Ever since I was a kid, I loved supernatural horror in all of its imaginative forms. I remember learning English while watching “Twin Peaks” with my mom when we were living in Germany. In 5th grade, she let me see “The Shining” as a reward for my good marks. Supernatural horror been my spiritual home away from home where all my daily anxieties are exorcised and I come out feeling refreshed. And what better time to do a deep dive into the genre than now with Spooky Season — whether that means Halloween or the Election — upon us.
But as a femme who’s spent the past 20 years watching the same cishet normative tropes being played out, I’m tired and have stopped caring about the storylines. I almost wish the protagonist won’t make it out of the horror house infested with possessed Victorian dolls and cannibal poltergeists because she’s yet another irreparably basic cis straight girl-next-door with a generic boyfriend.
Thank all the goddesses out there that this is the 21st century. With film festivals like NewFest and Outfest and better LGBTQ+ visibility in film & television, we’ve come a long way from the previously pervasive leading roles of Christian Girl Autumn and her boyfriend Chad Tucket. I’m here to bring you my personal recs of my least-to-most-favorite horror movies, where us queers and big ol’ lesbos aren’t just type-casted arm candy alongside the cishets only to die off in the first 30 minutes of the movie but actually slaying all the monsters (and the patriarchy, while we’re at it).
“Vampyros Lesbos” — 1970, Amazon Prime, 92 Minutes
I mean come on, the title says everything. What’s not to love about lesbian vampire pulp from the ‘70s — besides the fact that it’s peak Euro-sleaze exploitation cinema? I must say though, after a complete waste of 127 minutes watching the problematic rape-revenge, dumpster-fire-of-a-psychothriller “The Perfection” (also the only movie I found with an interracial couple), this West-German/Spanish erotic horror instantly lifted my spirits.
The movie starts with an erotic performance between two women: one pretending to be a candelabra and the other enticing her while peering into the mirror and waving around a flowy red scarf. This possesses the protagonist Linda Westinghouse (Ewa Strömberg) to have erotic dreams in which the lead dancer calls out to her. The young blonde lawyer is then assigned to investigate the will of Countess Caroly (Soledad Miranda). After trekking to some mysterious island, she realizes that the countess is the dancer in her dreams — and her inheritance was Count Dracula’s. Rest assured, this movie has everything you need: vampires who beach, ketchup blood, unrequited love, scenic views of Istanbul, and your summer 2021 wardrobe inspo.
“High Tension” — 2003, Amazon Prime, 95 Minutes
So let’s get one thing straight when I say I love horror: I mean anything and everything supernatural. And while I generally don’t like home invasion movies, this came recommended by one of my closest best femmes who’s a self-professed “horror junkie;” it was one of the first things that solidified our friendship. This 90-minute slasher full of traumatic terrors stars Cecile de France as Marie, a pixie-cut sporting, thumb-ring clad dyke who’s in love with her best friend Alex (Maiwenn) whom she must save from the sick and twisted hands of a necrophiliac serial killer. If you like blood baths, stage-5 clingers, being in the middle of a cornfield where no one can hear you scream, and unexpected plot twists, then grab a blanket and keep the lights on.
“Neon Demon” — 2016, Amazon Prime, 118 Minutes
After eight-plus years of working in the fashion industry, I don’t think any movie (not even “The Devil Wears Prada”) comes as close to exposing the cutthroat nature of this field than “Neon Demon.” I mean, maybe there would be less gaslighting and backstabbing if we had more sexy cannibals running around — or maybe I’m just dark and slightly twisted. All jokes aside, this is a visually STUNNING movie, with, you guessed it, a symphony of lusty neon lighting. It stars Elle Fanning as Jesse, a young aspiring model who moves to LA to pursue her dreams only to find out its more disturbing realities alongside amorous obsessions/jealousy. The queer representation on display is offensive in this one; much like “High Tension,” it’s not celebratory but symptomatic of something unpleasant. This film has a fair amount of body horror, cannibalism, pouty models, and trippy imagery. If you’re looking for a total mindf*ck , this one is neon lit. I recommend not eating one hour prior to watching.
“Suspiria” — 2018, Amazon Prime, 153 Minutes
Before camp was the 2019 buzzword of the year by way of the Met’s whitewashed fashion exhibition surveying one hundred years of the aesthetic, its vestiges can be found in Dario Argento’s cult classic “Suspiria” from 1977. If you like clashing colors and ketchup blood, this one’s for you. But if you’re looking for something with a lusty, lesbionic mood with bouts of tantalizing eye sex, go for the remake. Dakota Johnson stars as Susie, a sheltered Mennonite from Ohio who’s been accepted into a prestigious West Berlin dance school run by a coven of witches whose lead choreographer and supreme, Madame Blanc (played by Tilda Swinton), has a growing fascination with her. SPOILER ALERT: It gets pretty bloody, like one’s first day on the rag with no Midol in sight and level 10 pain.
“The Hunger” — 1984, Amazon Prime, 100 Minutes
David Bowie plays a vampire dealing with fears of getting old and irrelevant (yes, even vampires deal with ageism, even if it’s more progressed). In a quest to find a cure, his wife (Catherine Devenue) seeks the help of a scientist (Susan Sarandon) and things get really gay. It’s hilariously male gazey — diaphonous curtains flowing in the wind, schmaltzy love scenes — but if you’re feeling ‘80s fashion right now, a synthy AF score (there’s a guest appearance by the band Bauhaus), and cutthroat queer vampires getting it on and taking down anyone standing in their way, then this is a must.
“Tales from the Crypt: Demon Night” — 1995, Amazon Prime, 93 Minutes
A campy indulgence of absurdist ’90s gore? Electric-green demon blood, guts, eyeballs galore, and other fineries iconic to “Tales from the Crypt?” Billy Zane as a villainous demon king? Done, done, and done. But let’s not forget why we’re watching: Jada Pinkett Smith’s character, Jeryline, the force-to-be-reckoned-with final girl who sports timeless signifiers of ’90s butch style (cropped blonde hair, bandana, white ribbed tank, denim-on-denim, and no time for anyone’s BS). Jada Pinkett Smith kills it (literally). This is a ‘so bad it’s practically legendary’ 90-minute horror-comedy.
“Survival of the Dead” — 2009, Amazon Prime, 90 minutes
This George Romero zombie thriller stars Athena Karkanis as Tomboy (yes, that really is her name) leading her team of ex-military bros through a zombie apocalypse on an island. With equal parts tension and low-brow laughs (e.g. comical zombies playing with dynamites, trying to drive cars, etc.) it’s worth the watch. But like many zombie movies, it asks the question: Who is the real enemy — the blood thirsty dead or the living that show the worst of humanity (divisiveness, political-pettiness, and ruthlessness)? (Wait, is this article about Trump?) So, if you like unapologetically dykey boss bitches in uniform, zombies bumbling around the scenic countryside, a moderate amount of gore, and old grumpy-ish men fighting over land, make yourself a hot toddy and drink up.
“The Taking of Deborah Logan” — 2014, Amazon Prime, 91 Minutes
This counts as one of my favorite modern-day demonic possession movies. It’s well-written horror that ALSO features a realistic portrayal of lesbians (I know, it’s a rare find). It stars a butch Ann Ramsay playing Sarah Logan, who lives out in the country and becomes increasingly worried about her mother’s strange and disturbing behavior. That’s all I’m gonna say for now. So, if you like a positive representation of butch lesbians, demonic possessions, grandma chic, and the countryside, then curl up, grab a low-key domestic beer and your fave flannel.
“The Haunting” — 1963, Amazon Prime, 118 Minutes
Like wine or clothes, I’ll never pass up a good vintage. And when it comes to horror, it’s just a part of my self-care ritual. If you loved Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House,” the inspiration for the 2018 Netflix series, well then, meet the original. It co-stars Claire Bloom playing Theodora, a confident, incomparably chic, unmarried woman. And you guessed it: teaming with gay vibes. She and a few others have been selected for their psychic talents to stay in a notoriously haunted house for a psychological study. So, if you’re into Mary Quant (but make it dykey), glaring Neo Gothic architecture (Hill House walked so that Melissa Gorga’s mansion could effing run), and elegant thrills, open a bottle of your favorite vintage and sip slowly.
“Bit” — 2019, Amazon Prime, 90 Minutes
A trans teen girl (Nicole Maines) moves to LA and falls in with a crew of feminist vigilante queer vampires? YES, YES, AND YES! Rent it STAT. Seriously, this is a perfect mix of sexy vampires, artistically executed thrills, well-developed characters, a cute interracial couple, and a beautiful message about power and how to utilize it. If you’re into strong female leads played by transgender women, edgy queer vampires, the gritty glam of LA’s nightlife, or if you just love the idea of smashing the patriarchy one lethal bit at a time, show ‘em your fangs.
But we still have a long way to go, as this list doesn’t do any justice to inclusion and racial diversity. When I researched why, the documentary “Horror Noire” (available on Shudder) led to some insight. (Definitely check it out, especially if you’re a fan of “The Craft.”) Rachel True talks Black representation in white spaces and her part in the movie. Shows like “Lovecraft Country,” “Wrong Turn,” and “From Dusk Till Dawn” are vital to bringing more visibility. For more amazing news on this front, director Dee Rees is partnering with “Get Out” producer Jason Blumhouse for an upcoming movie about Black lesbians living in a haunted house in the middle of rural America, and Lena Waithe is working on a new horror series, “THEM: Covenant,” for Amazon. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to all the future directors and screenwriters who will bring dynamic characters of color to life and move the needle toward comprehensive diversity in the horror genre.