Home Horror Entertainment News Queer Fear: A Viewer’s Guide to Shudder’s 2021 Queer Horror Collection

Queer Fear: A Viewer’s Guide to Shudder’s 2021 Queer Horror Collection

by Waylon Jordan
Queer Horror

Hello, readers! As many of you know, it’s Pride Month, and here at iHorror that’s a reason to celebrate. The LGBTQ+ community has been an intrinsic part of horror since it first came into being. The genre has centered queerness and the other in ways that most others never come close, and while some fans may balk at the idea, this is one of those things that happens to be true whether you want to believe it or not.

Fortunately, more people know and accept this than others. Shudder, for example, for the third year running, has curated a Queer Horror collection with a wide selection of films that either have clear LGBTQ+ representation or were created by members of the community.

For a lot of our readers, these titles will ring a bell, even if you haven’t seen them in years. For others, you might need an introduction. With that in mind, I thought we’d make a quick run through of everything on their list this year, and give you a glimpse of what Shudder has in store!

Queer Horror on Shudder

Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker

What it’s about: Originally titled Night Warning, this film was surprisingly directed by William Asher, the man who famously helped create series like Bewitched and directed over 100 episodes of I Love Lucy. The film centers on Billy Lynch (Jimmy McNichol) a young man raised by his domineering aunt who is determined to keep him close to her no matter what. The plot is…wild, and Susan Tyrell gives an over the top performance that’d give Piper Laurie in Carrie a run for her money.

What makes it Queer Horror: This undeniably weird film was groundbreaking for its sympathetic portrayal of an openly gay middle-aged man at the time in which it was made, but be warned: You have to wade through a lot of heavy homophobia in this film to enjoy it.

Nightbreed

What it’s about: Based on Clive Barker’s CabalNightbreed tells the story of Aaron Boone (Craig Sheffer), a young man manipulated into believing he is a serial killer by his psychiatrist (David Cronenberg). Boone finds himself drawn to Midian, a mythical place inhabited by those society would call monsters. Sadly, the psychiatrist/actual masked serial killer follows him to Midian and attempts to destroy it.

What makes it Queer Horror: Queerness abounds in Nightbreed, from its author and director Clive Barker, to its themes of being ostracized and othered. I have said it before and I’ll say it again. Midian is a place that every LGBTQ+ person knows. It is the back-alley club that is “safe.” It’s the party where you can be yourself, but you have to be a member to enter. And who threatens Midian? Priests, police, psychiatrist/doctors…three groups that have given our community no end of trouble.

The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula: Resurrection

What it’s about: The Boulet Brothers welcomed back competitors from the previous three seasons in this two-hour Halloween-themed competition/documentary with a $20,000 prize on the line for the winner.

What makes it Queer Horror: This is one of those that’s pretty self-explanatory. This is Ru Paul’s Drag Race without the transphobic history that embraces its campiness as well as its love of horror.

Mohawk

What it’s about: Late in the War of 1812, a young Mohawk woman and her two lovers battle a squad of American soldiers hell-bent on revenge. The film is rather forward thinking in several areas. Not only does it portray a loving polyamorous couple, but filmmaker Ted Geoghegan did his level best to cast Indigenous actors in all of the Indigenous roles in the film.

What makes it Queer Horror: Again, I point here toward the polyamory in the film. Polyamorous relationships, in and of themselves, are not necessarily queer, but they are an undeniable part of our community. Also of note, Ted Geoghegan, himself, identifies as bisexual.

Spiral

What it’s about: No, we’re not talking about the new Saw film. This film is directed by Kurtis David Harder and written by Colin Minihan and John Poliquin. It centers on a gay couple couple who move to a small town to enjoy a better quality of life and raise their daughter with strong social values. But when neighbors throw a very strange party, nothing is as it seems in their picturesque neighborhood.

What makes it Queer Horror: This one wears its queerness on its sleeve with a gay couple front and center. It digs into some of the complexities of relationships, but also provides at least some commentary on the fact that no matter how far we’ve come, we are still marginalized and the horror ultimately grows out of that fact. You can read our full review of Spiral here.

Lyle

What it’s about: Leah’s grief over the death of her toddler turns to paranoia when she begins to suspect her neighbors are involved in a satanic pact.

What makes it Queer Horror: The film centers on a lesbian couple and has been referred to as a lesbian Rosemary’s Baby, a comparison that is not far off as the themes of paranoia and motherhood as well as the satanic elements are reminiscent of the earlier film.

Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street

What it’s about: This feature documentary takes a deep dive into A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, and the ensuing fallout to what has been called one of the gayest horror films ever made, particularly where its star, Mark Patton, is concerned.

What makes it Queer Horror: Aside from the obvious, the film not only openly discusses Patton’s personal struggles with his identity, but also provides a bit of a time capsule portrait of what it meant to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community in the 1980s. I cannot recommend this one enough for its history as well as its subject.

Hellraiser

What it’s about: More Clive Barker! Written and directed by the horror legend based on his own novel, The Hellbound Heart. A woman discovers the newly resurrected, partially formed, body of her brother-in-law. She starts killing for him to revitalize his body so he can escape the demonic beings that are pursuing him after he escaped their sadistic underworld.

What makes it Queer Horror: Again, I point back to the film’s creator, but also there is an inherent queerness to the Cenobites who eventually show up in the film . They are beyond classification, the ultimate others, and let’s not forget that their look/design are based upon the S&M and leather communities that Barker was familiar with from his own experiences.

Tammy and the T-Rex

What it’s about: An evil scientist implants the brain of Michael, a murdered high school student, into a Tyrannosaurus. He escapes, wreaks vengeance on his high school tormentors, and is reunited with his sweetheart Tammy. Yeah, that’s it all right.

What makes it Queer Horror: Okay, well first off, this is one of those campy films that just begs for a queer audience. It is ridiculous and over-the-top with a surprising amount of heart in its own 90s fashion. What’s more, it comes with an out and proud gay best friend who shockingly survives to the end of the film and is not struggling with his identity. For those unaware, you might get one of those things in a queer character from that era but you did not get both no matter what the genre was. I’ll remind you that at this time a good 98% of LGBTQ+ and especially gay men, if they were in films at all, were dying of AIDS, psychopaths, or struggling in the most superficial ways to be their authentic selves.

The Quiet Room

What it’s about: A young man who is hospitalized after a suicide attempts finds himself haunted by a terrifying, dark spirit that manifests in one of the hospitals padded rooms.

What makes it Queer Horror: In this film? Everything. Out and proud writer/director Sam Wineman crafts a gorgeous and terrifying film that centers a queer characters played by a queer actor. What’s more? Drag queen extraordinaire Alaska Thunderfuck takes on the role of the terrifying spirit haunting the hospital.

Knife+Heart

What it’s about: Yann Gonzalez brings to life this giallo-inspired horror film about a killer stalking the stars of a small-time gay porn studio in 1979 Paris.

What makes it Queer Horror: The film’s brutal, gritty, raw portrayal of the gay porn industry is only the beginning of the film’s queerness. With it’s homages to films like Cruising, and even the murder weapons the killer chooses, it’s one hell of a film that must be seen to be believed. Knife+Heart is an experience.

The Ranger

What it’s about: Teen punks, on the run from the cops and hiding out in the woods, come up against the local authority – an unhinged park ranger with an axe to grind.

What makes it Queer Horror: The Ranger may not have a lot of heavily queer themes, but it does have something that even a lot of the other films on this list doesn’t have: a seemingly healthy gay relationship. That alone is worth the price of admission on this admittedly sometimes bonkers films that mashes 80s punk with 80s slasher.

Lizzie

What it’s about: Lizzie Borden, of course.

What makes it Queer Horror: This particular rendition of the tale of Lizzie Borden centers a romantic relationship between Lizzie (Chloe Sevigny) and a maid named Bridget (Kristen Stewart).

The Old Dark House

What it’s about: In this classic chiller, stranded travelers stumble upon a strange old house, and find themselves at the mercy of a highly eccentric family. The film set the standard for creepy old house movies that has influenced the genre ever since.

What makes it Queer Horror: Out gay director James Whale (Frankenstein) directed this film and in a pre-Hays Code era, did his best to subvert gender and sexuality standards of the day while he was at it. From naming the family Femm to the fastidious brother Horace who seems conspicuously uninterested in women, there’s a lot to pick apart in The Old Dark House. For a more more in depth discussion of the film, CLICK HERE.

All Cheerleaders Die

What it’s about: A rebel girl signs up a group of cheerleaders to help her take down the captain of their high school football team, but a supernatural turn of events thrusts the girls into a different battle.

What makes it Queer Horror: This is one of those strange films that dropped a few years ago without a lot of fanfare but still managed to collect its own cult following. That rep at least in part is because of a central lesbian relationship. Is it great representation? Not really, but in a campy popcorn flick that’s about two steps removed from old school exploitation flicks, it does its level best. The film was directed by Lucky McKee. It’ s too bad Shudder doesn’t have his classic, May.

Better Watch Out

What it’s about: On a quiet suburban street, a babysitter must defend a twelve-year-old boy from intruders, only to discover it’s far from a normal home invasion.

What makes it Queer Horror: This is one of those films that is not inherently queer itself, at least not on the surface. I believe it’s mostly included on the list because the film’s director, Chris Peckover, is gay himself. However, there is some subtext in the film that leads one to believe that Ed Oxenbould’s character, Garrett, might have more than just friends feelings for his friend Luke, played by Levi Miller.

Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl

What it’s about: Soon after moving in with her aging aunt Dora, Adele meets Beth, seductive and mysterious, who tests the limits of Adele’s moral ground and sends her spiraling down a psychologically unstable and phantasmagoric path.

What makes it Queer Horror: Styled like a classic 70s arthouse horror film, this one easily draws comparisons to the lesbian vampire trope. There are traces of Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla all over this thing. From the sensuality to the predatory nature of the “villain,” the film knows exactly what it’s doing and does it quite effectively.

Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama

What it’s about: As part of a sorority ritual, pledges and their male companions steal a trophy from a bowling alley; unbeknownst to them, it contains a devilish imp who makes their lives a living Hell.

What makes it Queer Horror: This is one that’s queer in spirit more than anything else. The film’s director David DeCoteau has made a career directing homoerotic “horror films” and there are more classic scream queens in this thing than you can shake a stick at. But most of all, it’s just a wild, campy good time.

Islands (Available June 2nd)

What it’s about: This 23 minute erotic thriller from Yann Gonzalez (Knife+Heart) is an intense journey through a maze of love and lust.

What makes it Queer Horror: Everything. Everything about this film feels like a warm-up to what Yann Gonzalez would go onto do with Knife+Heart. You just have to see it.

Terror, Sisters! (Available Juned 2nd)

What it’s about: Today is a day unlike any before. Today is the day Kalthoum and their girlfriends imagine their revenge

What makes it Queer Horror: The story actually centers on a group of transgender women who decide to confront the transphobia they meet in their daily lives.

Der Samurai (Available June 2nd)

What it’s about: Set in a small German village, a bloody game of cat-and-mouse ensues between a young, straight-shooting police officer and a cross-dressing villain with a large sword and a predilection for beheadings. Also, there may or may not be a werewolf involved.

What makes it Queer Horror: This is one of those films that has been at the center of a lot of debate and one that I honestly have not seen myself. From what I understand, the “cross-dressing killer,” one of the more tired tropes often used in transphobic ways, may represent the feminine/gay aspect of the police officer himself which makes things intriguing. I’ve seen it characterized as something that bolsters negative stereotypes and that confronts toxic masculinity simultaneously . Werewolf lore has long been used as an allegory for queerness, and it will be interesting to see this particular take on that.

Thirst (Available June 2nd)

What it’s about: The drug addict Hulda is arrested and accused of murdering her brother. After she is let go because of insufficient evidence, she meets Hjörtur, a thousand-year-old gay vampire. Together they have to fight a cult while being investigated by a rogue detective.

What makes it Queer Horror: I mean, aside from the gay vampire?! Let’s talk about him for a minute, though. Unlike many of his contemporary counterparts Hjörtur isn’t out there being beautiful and looking for love. No, he is hungry. He thirsts, literally, for sustenance and will do what it takes to get it. It’s a rather fun take on a trope that we haven’t seen in a while, and one that is well worth the watch.

Rift (Available June 2nd)

What it’s about: Two men are haunted by the ghosts of their former relationship in a secluded cabin in Iceland.

What makes it Queer Horror: This is one of those films that is almost to beautiful for words. Erlingur Thoroddsen has created a film that is haunted and occasionally terrifying that draws you into a web of beautifully crafted storytelling. If you see nothing else on this list, watch Rift.

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