason. Screenwriter David Chaskin now acknowledges that he intentionally included the gay subtext, something he denied for years. The film has since developed a fervent Queer following. Watch it and you’ll understand why. (Stan)
Dressed to Kill (1980)
Brian De Palma is a master of suspense and Dressed to Kill is perhaps his masterpiece. While, like a few films on this list, it could be seen as problematic in light of today’s more enlightened sensibilities, it cannot take away from the savage power of the film. Michael Caine plays a psychiatrist who has more than a few problems of his own. The performances are sublime and the subway chase, Angie Dickinson’s death scene and the masterful art gallery sequence are incredible.(Stan)
This French film stars Vanessa Paradis as a lesbian director of gay porn films, who is rapidly losing the stars of her current film at the hands of a homicidal maniac. The striking opening scene shows a man being stabbed to death with a dildo switchblade. That pretty much sets the rest of the film up. This over-the-top film is visually stunning though it’s safe to say this lurid and very in-your-face thriller won’t please everyone. It’s utterly bonkers. (Google Play)
Tell us your favourite spooky horror films in the comments! Happy Halloween!
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