An impactful horror film showcases society’s greatest fears and makes them real.
From the portrayal of a gay man as a pedophile in “In a Glass Cage” to the depiction of a murderous transgender woman in “Psycho” and “Dressed to Kill,” some horror films have used their influence to demonize the LGBTQIA+ community and perpetuate stereotypes.
With increasing acceptance and awareness of the LGBTQIA+ community in the past few decades, horror filmmakers have begun to flip the script to promote positive queer representation on screen.
Here is the Emerald’s guide to three essential queer horror films just in time for the Halloween season and LGBTQIA+ History Month:
The Classic: “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”
Originally panned by critics upon release in 1975, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” directed by Jim Sharman, has become a cult classic over the past two decades among the LGBTQIA+ community and the punk scene.
The horror-musical follows a traditional heteronormative couple, Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon), as they adjust to the sexual and gender fluid inhabitants of a creepy mansion. With campy musical numbers and colorful characters, the film resonated with many viewers who felt disconnected from mainstream society.
The film’s continuing popularity — it is the longest running film still exhibited in theaters — mainly derives from shadow cast performances. These reenactments by actors in front of a live screening started in Greenwich Village, New York, in 1975 and have been ongoing ever since.
The showing also involves various gags, such as writing the word “virgin” on the faces of those attending the show for the first time. Participants and audience members usually dress up as characters from the film, or in similar gothically provocative outfits.
Students can catch a free screening of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at Ducks After Dark with a student ID on Thursday, Oct. 25 in the EMU Ballroom.
The Mainstream: “Jennifer’s Body”
“Jennifer’s Body,” directed by Karyn Kusama and written by Diablo Cody in 2009, was one of the first mainstream horror movies to explore queer teenage sexuality.
High school cheerleader Jennifer (Megan Fox) is possessed by a demon and murders her male classmates in this darkly comedic film. Her best friend Needy (Amanda Seyfried) attempts to stop Jennifer before she annihilates the entire male population of their high school.
Although the film isn’t overtly queer, the LGBTQIA+ community latched on to one specific makeout scene, as it diverged from the heteronormativity of most teenage films of the 2000s. The film’s lead actress, Megan Fox, came out as bisexual near the time the movie was released, creating further buzz around the film’s queer content.
The film could be viewed as exploitative or containing a male gaze as it focuses on Jennifer’s sexuality; however, she subverts her objectification by seducing and killing the boys who take advantage of her.
The cast and crew of the film are mainly female and queer, which many viewers found empowering in such a male-dominated industry.
The Avant Garde: “The Neon Demon”
“The Neon Demon,” directed by acclaimed filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn, is one of the most controversial queer horror films of the 2010s. The film explores the fashion industry from a purposely surface-level perspective, which contrasts its oversaturated, graphic visuals and resulted in mixed critical reviews.
Aspiring model Jesse (Elle Fanning) is literally preyed upon by other competing models and men who take advantage of her inexperience.
The film uses the predatory lesbian trope in the relationship between Jesse and a makeup artist (Jena Malone). However, the overtness of this trope makes sense in connection with the superficial nature of the film.
“The Neon Demon” barely develops its characters. Instead, it focuses on the gaudy cinematography to criticize the media’s depiction of women as objects. The film claims that not only men, but other women and society as a whole, are to blame for the objectification of women.
Take advantage of the Halloween season to check out these cinematic delights at the above links!