Every time you go to opening weekend of a new slasher or monster movie, I guarantee that your theater is packed with homosexuals just like lil, ole me! Queer people are drawn to whatever representation we can find, and, for decades, we knew (subconsciously or not) that we could see ourselves in the horror genre–it doesn’t always have to be as blatant as, say, Nightmare on Elm Street 2. Shudder’s fantastic four-part documentary series, Queer for Fear: The History of Queer Horror, brings the blood and the brains.
If you were unfamiliar with the queer leanings of some of Alfred Hitchcock’s most infamous characters or you didn’t ponder how Mary Shelley’s pansexuality figured into the narrative of Frankenstein, Queer for Fear has you covered. For every debate over the dom-sub dynamics of Mrs. Danvers there’s an exploration of James Whale films. The first episode (available now on Shudder) combs through the many versions of Dracula while touching on the anti-Semitism of Nosferatu and the tragedy of Oscar Wilde and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Other episodes break down Anthony Perkins’ legacy in the Psycho franchise and transformation in horror.
Queer for Fear chronologically guides us through the history of queer film representation going all the way back to the early 1920s. Through small vignettes and talking head interviews, the series illuminates how general prejudices and real-life obstacles (like The Hayes Code) prevented gay, lesbian, transgender and queer artistry from being explicitly portrayed on screen. But we knew how to create workarounds in order to find the audience members who needed these stories while entertaining those whose heads it went over.
Creator Bryan Fuller has assembled a dream team of panelists to talk about everything they’ve researched and seen. Justin Simien (my personal favorite), Tawny Cypress, Kimberly Ane Peirce, Leslye Hedlund, Alaska Thunderfuck, Karyn Kusama, and Elvira (!!!) are just some of the artists who detail not just their knowledge but their excitement. Their eagerness to finally discuss this rich topic is infectious, and it makes you scour what’s available on every streaming platform.
The more we reach into the fabulous history of these queer textures, the smarter we will become as cinephiles and fans. That is something to truly scream about.
The first episode of Queer for Fear: The History of Queer Horror is available now on Shudder. New episodes drop on Fridays.