The 4 Disturbing Films That Gave Me A Taste Of New Queer Extremity


This month, I decided to forego the more analytical parts of the column and instead bring you a list of four movies that helped shape the ideas and thoughts that go into the queer analysis of extreme horror films. I watched three of these were pretty early in my queer horror journey. The last, however, is a recent watch and the impetus for pitching this column in the first place. Every movie in this list deserves a watch, and I think that fresh eyes and readings of these films would be beneficial as a whole. Part of the idea of New Queer Extremity was to start the dialogue so that others can branch off and create their own writings on the subject. I hope that some of these inspire you to branch out further into extreme horror.

A caveat: one of the most important films in the formation of these ideas was Tetsuo: The Iron Man. However, I already wrote a full piece on that, which you can read here. Some of these may eventually get a full analysis. But for the time being, I’d like to simply share them with you. With this in mind, let’s dive into some movies.

High Tension

It seems fitting to write about this movie since it was just added to Shudder as part of the New French Extremity line-up (which the title of this column also plays on, as well as New Queer Cinema). When High Tension came to DVD in the States, it joined into semi-constant rotation in my lineup of movies. Until this point, I was mostly versed in slashers and splatter films. But this felt different. The film has a grittiness and cruelty to it that was compelling in a viewing habit that mostly involved early Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson.

The film presents itself as a straightforward stalker/slasher with a mean streak. And for most of the running time, it plays itself fairly straightforward. However, the third act twist (while rendering some of the earlier parts of the film fairly incomprehensible) reveals a layer of obsession and love that adds a thematic richness to the film. We find out that the killer is actually Marie, the assumed protagonist. The killer we see was actually a manifestation of her desire and obsession with her friend, Alexia. 

It casts a lot of the earlier conversations in actions in a different light, while also highlighting the masculine mental image that Marie attaches to her violent desires in order to distance herself from these thoughts. It creates an interesting image, while also trading in some problematic ideas of gender. However, at the time there wasn’t much else like it and it also introduced me to the New French Extremity.

Takashi Miike Double Feature

The second and third films on this list are from the same director, so it seemed fitting to group them together. Director Takashi Miike is a king of extremity of all types. First is Ichi The Killer, the first major example of a bisexual character I had seen in a horror film. While he is a trope—the depraved bisexual—he is still presented as the protagonist in a film that wallows in the ugliness of humanity. The character, Kakihara, is a masochistic sadist who is searching doggedly for his missing boss. He is obsessed with the way his boss fulfills his masochistic desires, and many times attempts to find someone to replace his boss; but it’s never the same. What follows is a descent into depravity that can be a very difficult watch, but worthwhile all the same.

While Kakihara is a problematic character, it’s important to remember that my first exposure to this character was revelatory. As a bisexual man, I hadn’t seen a bi man portrayed in a film that wasn’t a joke. Kakihara is treated seriously and fairly in the course of the film; the one time he’s the butt of the joke, he retaliates swiftly. While he may be a villain, his portrayal was something that made me realize that representation could step away from jokes and create well-rounded characters. Instead of a joke, Kakihara made me feel like I could see something of myself on the screen.

The other film from Miike I’d like to mention is Fudoh: The New Generation. Once again, there are problematic aspects of the portrayal of certain characters. However, I think that the way that the younger Yakuza members look at sex and gender hints at a change in attitude in the new generations. This changing of the guard and a look towards the future hints at a more accepting and diverse future, while also punishing the more conservative older generation by their inability to see these people as a threat. It plays on expectation while also making dangerous and interesting characters out of people that would usually be a joke. Like Ichi, the film is definitely an artifact of its time. But I hope that we get a new release so it can get a reappraisal.

29 Needles

I first watched this film last year, and without it, I wouldn’t be writing this list here today. 29 Needles is the debut feature of Scott Philip Goergens. I don’t think I’ve seen a more provocative and confrontational feature in years. The film follows Francis (played fearlessly by Brooke Berry, R.I.P), a man obsessed with pain and sex. His trauma is hinted at, but the nature of it becomes terrifyingly clear by the end of the film. The runtime follows Francis’ descent into more and more self-destructive acts in order to chase the perfect feeling (orgasm) as he reckons with his past and finds his peace in his own way.

The film is obviously low-budget. But Goergens has created a film in the queer extremity canon that feels like nothing else. Awash in body horror, sex and violence, the film is uncompromising in its vision and pulls no punches in its depiction of a queer man falling apart. This includes the use of several unsimulated sequences of sex and mutilation that repulse the viewer while also drawing them in. In films like this, it is frequently easy for it to lose the audience through sheer overload. But 29 Needles maintains the perfect balancing act. 

Films like this remind me of the potential of the low budget. A film like this, and so explicitly queer, would not get traction at a studio or in any other normal means of production. It is a labor of love, blood, sweat and tears. If possible, and if you think you can stomach this piece of queer extremity, please seek this one out.


That’s what I have for everyone this month. While a bit short, I think that it’s always important to suggest movies that someone may like. As movie lovers, we all want to share the movies that make us think and feel. These four are movies that are worth the time and (sometimes) effort. As always, stay safe and take care of yourself. I’ll see you all next month!



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