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Horror Films  
 
page: 1  2  

Lesbian Monsters

Until the 1970s, lesbian monsters were less visible in cinema than their male counterparts. The most important early image of the dyke vampire is in Lambert Hillyer's Dracula's Daughter (1935), which presents Countess Zaleska's (Gloria Holden) vampiric encounter with a beautiful, innocent young woman as an unmistakable homosexual seduction.

The female vampire who preys on other women has long been a staple of literature high and low, and is probably the most common image of the queer female monster in cinema.

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In the 1960s and 1970s this character resurfaced in stylized but surprisingly sensual portrayals in films such as Roger Vadim's Blood and Roses (1961) and Harry Kumel's Daughters of Darkness (1971), in which the lesbian vampire is presented as irresistibly beautiful and stylish--and unapologetic--rather than homely and tormented as in Dracula's Daughter.

More model-beautiful vampires (some of the actresses had been Playboy bunnies) appear in Hammer Studio's "Carmilla" trilogy (based on J. Sheridan LeFanu's famous 1872 novel). Roy Ward Baker's The Vampire Lovers (1970), Jimmy Sangster's Lust for a Vampire (1971), and John Hough's Twins of Evil (1972) titillated both heterosexual male and lesbian audiences with images of sharp female teeth sinking into heaving breasts.

1980s and 1990s Horror

Cultural anxieties around the queer monster continued in films throughout the 1980s and 1990s, and persist today. The sleek, sexy female vampires of the 1960s continued to set the standard in films such as Tony Scott's The Hunger (1982), but queer horror could be found more often in subtext than text, despite a general loosening of cinematic standards.

Wes Craven's Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (1982) features both an out homosexual in the form of a sadistic gym coach (who is brutally dispatched in a Grand Guignol shower scene) and a coded/closeted queer boy, Jesse (Mark Patton), whose outsiderness attracts the attention of the monster Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund).

Harry Benshoff reads the scene of the coach's death--which occurs through Freddy's inhabiting, that is, penetrating, Jesse--as a version of homosexual panic that results in Jesse's becoming a murderer. Freddy's function is both to unleash Jesse's potential homosexuality and to possess Jesse himself, an extension of the 1950s theme of the sophisticated older homosexual taking charge of a vulnerable, wavering younger man.

Queer auteur Joel Schumacher's Lost Boys (1987) transformed the teen drama popular in that decade into an ensemble of queer-coded vampire boys who often seem more interested in each other--after all, they have to seduce new "recruits" into their ranks--than in their nominal heterosexual relationships.

Neil Jordan's Interview with the Vampire (1994) exposed many of the tensions around the queer monster, both tantalizing viewers with a series of obviously queer relationships and dancing nervously around the details, as when it almost, but not quite, has Louis (Brad Pitt) and Armand (Antonio Banderas) kiss.

Porn, Exploitation, and Independent Horror Films

Porn, exploitation, and independent films have often provided a warmer haven for queer horror than mainstream cinema. Hardcore porn titles such as James Moss's Dragula, Queen of the Vampires (1973) and Roger Earl's Gayracula (1983) show that the vampire remains the gay monster of choice, even in disreputable genres.

A gay werewolf cult is the subject of Will Gould's sympathetic independent film The Wolves of Kromer (1998). Most recently, David DeCoteau, a former director of gay and straight porn, has expropriated formerly straight cultural spaces in a series of luridly homoerotic teen-horror programmers.

The Brotherhood (2000), The Brotherhood 2: Young Warlocks (2001), and Voodoo Academy (2000) are as much unabashed paeans to the post-adolescent underwear-clad male physique as they are horror films. (One critic disparagingly likened them to feature-length Calvin Klein commercials.)

Voodoo Academy is particularly outrageous in this regard, with a gay priest working for a female demon, both of whom caress their charges before transforming them into voodoo dolls. In the director's cut, the camera lovingly lingers on the handsome students as they writhe possessed in their beds in self-stimulating poses that recall the teasing postures found in porn films.

The fact that these films went directly to video without a regular theatrical release suggests the culture's reluctance to acknowledge such blatant displays of homoerotic horror in "approved" mainstream venues. The fact that they have been successful on video, acquiring a minor cult reputation, points to the culture's continued, if uneasy, accommodation of queer horror.

Gary Morris

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   Related Entries
  
arts >> Overview:  Film

Since cinema began, Hollywood has been fascinated with finding ways of representing homosexuality.

arts >> Overview:  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Vampires

From its inception in the nineteenth century, the artistic vampire has been linked with homosexuality, a connection that has been explored in a number of films.

arts >> Black, Dustin Lance

Academy Award-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black has quickly established himself as both an accomplished filmmaker and a committed activist.

arts >> Ottman, John

In addition to scoring over thirty full-length motion pictures, American film composer, editor, and director John Ottman has also created musical compositions for numerous short films, television programs, and commercials.

arts >> Perkins, Anthony

In his personal life, American actor Anthony Perkins often seemed as tortured as the troubled characters he played on film, hiding--and perhaps despising--his true nature while desperately seeking happiness and "normality."

arts >> Whale, James

Director James Whale is best remembered for his stylish horror films and for being one of the few openly gay Hollywood figures of the 1930s.

arts >> Williamson, Kevin

Screenwriter-producer-director Kevin Williamson is best known as the writer of clever, self-referential horror films and as the creator of the groundbreaking television series Dawson's Creek.


    Bibliography
   

Benshoff, Harry M. Monsters in the Closet: Homosexuality and the Horror Film. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1997.

Doty, Alexander. Flaming Classics: Queering the Horror Canon. New York: Routledge, 2000.

Halberstam, Judith. "On Lesbians, Vampires, and Coppola's Dracula." Bright Lights Film Journal 11 (1993): 7-9.

Morris, Gary, "Queer Horror: Decoding Universal's Monsters." Bright Lights Film Journal 23 http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/23/universalhorror.html. Accessed November 23, 2001.

Murray, Raymond. Images in the Dark. New York: Plume, 1996.

Skal, David. The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror. New York: Faber & Faber, 2001.

Skal, David, V Is for Vampire: The A-Z Guide to Everything Undead. New York: Plume, 1996.

Weiss, Andrea. Vampires and Violets. New York: Penguin, 1990.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Morris, Gary  
    Entry Title: Horror Films  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated November 26, 2004  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/horror_films.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  
 

 

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