We’re Living In The Age of Queer Horror

Queer Horror Skinamarink

June is here and as the temperatures rise, companies are dusting off their pride flags to show solidarity for the queer community. But here at Dread Central, queer horror, pride, love, appreciation, and rage are year-round, thanks not only to queer leadership (myself and managing editor Josh Korngut are both queer) but to our dedication to uplifting LGBTQIA+ writers, filmmakers, and content creators in the genre space. This year, Pride is marked with anger at a country that continues to fail its queer communities, especially trans and non-binary individuals who are simply seeking a quiet, normal existence. In the face of that anger, I want to take a moment to highlight how, while horror has always been queer, we are living in an incredible time of challenging and disgusting queer art.

Right now, we’re so lucky to be living through a New Queer Horror wave that isn’t just about queer side characters and homoerotic subtext. It’s about portraying ALL sides of the queer experience, not just sanitizing it for easy consumption by cis straight audiences who are treated like delicate little bombs who are set off by just a whiff of gay sex (and honestly, in this day and age, a lot of these audiences sure do act like that).

Earlier this year, we had the triple threat of Kyle Edward Ball’s Skinamarink, Robbie Banfitch’s The Outwaters, and Carter Smith’s Swallowed, all directed by gay men. Sure, Skinamarink and The Outwaters are not outwardly queer, but their respective directors still imbue these films with a queer sensibility. Plus, Banfitch deepens just how gay his found footage nightmare is with the short prequel film Card Zero, which shows the complexities of new relationships and how easy it is to fall into self-doubt. Then, there’s Smith’s Swallowed which is a nasty, bug-filled queer horror masterpiece that isn’t interested in either sanitizing its story or exploiting its characters. Smith rides a fine line of graphic violence that makes his Maine Gothic horror all the more terrifying.

But this early 2023 hat trick was only the beginning. Michelle Garza Cervera made perhaps one of the most beautiful films of the year with her feature film debut Huesera: The Bone Woman, which contains some of the best representations of gay women I’ve seen in horror. Cervera’s pregnancy horror pulls from her own experience in the punk rock music scene and refuses to reduce her protagonist Valeria to just a womb; she’s a queer woman who is trying to wrestle back her agency while stuck in an incredibly heteronormative world.

Then there is the continued growth of trans-directed horror. Alice Maio Mackay is on a roll, now working on her fourth feature film after seeing the release of Bad Girl Boogey and the world premiere of T Blockers in 2023. Louise Weard, a trans horror pioneer, is now crowdfunding for her trans exploitation epic that guarantees to deliver sex and violence in spades.

Plus there’s been Dutch Marich’s terrifying found footage sequel Horror In The High Desert 2: Minerva, Gabriel Bier Gislason’s Jewish lesbian chamber piece Attachment, the world premiere of Michael J. Ahern, Ryan Miller, and Brandon Perras Saint Drogo, and M. Night Shyamalan’s divisive Knock At The Cabin. And this doesn’t even account for what’s on the horizon for the genre, including Talk To Me, My Animal, and birth/rebirth.

But this queer movement isn’t just contained in the indie horror space. Following in the footsteps of Jamie Clayton’s turn as Pinhead in Hellraiser (2022), more franchises are following suit in queering these existing properties. In Scream VI, Mindy Meeks-Martin played by the incredible queer actor Jasmin Savoy Brown continues to be our gay Virgil, guiding us through the ins and outs of horror tropes while wearing a Lavender Menace t-shirt. Then there’s Danny in Evil Dead Rise, played by trans actor Morgan Davies. While the character of Danny is not explicitly stated to be trans, the subtext runs deep in this film, which is beautifully explained by trans horror historian Logan-Ashley Kinser in his Substack.

And we cannot forget the queer and non-binary representation seen in two of the year’s biggest horror TV titles, Yellowjackets and The Last Of Us. Not only is Yellowjackets queer in its story, but two of its stars this season are non-binary: Liv Hewson (who plays Van) and Jane Widdop (who plays Laura Lee). The Last of Us shattered our hearts with episode three where we learn the beautiful love story between Bill and Frank. Further, series star Bella Ramsey is non-binary and has been incredibly vocal about their identity in the press.

This matters because it proves queer and non-binary actors can be cast in ANY role, not just as queer characters. And from the reactions online from fans who finally see themselves on screen, it only furthers the importance of this kind of casting. It validates identities and makes an angry and oppressive world feel just a tiny bit more accepting.

This extends past horror movies and TV. Horror literature is positively bursting with queer monstrosities from some of the best and most terrifying writers in the game. Cis white writers no longer solely dominate the genre, with queer writers finally getting their time to shine with some of the grossest and most beautiful prose I’ve had the pleasure of reading.

Just recently, I devoured Alison Rumfitt’s twist on the haunted house story, Tell Me I’m Worthless. But her house isn’t just infested with ghosts and her characters are not straightforward likable protagonists. Instead, Rumfitt delivers a fever dream that explores transphobia, homophobia, and bigotry at both a national and personal level. This queer horror is both epic and persona in scope, a dizzying portrait of the hatred that tugs at the corners of our brains, no matter how hard we try to quell it.

Rumfitt’s novel enters a trans horror canon alongside titles like Andrew Joseph White’s apocalyptic Hell Followed With Us, Gretchen Felker-Martin’s unflinching Manhunt, and the numerous works by Hailey Piper (Queen of Teeth) and T. Kingfisher (What Moves The Dead). These authors are pushing the boundaries of horror fiction and showing the world what queerness looks like. They aren’t interested in nice stories that come together with a bow. They’re instead interested in queers that tear at flesh, eat each other alive, and contentedly fall asleep in a puddle of blood.

Speaking of which, if you want more nasty queers ripping at flesh, Eric LaRocca and Paula D. Ashe have written ad nauseam about that very topic in their numerous works of short fiction, from LaRocca’s Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke to Ashe’s We Are Here To Hurt Each Other.

The names, films, and books I’ve mentioned here are by no means an exhaustive list of all the beautifully horrific art being created by queer artists in the genre. We’ll have more lists and Twitter threads throughout this month to give you as many recommendations as possible. All I know is that as a queer woman in horror, I’ve never been more excited to be a part of this community. We’re showing the world what it means to be queer, including the dirty, rotten, decaying sides covered in blood, sweat, tears, and cum.

We’re not sideshow characters to add a burst of comedy to your script or one-dimensional tragic figures used to further the plot.

We are monsters. We are an amalgamation of limbs, teeth, nails, and rage. And we are hungry. Hungry for bigots who spit on us and ask invasive questions about anatomy that is none of their business, hungry for rainbow capitalists who profit on us one month out of the year (but collapse in the face of conservative anger), hungry for evil politicians who hunt us, hungry for those supposed allies who stay quiet on the sidelines as our queer friends and family are rounded up for slaughter. We are hungry. And we are always ready for a fight.

Happy Pride, everyone.



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