It goes without saying that Halloween, aka the High Queer Holidays, is going to look different this year. Big group gatherings and haunted houses are risky activities in these uncertain times, so what are goth gays to do? Easy: stock up on that candy, pour popcorn into our best orange-and-black bowls, and watch scary movies until our eyeballs fall out!
Queer representation in horror films is a tradition as old as trick-or-treat, serving up complex characters and storylines as well as lady kisses and plenty of bloodshed. Here are a handful of favorites through the ages, with varying degrees of scary.
“The Haunting” (1963)
Shirley Jackson’s novel “The Haunting of Hill House” has been adapted countless times (most recently the Netflix series of the same name), but this 1963 version, filmed in black and white, is one of the best and gayest. Bohemian clairvoyant Theodora (Claire Bloom) is a woman who makes no secret of her same-sex attraction, and in a rare and refreshing occurrence for movies of this time period, isn’t punished for it! Not only that, but despite the censors wanting to downplay the lesbian storyline, both Theodora and Julie Harris’s shy Eleanor are very obvious about it, touching one another several times. Scandalous!
I couldn’t not include this Spanish-German film based on the title alone — and it only gets better from there. Countess Nadine Carody (Soledad Miranda) is a descendant of Dracula and haunts the dreams of Turkish lawyer Linda Westinghouse (Ewa Strömberg). When the two finally meet, the Countess reveals her taste for women — and their blood — and Linda must either learn to defend herself or give in to the Countess’s charms. This is the erotic lesbian thriller of your darkest dreams!
“Heavenly Creatures” (1994)
I have a soft spot for this one, as it was one of the first queer movies I ever saw and it never fails to scare the bejesus out of me. The true story of two creative teen girls in 1950s New Zealand whose idyllic imaginary world slowly but surely spins out of control until it leads to murder has everything: queer first love, introspection that turns into delusion, and breakout roles for badass actress (and “The L Word”) guest Melanie Lynskey and the one and only Kate Winslet!
“Make a Wish” (2002)
The late nineties and early aughts saw a host of indie queer cinema, including this lesbian homage to camp slasher films like “Friday the 13th.” The day after a woman is murdered in the boonies, a group of queer women, including birthday girl Susan (Moynan King), her first girlfriend, her latest girlfriend, and at least one ex, gather nearby for their annual camping trip. Amid the healing rituals, squabbles over lack of vegan food, and hippie healing rituals, a killer lurks, waiting to pick them off one by one. Will anyone make it out alive? Will there be a ton of lezzie drama among the body count? I think you know the answer to that last one.
“The Descent” (2005)
Some may argue this isn’t a queer film, but what else do you call a movie about a group of women digging around in a cave? One year after a tragic accident befalls her family, amateur spelunker Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) goes on an adventure with her best pal Juno (Natalie Mendoza) and a group of their friends. As the women battle claustrophobia, broken limbs and, oh yeah, monsters intent on destroying them, Sarah must rely on her survival skills to make it out alive. Intense, bloody, and inherently gay, “The Descent” will have you shaking in your hiking boots.
“Jennifer’s Body” (2009)
To say this box office flop turned cult classic was ahead of its time is the understatement of the early aughts. Wild girl Jennifer’s transformation to murderous vixen after a bunch of gross boys use her to make a deal with the devil is a giant eff you to the patriarchy and darkly hilarious thanks to Diablo Cody’s snappy dialogue. Megan Fox’s performance in the title role is everything you want in a horror heroine: a gorgeous woman hyperaware of her newfound powers who’s here to destroy — when she’s not seducing her best friend (Amanda Seyfried). As Jennifer states, “I go both ways.”
“All Cheerleaders Die” (2013)
Lez be honest: This horror-comedy has serious chops. A remake of the 2001 original, “All Cheerleaders Die” follows rebellious teen Maddy (Caitlin Stasey) who seeks to dismantle her school squad from the inside after a stunt-gone-awry kills Maddy’s best friend. What follows is a funny-sexy-scary romp involving Sapphic love triangles, Wiccan rituals, and zombies in pleated skirts as Maddy pursues revenge while falling in with her fellow cheerleaders. Maddy’s ex-girlfriend Leena (Sianoa Smit-McPhee) also gets involved in the gruesome chaos. S-O-L-D!
“What Keeps You Alive” (2018)
Jackie (Hannah Emily Anderson) and Jules (Brittany Allen) decamp to a remote mountain cabin to celebrate their first wedding anniversary. However, the second honeymoon’s over pretty quickly when Jackie’s childhood friend Sarah (Martha MacIsaac) visits and calls Jackie by another name, and soon after, a simple argument turns terrifying. Who is Jackie, and what were her real motivations in marrying Jules? Fun fact: Jackie and Jules were originally written as a hetero couple, but thankfully, the powers that be soon realized that lesbians make everything more interesting.
Vampires have crystal-clear goals and killer fashion sense, and given both of these, it’s unsurprising that many of them are queer! In “Bit,” trans teen girl Laurel moves to LA and gets more than she bargained for: a group of feminist vampires clamoring for her friendship and much more. If that logline alone weren’t a major selling point, know that Laurel is played by trans icon Nicole Maines, the vampires’ feminism is hella intersectional, and the queer girl vampires eat boys. “Bit” is both a new classic and an absolute must for your scary movie marathon.
These scary queer classics will keep you warm as temperatures chill and spooked enough to snuggle up with your favorite humans!