Queerness and horror have always been intertwined.
Although queer characters and storylines have notoriously been scarce within horror (until recent), queer audiences have often flocked to monster movies and slashers due to the genre’s exploration (and obsession) with otherness.
Whether it’s the questioning of a villain’s humanity, the non-normative characters that don’t conform to societal expectations or the drama of it all, queer elements and queer-coded subtext have always been there.
To mark Gay Christmas, we’ve collected some of the most iconic queer horror movies to watch this Halloween from the camp stylings of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, as well as newer entries such as They/Them and Hellraiser.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)
Cast: Mark Patton, Kim Myers, Robert Englund, Robert Rusler, Clu Gulager, Hope Lange, Christie Clark, Marsha Bell
Despite not featuring any openly queer characters – because queer people were extinct in the 80s – A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge is camp a f**k thanks to homoerotic scenes in leather bars and locker rooms, as well as sweaty shirtless men trying to escape the wrath of Freddy’s perfectly manicured talons (see photo above). Although the slasher received mixed reviews upon release, the film has become a cult classic and is now a Halloween go-to for LGBTQIA+ people.
Cast: Tom Bateman, Sean Beale, Paul McGann, Calum Woodhouse, James Tratas
Tom Bateman (Behind Her Eyes) shacks up with Sean Teale (Who Is Erin Carter?) in B&B, a tense thriller about a gay couple who return to the same bed-and-breakfast that discriminated against them a year prior. Smart idea! There, the couple begin to suspect that the fundamentalist Christian owner, who went into debt after the couple sued them, is plotting their demise. Doesn’t help when a sinister, Neo-Nazi shows up on the door. Not that scary, really, but the suspense and representation means it’s worthy of a spot on this list.
Cast: Nicole Maines, Diana Hopper, James Paxton, M.C. Gainey, Jimmy Jagger
Nicole Maines of Supergirl fame plays a transgender teenage girl who moves in with her brother in LA (James Paxton), looking to make a fresh start after her transition. She meets a coven of four queer feminist vampires (the best kind) whose aim to rid the city’s streets of predatory men (love it). Bit is one of the most inclusive LGBTQIA+ horror films in recent years, allowing a trans character take centre stage without conforming to harmful queer tropes.
Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022)
Cast: Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Myha’la Herrold, Chase Sui Wonders, Rachel Sennott, Lee Pace, Pete Davidson
A smart whodunnit akin to Scream, Bodies Bodies Bodies was lauded for its commentary on Gen-Z, subversion of classic horror tropes and satire on class and privilege. The Halina Reijn-directed slasher comedy stars Maria Bakalova as the working class Bee, who travels with her wealthy girlfriend Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) to a “hurricane party” in a mansion owned by the family of Sophie’s childhood friend David (Pete Davidson). When the trio play a murder-in-the-dark-style game with Sophie’s privileged ex-pals Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), Alice (Rachel Sennott) and Jordan (Myha’la Herrold), as well as Alice’s boyfriend Greg (Lee Pace), the group get picked off one-by-one. Worth watching for Rachel Sennott’s one-liners alone.
The Craft (1996)
Cast: Robin Tunney, Neve Campbell, Fairuza Balk, Rachel True, Skeet Ulrich
One of the 90s most beloved horrors follows a group of four outcast teenage girls with supernatural abilities who pursue witchcraft for their own personal gain. Even though The Craft isn’t explicitly queer, it has – like a plethora of films within the horror genre – queer undertones. Their coven is reminiscent of a group of LGBTQIA+ youth who are coming to terms with their identity: Nancy (Fairuza Balk) is your classic unapologetic “out” character, Bonnie (Neve Campbell) is afraid of how her otherness will be perceived by her “normal” peers, Rochelle (Rachel True) is ostracised due to her skin colour and Rachel (Robin Tunney) is discovering who she is. They even find their “safe space” in a witchy part of town – relatable!
The Craft: Legacy (2020)
Cast: Cailee Spaeny, Gideon Adlon, Lovie Simone, Zoey Luna, Nicholas Galitzine, Michelle Monaghan, David Duchovny
Directed and co-written by Zoe Lister-Jones, the sequel to the above stars Cailee Spaeny (Bad Times at the El Royale), Gideon Adlon (The Society), Lovie Simone (Greenleaf), and Zoey Luna (Pose) as four high schoolers who dabble in black magic – to disastrous effect, of course. The official synopsis reads: “When starting at a new school, Hannah befriends Tabby, Lourdes, and Frankie and quickly becomes the fourth member of their clique. Hannah soon learns that she somehow brings great power to the quartet.” Although Legacy could have benefitted from an extra half hour runtime, it’s the rare reboot slash revival that manages to successfully pay homage to the original while expanding on its mythology.
Fear Street (2021)
Cast: Kiana Madeira, Olivia Scott Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr., Julia Rehwald, Fred Hechinger, Ashley Zukerman, Darren Britt-Gibson, Maya Hawke, Jordana Spiro, Jordyn DiNatale, Sadie Sink, Gillian Jacobs, Emily Rudd, Ryan Simpkins,
The horror genre received a much-needed queer makeover with the arrival of Leigh Janiak’s blockbuster trio of Fear Street films, based on R. L. Stine’s beloved teenage novels of the same name. The fantasy-slashers, released over a span of three weeks on Netflix, stars Kiana Madeira and Olivia Scott Welch as Deena and Sam, star-crossed lesbian lovers who find themselves at the centre of an ancient curse that has doomed their hometown of Shadyside for centuries. While the series has received praise for its performances, writing and entertainment value, it was ultimately Madeira and Welch’s groundbreaking romance that was singled out for praise by critics and viewers due to the notorious lack of mainstream LGBTQIA+ representation in the horror genre.
Cast: Dylan Fergus, Bryan Kirkwood, Hank Harris, Andrew Levitas
Widely credited with sparking a wave of “gay slasher” films, and often referred to as the first gay slasher, Hellbent premiered during LGBTQIA+ film festivals in 2004 and 2005 to a rapturous response. Set over one Halloween night in West Hollywood, the film follows five gay men as they’re hunted by a buff masked killer. It’s incredibly low budget, but it’s gayer than a majority of films released now, almost 20 years later. For those who love a good “whodunnit” slasher and want to see hot gays getting butchered, check out Hellbent.
Cast: Jamie Clayton, Odessa A’zion, Brandon Flynn, Goran Višnjić, Drew Starkey, Adam Faison, Aoife Hinds, Selina Lo, Hiam Abbass
A reboot of the 1987 classic of the same name, and the 11th entry in the franchise, Hellraiser stars trans icon Jamie Clayton as the iconic Hell Priest slash ‘Pinhead’ and leader of the Cenobites. Directed by David Brucker, the new film follows a young woman (Odessa A’zion) struggling with addiction as she comes into possession of an ancient puzzle box, which has the power to summon a group of sadistic supernatural entities from an alternate dimension. Praised as one of the best films in the classic series, Hellraiser was celebrated for its gory kills, queer rep and Clayton’s lead performance.
High Tension (2003)
Cast: Cécile de France, Maïwenn, Philippe Nahon, Andrei Finti, Oana Pellea
Although it has a disastrous score on Rotten Tomatoes, High Tension is one of the most clever and terrifying slashers of the 21st century. The French film, widely associated with the New French Extremity movement, stars Cécile de France and Maïwenn as two young students who fend off a deranged serial killer at a secluded farmhouse. The film is notable for its queer storyline and bonkers twist, which has since influenced others in the same genre. The less said, the better.
The Hunger (1983)
Cast: Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, Susan Sarandon, Cliff De Young, Dan Hedaya, Beth Ehlers, Rufus Collins
Thanks to its dark and glamorous aesthetic, The Hunger has – like many other films on this list – found a cult following. Oscar winner Susan Sarandon stars as Sarah Roberts, a doctor specialising in sleep and ageing research who finds herself entangled in a love triangle with a vampire couple, played by Catherine Deneuve and the late David Bowie. It’s homoerotic as hell and has been cited as a major influence on various works in the Gothic subgenre.
Jennifer’s Body (2009)
Cast: Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Johnny Simmons, Amy Sedaris, Adam Brody
Despite its dismal performance at the box office, Jennifer’s Body has become a cult favourite – particularly amongst queer women. The horror-comedy stars Megan Fox as a cheerleader who becomes possessed by a succubus – a demon who seduces men, kills them and devours their flesh etc. Slay! The Diablo Cody-directed film isn’t overflowing with queer narratives, although Jennifer shares a kiss with her best friend Needy (Amanda Seyfried) and their sexual tension is alluded to throughout the film. In a 2009 interview, Fox confirmed her character’s sexuality as she described Jennifer as a “cannibalistic lesbian cheerleader”.
The Perfection (2019)
Cast: Allison Williams, Logan Browning, Steven Weber, Alaina Huffman
Get Out star Allison Williams returns to the horror genre as Charlotte, a cellist who travels to Shanghai to reconnect with her former mentor Anton (Steven Weber). There, she befriends another of Anton’s students Lizzie (Logan Browning) and the two soon become a romantic item. The Perfection is hard to summarise in just a short paragraph, and we want to refrain from spoilers, so what’ll say is: if you’re squeamish, stay away. But, if you’re a gore-obsessed freak (like me!) with a thing for feminist horror, then this one is for you.
Cast: Daniel Wilkinson, Brian Raetz, Lindsey Nicole, Ryan Moore, Celina Beach, Nicole Dambro, Keith Webb
Hunter Killian (Brian Raetz) returns home to Michigan with the support of his friends in New York to come out as gay to his disapproving conservative father. Pitchfork transforms from a coming-of-age drama into a full-blown slasher flick when the gang become hunted by a deranged, pitchfork-wielding lunatic with mummy issues. It’s gory, raunchy and it’s full of twists and turns.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Cast: Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Richard O’Brien, Patricia Quinn, Nell Campbell
The longest-running theatrical release in film history, spanning four decades, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a progressive camp classic that will endure time, space and the multiverse as one of the best musicals of all time. For those who are somehow out of the loop, premise incoming: a young couple (Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick) stranded in the rain find themselves at a castle habited by strangers in fierce, androgynous costumes. Their leader, Dr. Frank N. Furter (Tim Curry) – a self-proclaimed “sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania” – has created a muscle hunk called Rocky in his laboratory. With Rocky Horror normalising the queer experience via sexual liberation, androgyny and Frank’s pansexuality, it’s remained an LGBTQIA+ favourite – and always will be.
Cast: Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, Ari Cohen, Lochlyn Munro, Chandra West, Ty Wood
Directed by Kurtis David Harder, the Shudder exclusive follows a same-sex couple who move to a small town in search of a better environment for them and their 16-year-old daughter. “Nothing is at it seems” in the town, “as something sinister lies behind the picturesque homes and welcoming faces of their new neighbours.” Written by Colin Minihan, Spiral also stars Ty Wood (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), Chandra West (NYPD Blue) and Lochlyn Munroe (Riverdale).
Stranger by the Lake (2013)
Cast: Pierre Deladonchamps, Christophe Paou, Patrick d’Assumçao
The 2013 winner of the Queer Palm Award, Stranger by the Lake is a dark, erotic thriller that is a must-watch for all queer horror buffs this Halloween. Widely hailed as one of the best films of the decade, the film follows Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps), a nude beach regular who falls for Michel (Christophe Paou). Franck witnesses Michel drowning another man in a lake, but doesn’t report it because of his intense attraction. He soon discovers that a relationship with a murderer just won’t work. How sad!
Cast: Kevin Bacon, Anna Chlumsky, Carrie Preston, Theo Germaine, Quei Tann, Austin Crute, Monique Kim, Anna Lore, Cooper Koch, Darwin del Fabro
Pronounced “They Slash Them,” (smart!) this new slasher stars Kevin Bacon as Owen Whistler, the director of a conversion therapy camp who is joined by several queer and trans individuals for a week of programming to “help them find a new sense of freedom”. As the camp’s methods become more unethical over the course of their stay, the campers must work together to protect themselves against a mysterious serial killer.
What Keeps You Alive (2018)
Cast: Hannah Emily Anderson, Brittany Allen, Martha MacIsaac, Joey Klein
Canadian lesbian thriller What Keeps You Alive sees married couple Jackie (Hannah Emily Anderson) and Jules (Brittany Allen) celebrate their one-year anniversary with a remote cabin getaway. Romance soon transitions into terror when Jackie discovers that her wife is harbouring a dark and murderous past.