Skip to content

By Cathy Pilkington on

Scream it Out Loud: A Brief History of LGBTQ+ Horror

For Pride Month, Pictureville Presents has teamed up with Leeds-based programmer Queer Fear to bring you four classic queer thrillers.

In this post, we delve a little deeper into the history of LGBTQ+ horror and the films we are screening this month.

We’ve Always Been Here

There have been many articles, books and even a documentary series (Queer for Fear on Shudder) on the history of queer horror and why a lot of LGBTQ+ people love horror so much. The otherness of the ‘monsters’, the subversion of societal norms and what’s ‘acceptable’—the parallels are pretty evident.

Even in early Gothic literature, the transgressive themes of sexuality and gender (particularly in vampire literature) have been viewed through a queer lens; Carmilla, about the prototype ‘lesbian vampire’, was published 25 years before Bram Stoker’s genre-defining Dracula.

But it’s not just the themes that are LGBTQ+; a lot of the creators of the genre are a part of the community themselves. Frankenstein author Mary Shelley was bisexual (as evidenced in her own letters) and director James Whale, who brought Frankenstein to life for Universal in 1931, was an out gay man.

The 80s and 90s saw a rise in queer horror, with films such as Bound, Hellraiser, The Craft and Scream breathing new life into the genre and paving the way for a new generation of LGBTQ+ filmmakers—just look at Rose Glass’s gargantuan 80s-set erotic thriller/body horror Love Lies Bleeding.

Queer Fear: What to Watch

This month we’re screening four classic thrillers at The Studio, brought to you by Queer Fear.

Diabolique (1955)

Véra Clouzot and Simone Signoret
Diabolique (1955)

Henri-Georges Clouzot’s startling thriller about a wife (Véra Clouzot) and her husband’s mistress (Simone Signoret) who plot to kill their tormentor shocked audiences at the time and is considered a touchstone of queer horror.

While the gay subplot of the original novel was left out, the intimate relationship between Clouzot and Signoret’s characters can still be seen in the film.

Bound (1996)

Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon

The Wachowski sisters gave the erotic thriller a queer update in this iconic celebration of romance an d desire, while taking it away from the usual misogyny and gendered violence that was increasingly present in the genre.

This immaculately crafted queer neo-noir is an explosive debut from the sisters who went on to make The Matrix.

Rope (1948)

John Dall and James Stewart
John Dall and James Stewart in Rope

Alfred Hitchcock’s claustrophobic classic about two men who believe they’ve committed the perfect murder has found new popularity among queer audiences. As with Diabolique, the film’s source material (Patrick Hamilton’s 1929 play of the same name) makes more explicit references to the lead characters’ homosexuality, but nevertheless the implication is there.
In Hitchcock’s Rope, Brandon (John Dall) and Philip (Farley Granger) callously host a dinner party at the scene of their fatal crime, lustfully enraptured by their murderous act, and by each other.

Mulholland Drive (2001)

Naomi Watts and Laura Harring
Mulholland Drive

David Lynch’s seriously strange masterpiece is one of the most critically loved films centring lesbian relationships.
Naomi Watts and Laura Harring as Betty and Rita depict one of the most heart-wrenching and passionate queer romances in mainstream cinema, all done with Lynch’s trademark uncanniness.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *