Hail, bloody Marys!
June is upon us, and for most of the continental United States (Illinois is in question as of late), the month long celebration of Gay Pride has begun!
This June is especially gay for those of us here at Midnight Mass HQ, because in addition to our usual celebrating, Peaches is currently gearing up to welcome horror’s most illustrious male scream queen, Mark Patton, to join her for a June 22nd screening of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2. Long celebrated for its overt gay subtext, Nightmare 2 is the perfect flick for blood-thirsty gays who are looking to add some chills to their Pride thrills.
Of course, Nightmare 2 isn’t the only horror film out there that adds a little queer to its fear, so today we’re going to delve a little deeper into some homo-horrors and provide for you the absolute best assortment of horror films to give your Pride party a little zest.
Luckily, as multi-faceted as my friendship with Peaches Christ may be, the one thing above all else that we share in common is our love of silver screen scares. As such, this article provided the two of us the marvelous opportunity to sit down and do what we ghoulfriends do best: Gab about gore.
Of course, beyond Midnight Mass, Peaches is no slouch when it comes to injecting a bit of the old homosexual hijinks into a genre flick. Her own movie, All About Evil (directed by her alter-ego, Joshua Grannell) saw drag queens and camp icons alike join together to face off against a murderous character played by Natasha Lyonne, and the film has already inspired a number of cult screenings worldwide. Of course, humility dictates that we shouldn’t include it in our list, but I’m going to give it an honorable mention. After all, this is Peaches’ site, and furthermore, it’s a damn good movie, which is something I’d say even if I wasn’t part of the PC team. Besides, Christ gives so much for us all, I think watching All About Evil this month is a good way to give back to Christ.
Anyway, as you can see from our close consideration of Peaches’ own movie, our selection process was tough, and we went through a lot of options…
“What about Fright Night? Fright Night is SOOOOOO gay.”
“Why exactly DOES Corey Haim have a poster of Rob Lowe in his bedroom in The Lost Boys?”
“Is she a lesbian in High Tension? Or just French?”
…but ultimately settled on these 10 films, certain to make your blood run a little more hot this Pride season.
In my work as a screenwriter and actor, I’ve had the good fortune to collaborate, work with, and befriend some pretty remarkable artists. As such, I admit that this occasionally makes my column here somewhat biased, because in discussing horror cinema, I have a hard time not gushing about my pals. Because of this, I freely confess no end of affinity for one of my favorite creative partners, Alan Rowe Kelly (catch us in Razor Days, and our upcoming collaborative effort, Tales of Poe). That said, the film of Alan’s I’m here to recommend to you is one I had absolutely nothing to do with, and am happily relegated to the role of so many others: A rabid fan.
The Blood Shed remains, for many, one of Alan’s most popular cinematic outings. A gritty entrée of hillbilly horror, the film tells the story of the Bullion family, a cannibalistic clan of rednecks. Alan, who also stars, is often known to use his gender-bending appearance to play regal women in the style of classic Hollywood, but what makes The Blood Shed so unique is his decision to go against type. Rather than donning the familiar air of Bette Davis, Kelly slides into the over-sized shoes of Beefteena, a 12 year old pituitary case with a taste for blood. Peaches Christ routinely raves to me about her love for the character of Beefteena, and it’s really no wonder why she is so captivated. Filthy, freakish, and maniacal, Beefteena Bullion is that rare cult creation that transcends the movie and leaves you begging for more. Alan Rowe Kelly’s blurring of gender lines and introduction of a character that is comparable in scope to some of Divine’s outings makes The Blood Shed the perfect appetizer to kick off your Pride weekend. But, in deference to the dining habits of Beefteena’s family, just make sure you can identify the meat.
Speaking of cross-dressing, hillbilly horror, we come to maybe the most debatable entry on this list: The oft-neglected fourth installment in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, starring a pre-fame Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellwegger. I say this is debatable, because TCM: The Next Generation isn’t generally considered overly homosexual by many horror historians. However, after Peaches suggested it for this list, I gave it some serious thought and realized that it’s a truly inspired choice.
In conversation, Peaches called it “the one where Leatherface is a drag queen,” and it’s essentially true. But, I think the connection goes deeper than that mere fact. Indeed, in some ways, Leatherface has been doing drag throughout all of the Chainsaw movies, covering his face with new ones to hide his dissatisfaction with himself. However, it is with this film that we see Leatherface really taking the leap and gender-bending completely. Not only do his faces incorporate more beautiful make-up than ever before, but his clothing choice also moves into cross-dressing territory. By the film’s finale, he looks like a hulking she-male, set to stroll the Castro on a Saturday night. Now, I don’t think this makes Leatherface gay, but what I do think is that, by blurring gender lines in union with his pre-existent need to escape himself, we suddenly have a character with whom the gay audience can relate. There, stuck with a family who doesn’t understand or appreciate him, Leatherface seems to want to be something more, something beautiful…and how many times have we heard that story on RuPaul’s Drag Race? By the end of the flick, when Leatherface is twirling his chainsaw in pearls and a party dress, you know it’s the other person he’s telling to sashay away.
Combined with the film’s more than campy take on a usually very grim franchise, I think that Texas Chainsaw: The Next Generation is ripe to be rediscovered by gay audiences, because it has an over-the-top zest that is overdue for a second look. Besides, if gays can revive Mommie Dearest, why can’t they do the same for “The Little Texan Drag Queen Who Could?”
For fans of filmmaker Bruce LaBruce, who is known for his sexualized, transgressive, queer-punk approach to filmmaking, perhaps the most shocking thing is how remarkably sweet Otto; or Up With Dead People turns out to be.
Telling the tale of the titular Otto (played by the sublime Jay Crisfar), the film explores the concept of love after death…or lack thereof. When Otto is resurrected as a zombie, he only has patchy memories of his life before and the boyfriend he left behind. As Otto wanders the countryside, leaving bodies in his wake, we are treated to a glimpse of a zombie in the midst of an existential crisis. Although still filled with plenty of the sexual imagery for which he is known, LaBruce asks the audience to travel further, and ask itself what it really means to “die for love.” Powerful in the most subtle of ways, Otto is a zombie movie like no other, as it shows that heartbreak can kill as much as the undead.
In case you aren’t a frequent reader of my column here at peacheschrist.com, you may have missed the fact that I love the work of David DeCoteau (http://www.peacheschrist.com/?p=7051). Dazzling genre enthusiasts with his film output since the 1980s, DeCoteau has been a horror staple to fans for several decades, and with classic films like Nightmare Sisters and Creepazoids, it’s not hard to see why. DeCoteau gave horror one of its holiest scream queen trios, and ruled late night cable for years. He’s a veteran and a legend, and since the mid-90s, he’s also been making some pretty gay movies. If you’ve ever seen a fright film where the forces of darkness also happen to be hunky, underwear clad men, then chances are you’ve stumbled upon a David DeCoteau flick. With titles like The Frightening, Beastly Boys, and his popular Brotherhood series, DeCoteau ensured that the ladies weren’t the only ones being objectified in horror cinema, and has been constantly goring gorgeous guys ever since. His recent range of films, the 1313 series (including the much publicized 1313: Cougar Cult), continues the trend of putting hot bodied men into horrifying situations. With an array of options, such as 1313: Boy Crazies and 1313: Frankenqueen, it’s hard to select just one DeCoteau vehicle to enhance your Pride experience. Instead, I suggest that any DeCoteau film will do, because few filmmakers can claim such a niche market. In fact, because of his constant commitment to making fright a little more fabulous, I think it’s safe to declare David DeCoteau the Grand Marshall of Halloweentown’s Pride Parade. Cheers, David!
In speaking of David DeCoteau, fans of the USA Up All Night-era of horror may remember that he came from a prestigious group of filmmakers who all contributed to shaping the 80s genre landscape. One of DeCoteau’s most notable peers is Fred Olen Ray, a veritable icon of cult cinema and a lasting presence on the scene.
For many, Fred Olen Ray is most associated with films like Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers and Evil Toons, which shared scares and buxom babes in equal measure. Yet, for all the bared breasts and sexy scream queens on the silver screen, I discovered in conversation with Ray that one of his proudest achievements was a gay vampire romp he did for television. Having seen The Lair, I completely understand Fred Olen Ray’s sense of pride. Telling the tale of a journalist (David Moretti) who is led to investigate a gay club that is secretly run by vampires, The Lair plays like a gleeful mix of Dark Shadows and Melrose Place.
As a long standing believer that genre television can often surpass film in quality of storytelling (Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The X-Files are but two shining examples), I feel The Lair is a welcome addition to this list, as it succeeds to providing the utmost in quality horror for its audience. Furthermore, I have a great affinity for a number of people associated with this show (there’s that bias again), and think that they deserve some attention for the heart they gave to one of gay horror’s most ambitious outings. Featuring top notch performances from Moretti, Peter Stickles, Dylan Vox, Brian Nolan, and more, The Lair brings the best of Fred Olen Ray’s 80s sensibilities to the small screen, and provides the LGBT audience with a gothic serial to call their very own. And like so many of the hunks with bared fangs that populate The Lair, Fred Olen Ray’s commitment to this ongoing saga means that it may one day rise again from the dead. So, in the meantime, sink your teeth into this fun bite of vampire history.
…and speaking of gay vampires, who says that the boys get to have all the fun? This cult favorite from the late-Tony Scott pushed the boundaries of Sapphic sexiness when it was released, and remains a popular flick with horror fans. Starring David Bowie, Catherine Deneuve, and Susan Sarandon (who, as a Rocky Horror alum, is no stranger to homo horror), The Hunger is the story of a doctor who becomes caught in a love triangle with two very devious bloodsuckers. In a case of inspired casting, Bowie and Denueve’s otherworldly looks make them the perfect vampiric duo. However, it is their stalking of Sarandon that gives the film its cinematic staying power. In 1983, when the film was made, sequences of lesbian lust at the movies were few and far between, let alone ones featuring A-List stars. That’s why, in The Hunger’s most famous sequence where Deneuve seduces Sarandon, there was not a dry seat in the house. As infamous as it is erotic, The Hunger proved a major turning point for art and horror movies, as it showed that same sex pairings could not only engage the mainstream, but captivate them with their beauty.
Often hailed as “the love child of Quentin Tarantino and John Waters,” Israel Luna’s Ticked Off Trannies With Knives is one of those flicks that has no business being as good as it turns out to be. Hailing back to the 70s-era of revenge-themed horror, Ticked Off Trannies tells the tale of a group of transexuals who get bashed in a hate crime and refuse to remain victims. Arming themselves with knives (obviously) and taking to the streets, they become a squad of Charles Bronsons with boobs. Starring a delightfully acerbic cast that includes Krystal Summers, Erica Andrews, Kelexis Davenport, and RuPaul’s Drag Race/YouTube sensation Willam, Ticked Off Trannies is a fierce dose of fun, and a great example of the best of what low-budget indie cinema can be. Not only is this challenging, subversive, and laugh out loud funny, it also is a particular treat, as so few films, let alone subgenre films, cast trans-characters in the lead. For the month of Pride, I’m happy to recommend this movie, because it’s nice to see our trans-comrades stealing the spotlight and kicking some ass. Besides, after seeing their style of revenge, it’s a good reminder to never, ever cross a tranny.
Although there are a lot of boys who kill on this list, Heavenly Creatures is a flick that proves girls do brutality better. Directed by Peter Jackson long before he set out to return the ring to Mordor, Heavenly Creatures tells the shockingly true story of two girls in love in 1950s New Zealand, and the blood-soaked consequences of their union.
With the girls played to perfection by Kate Winslet (in one of her first roles) and Melanie Lynskey, the film utilizes the over-the-top flights of fancy seen in some of Jackson’s earlier horror outings, but definitely juxtaposes them with some very harsh doses of reality. Furthermore, the movie is rooted in the emotional gravity of the forbidden romance, intensified by the fact that they are merely two confused teenagers in love. When the mother of Lynskey’s character discovers what her daughter has been up to, the movie takes a freight-train to its inevitable, horrifying conclusion.
On a personal note, I’ve long celebrated this film for its starkness. Unlike some of the other movies on this list, it doesn’t err too much on the side of whimsy, and the viewer never forgets how dreadfully true and lasting the actions of the girls become. In the early 2000s, I mounted a screening of Heavenly Creatures at Kent State University, and was pleased to see, in the film’s final moments, that there was not a single person, especially the straightest of the straight boys, who didn’t wince at the unforgiving finale. Heavenly Creatures shows us that truth is often more horrible than fiction, and is a grim reminder of what can happen when love is not allowed to be free.
While not explicitly a horror film, this notorious crime thriller from the director of The Exorcist has a long legacy with LGBT audiences for its controversial portrayal of the leather underground. Starring Al Pacino as a cop hot on the trail of a murderer who is cruising and killing gay men, the movie was reviled by gay rights groups upon its release, who cited the seemingly negative depiction of the lifestyle. However, time has allowed the gay community to embrace the film, and it has since been screened in a celebratory fashion by gay film groups across the country (including one notorious double feature at the Warhol Museum, where it was paired with The Village People’s Can’t Stop the Music).
A personal favorite of mine, Cruising is the perfect blend of art-house cinema and 42nd Street sleaze. Although the film is over 30 years old, it still feels challenging in its presentation of the world Pacino descends into, and offers more than its share of brutal violence. One could argue that Friedkin stylized the “scene” a bit, but the truth remains that cruising was a big part of the gay experience in New York in the 70s, and the director merely pulls back the layers to reveal how dangerous it could truly be. A gritty gem and significant piece of queer art history, Cruising adds another jolting dose of grim reality to this list. Its impact is still felt years later, and is drawn upon in avant-garde LGBT cinema of today. If anything, it’s a horrifying reminder that you never really truly know who you’re bringing home from the bar, do you?
If you were paying attention in the introduction, it should come as no surprise this film tops our list. Some have called it “the gayest horror film ever made,” and they would be 100% correct.
That said, it’s hard to believe in 1985, following on the heels of Wes Craven’s massively popular inaugural outing on Elm Street, that the folks at New Line Cinema intended to provide us with possibly the most homosexual horror of them all. To be sure, Nightmare 2 director Jack Sholder has maintained that he was unaware of any homoerotic subtext while making the film, even as screenwriter David Chaskin and star Mark Patton have championed the movie’s inherent “gayness.” Indeed, Patton has even gone so far as to dub himself one of horror’s original “scream queens,” and his crown has been championed by LGBT and Elm Street fans alike.
With all the behind-the-scenes discussion, you may ask yourself what makes this film so gay, and it’s hard to pinpoint, exactly. Maybe it’s the leather bar, frequented by the S&M-enthusiastic gym coach. Maybe it’s the moment when Jesse (Patton), about to get laid by a girl, flees the scene to go stay the night with his hunky friend instead. Or perhaps it’s Jesse’s painful struggle with a secret that sets him apart from the other boys, leading him to epically declare, “He is INSIDE ME!”
…wait, none of these things are hard to pinpoint at all. Jesse’s basically struggling with being a big ‘mo, and the fact that he’s being stalked by Freddy Krueger just happens to be ancillary to the plot. That’s not even me editorializing, either. Freddy Krueger’s presence in the film, as opposed to the first Nightmare, is far more symbolic, representative of the internal demons that Jesse is struggling with, making him an outcast to his peers. Most of the movie is spent showing Jesse’s dawning realization that his life is destined to be different from everyone else’s, and the fact that his gym teacher is a class-one leather queen just happens to be the icing on the cake.
Because of its none-too-subtle differences from the rest of the franchise, Nightmare 2 was long treated as the black sheep of the Elm Street legacy. However, recent years and the emergence of a whole subgenre of gay horror fans have allowed the ill-treated sequel to finally be celebrated as a camp masterpiece.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 was always my favorite of the Elm Street films, and I championed the movie long before I put the evidence of my own identity together. I finally met Mark Patton in the late 2000s, and I was overjoyed to find that the film’s star celebrated its grandiose gayness as much as I did. For a movie with such an iconic horror villain, it is Mark’s embracing of the dark rainbow within Nightmare 2 that gives it such weight with horror and LGBT fans alike. Nightmare 2 has earned its title of “gayest horror film ever” as much for what is on the screen as the community of inclusion it has created off.
If you can’t make it to San Francisco for Peaches’ celebration of Nightmare 2 this month, or are strapped for time in selecting a movie for your Pride party, just know that this movie is the Holy Grail of Homo Horror.
So, from me to you, dear children of the popcorn, this Pride month, I wish you safe scares, and I sure hope that you meet the man of your dreams.
Until next time.
Have a favorite gay horror movie? Think we missed it on this list? Leave a comment below and share your favorite, or send Michael a tweet (@MichaelVarrati) with your homo-horror suggestion!
Also, get your tickets for Peaches Christ’s Midnight Mass presentation of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, featuring special guest Mark Patton HERE