Written by: C. M. Sasaguay
Edited by: Grave Reviews Staff
It is no secret, the horror community has among the most loyal and dedicated fan base. Beyond the gorehounds and monster lovers, there is a large queer following within this genre. Actresses such as Jennifer Tilly in the Chucky franchise and Toni Collete, in the recent horror film, Hereditary, command a large LGBT following. We are beginning to see a new age of horror that incorporates a wide variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds into the horror genre such films including Get Out and Under the Shadow. For example, the idea of the “Final Girl” is that she is a very repressed and isolated character. This character is often relatable to members of the LGBTQ community. Since the notion of the “Final Girl”, queer horror fans have been looking for representation everywhere and anywhere. Diversity is breaking through into the mainstream, which is why there’s certainly no better time than June (PRIDE MONTH!) to look where queer horror is heading.
Rift, an Icelandic psychological thriller came out (no pun intended) in 2017 and is about two ex-boyfriends who meet up in an isolated cabin among the vast Iceland landscape. They are both haunted by past memories but begin to realize something more sinister may be targeting them. Directed by Erlingur Ottar Thoroddsen, Rift is a love story horror film that looks at homophobia, trauma, and being a gay man. Rift can currently be viewed on Amazon Prime. Rift not only makes a statement by writing the main characters as homosexual but delivers in its unsettling visuals and story. Your AC unit may not be the only thing giving you chills after watching this horror film.
Back in the early 2000’s, Hellbent attempted to enter into the slasher genre with not much success to elicit further entries. However, this past spring, Knife + Heart, was released to select theaters, a French film greatly influenced by the Italian giallo genre. The Italian giallo genre emphasized mystery, thrillers and violence within the genre. The story takes place within the gay porn industry during the 1970’s. Knife + Heart is about a gay porn producer, Anne, who begins to produce her next film. However, the story following Anne takes a turn for the worst when a masked killer begins to murder her cast and crew, using a phallic-shaped blade as his weapon of choice. As Anne navigates the world around her, we follow her into drag shows and gay bars where we encounter flamboyant gay men, trans-women and other members of the LGBTQ. Knife + Heart is a fun slasher film, but most notably incorporates vivid and colorful lighting schemes just like the characters in the story.
“Diversity is breaking through into the mainstream…”
Most recently, Netflix produced a film in time for Pride Month called The Perfection. The Perfection revolved around two cellists who meet and befriend each other. One cellist is an established performer while the other is a child prodigy attempting to reenter the music industry. Chaos and ugly truths emerge but not before the two slip into bed with each other, explicitly revealing their queer identities. There were mixed reviews for this film, but the most important aspect is that this film exemplifies the trend of incorporating gay and lesbian main characters in horror films. However, the film received criticism due to the explicit representation of queer women as opposed to displaying queer men.
There is a double standard when it comes to queer sexuality and how much is shown to the audience. Which is grossly humorous as horror is never quite a shy genre to many extremes; violence and heteronormative sexuality anyone? Knife + Heart, however not explicit, is unashamed in its male queerness. Diversity has been a limitation here too. Each of the films previously mentioned, have had a predominantly white cast of characters. Often, individuals with different ethnic backgrounds and sexual identities receive little representation in horror films. As a result, the issues and challenges that these individuals face, could have been incorporated in the premises of the films. Stories are often prevented from being told because of the limitations.
In a genre that has loved to pick apart queerness and being different for its own use, some different attempts at representation is a good start. Come next June, perhaps there’ll be some new entries. No matter, the queer fanbase will remain loyal and hungry for something more.