The best queer horror films everyone should see – as chosen by an expert

Bryan Fuller, creator of Shudder's new docuseries 'Queer For Fear', runs down his ultimate scary movie watchlist

From gothic lit legends Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley to the Universal monster movies of yore, horror streamer Shudder’s new four-part documentary series Queer For Fear charts the role LGBTQ+ people have played in the genre’s development. NME caught up with its executive producer Bryan Fuller – no stranger to scares having developed the acclaimed Hannibal – to list the key queer horror films you shouldn’t miss.

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video (rent)

“It’s foundational and has an amazing queer monster that rejects heteronormativity in the most dramatic ways. Its openly queer director James Whale had success with 1931’s Frankenstein, and after that he became more adventurous with 1932’s The Old Dark House which is explicitly queer. But when the Hays Code [Hollywood moral guidelines which ran from 1934 to 1967 censoring anything of a “perverse nature”], came into place, his most subversive film, Bride of Frankenstein, had to use the metaphor of monstrosity to tell the tale of being queer at a time when it was dangerous.”

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For fans of: The Old Dark House, The Invisible Man

The Hunger (1983)

Where to watch: Virgin TV Go

“[I chose this] because of the queerness of its star David Bowie’s performance persona and the genderfluidity of his iconography as an artist. Then there’s the eager, deliberate and explicit same-sex romance between Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon. Even though it’s directed by Tony Scott who was straight, he has a beautiful eye and aesthetic, and it’s often referred to as the lesbian vampire movie to beat, because of the delicacy in which the sex scenes are shot, as opposed to some of the ‘70s lesbian vampire movies which are really for men.”

For fans of: Let The Right One In, Bound

The Haunting (1963)

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Where to watch: Virgin TV Go

“I believe there’s a very powerful queer narrative at the centre of The Haunting. There’s something about the repression of the protagonist, who is running away from a life that didn’t quite fulfil her into a situation where she is the centre of the story for the first time. It’s a horror story, and it’s a metaphor for her own self-discovery and running from that discovery.”

For fans of: Rosemary’s Baby, The Others

The Shining (1980)

Where to watch: Virgin TV Go

“It has an emotional resonance for me. I identified with the overly-sensitive child whose father wanted to destroy them because of their sensitivity – a narrative many queer people can relate to. There’s something about parents of that era who want to crush or eliminate any sense of queerness in their child and the lengths they’ll go to in achieving that. So if you start looking at The Shining through that prism, there’s something special about it.”

For fans of: Get Out, The Machinist

Fright Night (1985)

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video (rent)

Fright Night takes a lot of wonderful vampire tropes from the early days of literature, like Dr Polidori’s The Vampire, a character modelled on the bisexual poet Lord Byron. You can trace a line from the implicit queerness of those tales to Fright Night, where three of the five main cast members are queer, and they’re telling a horror story through a queer lens that’s so explicit that you can’t help but be erotically charged. Even though on the surface it’s about teenage getting-laid shenanigans, there’s a level of queerness and self-exploration evident in the narrative.”

For fans of: The Lost Boys, An American Werewolf in London

Mulholland Drive (2001)

Where to watch: Studio Canal (Amazon Prime Video)

“Like Fright Night, it has its origins in literature. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, which predates Dracula, and is the first instance of a lesbian vampire in literature, tells the story of Carmilla – a vampire who weaves her way into a young woman’s life, and Mulholland Drive is essentially a redressing of that tale, so there’s something fascinating about David Lynch’s look at lesbian and female erotics through this noir horror story that can be traced back to Carmilla.”

For fans of: Blue Velvet, Lost Highway

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1984)

Where to watch: Virgin TV Go

“This film is more or less explicitly queer. Although it’s representational and wonderful on so many levels, not least of which was the Final Boy’s Mark Patton’s performance, which was fantastic and compelling and elevates the story, but it also ends with a queer boy choosing to be heteronormative to save himself from his evil gay demons. While fun and camp, it packs a wallop because of the authenticity of Patton’s performance.”

For fans of: Scream, Friday the 13th

Psycho (1960)

Where to watch: Virgin TV Go

Psycho is major in terms of queer representation and queer interpretation, and also because of exactly what director Alfred Hitchcock was doing with [closeted gay heartthrob] star Antony Perkins’ [Norman Bates] performance. Hitchcock once said that if he hadn’t met his wife when he did, then he might have turned out queer himself. There’s something about the otherness and society marginalising folks at the end of the town as opposed to welcoming and embracing them that creates monsters which is intriguing. But mainly because of Perkins’ powerhouse performance and Hitchcock’s obsession with queerness, there’s a greater story being told between the lines.”

For fans of: Rope, Silence of the Lambs

True Blood (2008 – 2014)

Where to watch: Sky/NOW

“It’s not a movie, but True Blood changed the landscape for queer representation – and also for queer people of colour – in horror. At the centre of its narrative is this very heteronormative romance, but it is buttressed with such fantastic queer characters having queer journeys that it changed the game. We wouldn’t have American Horror Story if it wasn’t for True Blood stepping up to the plate.”

For fans of: American Horror Story, Hannibal

Damien: Omen II (1978)

Where to watch: Disney+

Damien: Omen II follows the pattern of the I Was a Teenage… gay panic horror films of the 1950s and 1960s, like I Was a Teenage Werewolf, which generally involve older same-sex scientists trying to turn young nubile teenagers into monsters. What you get with Damien: Omen II is a teenage protagonist coming into awareness of who he is and all the hot older men who are there to shepherd him along the way, and it even has a tragic coming-out scene where he comes out [as the son of Satan] to his cousin Mark, and when Mark rejects him, he kills him with a thought. And I’m sure that’s a fantasy experience for a lot of queer people who had bad reactions when they came out, so the film has a lot to offer in terms of queer subtext.”

For fans of: The Exorcist, Don’t Look Now

Cat People (1942)

Where to watch: BBC iPlayer

Cat People is representative of characters who were monsters that were seeking psychiatry to cure them of their monstrousness which reflects the burgeoning tactics in psychiatry for gay conversion therapies that were medieval. If you look at movies like Cat People or Dracula’s Daughter, which are filmed in the middle of the Hays Code [a restrictive set of industry guidelines around what could be shown on screen] where the monster has to die, there’s a fascinating aspect to the way those stories are told that make it clear how hard it was to be a queer person at that time.”

For fans of: Dracula’s Daughter, I Walked with a Zombie

Dracula’s Daughter (1936)

Where to watch: Sky Store (Buy)

Dracula’s Daughter, like Cat People, is about a protagonist who doesn’t want to be the monster and realises that psychiatry isn’t going to help them solve their problem, and there’s something beautiful about a story where Countess Zaleska, who is at first ashamed of who she is comes to an acceptance that is almost heroic. Because it’s during the Hays Code, she has to die for it, but the take-away is that she got to a point of self-acceptance!”

For fans of: Nadja, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

‘Queer for Fear’ is streaming now on Shudder

 

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