Queerness and horror have always been intertwined. Although queer characters and storylines have notoriously been scarce within horror (until recent), queer audiences have often flocked to monster movies and slashers due to the genre’s exploration (and obsession) with otherness. Whether it’s the questioning of a villain’s humanity, the non-normative characters that don’t conform to societal expectations, or the drama of it all, queer elements and queer-coded subtext have always been there. To mark Gay Christmas, we’ve collected some of the most iconic queer horror movies to watch this Halloween from the camp stylings of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, as well as newer entries such as They/Them and Hellraiser.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)
Cast: Mark Patton, Kim Myers, Robert Englund, Robert Rusler, Clu Gulager, Hope Lange, Christie Clark, Marsha Bell
Despite not featuring any openly queer characters, because queer people were extinct in the 80s, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge is one of the campest horror films in history with homoerotic scenes in leather bars and locker rooms, as well as sweaty shirtless men trying to escape the wrath of Freddy’s perfectly manicured talons (see photo above). Although the slasher received mixed reviews upon release, the film has become a cult classic and is now a Halloween go-to for the LGBTQ+ community.
Cast: Tom Bateman, Sean Beale, Paul McGann, Calum Woodhouse, James Tratas
Starring Tom Bateman (Behind Her Eyes) and Sean Beale, B&B follows a gay couple who have turned away from a bed-and-breakfast due to the fundamentalist Christian owner’s (Paul McGann) archaic religious views. After winning a discrimination suit against the owner, who went into debt after the loss, the couple decides to – for some insane reason – embark on a weekend getaway to the same bed-and-breakfast a year later. With the arrival of a sinister Russian stranger (James Tratas), the couple gets more than they bargained for.
Cast: Nicole Maines, Diana Hopper, James Paxton, M.C. Gainey, Jimmy Jagger
Released to wide acclaim, Bit stars Supergirl’s Nicole Maines as a transgender teenage girl who moves in with her brother (James Paxton) in Los Angeles, looking to make a fresh start after her transition. There, she meets a coven of four queer feminist vampires whose aim is to rid the city’s streets of predatory men. It’s one of the most inclusive LGBTQ+ horrors in recent years, allowing a transgender character to take center stage without conforming to harmful queer tropes. If you fancy a queer feminist vampire flick – who doesn’t? – Bit is for you.
Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022)
Cast: Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Myha’la Herrold, Chase Sui Wonders, Rachel Sennott, Lee Pace, Pete Davidson
In A24’s Bodies Bodies Bodies, the working-class Bee (Maria Bakalova) travels with her wealthy girlfriend Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) to a party in a mansion owned by the latter’s childhood friend David (Pete Davidson). When the trio, as well as other guests Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), Alice (Rachel Sennott), Greg (Lee Pace), and Jordan (Myha’la Herrold) play the murder-in-the-dark game Bodies Bodies Bodies, the group gets picked off one-by-one. A smart whodunnit akin to Scream, the Halina Reijn-directed slasher comedy was lauded for its inclusivity, commentary on Gen-Z, and subversion of classic horror tropes.
The Craft (1996)
Cast: Robin Tunney, Neve Campbell, Fairuza Balk, Rachel True, Skeet Ulrich
One of the ’90s most beloved horrors follows a group of four outcast teenage girls with supernatural abilities who pursue witchcraft for their own personal gain. Even though The Craft isn’t explicitly queer, it has – like a plethora of films within the horror genre – queer undertones. Their coven is reminiscent of a group of LGBTQ+ youth who are coming to terms with their identity: Nancy (Fairuza Balk) is your classic unapologetic “out” character, and Bonnie (Neve Campbell) is afraid of how her otherness will be perceived by her “normal” peers, Rochelle (Rachel True) is ostracised due to her skin color and Rachel (Robin Tunney) is discovering who she is. They even find their “safe space” in a witchy part of town – relatable!
The Craft: Legacy (2020)
Cast: Cailee Spaeny, Gideon Adlon, Lovie Simone, Zoey Luna, Nicholas Galitzine, Michelle Monaghan, David Duchovny
Directed and co-written by Zoe Lister-Jones, the sequel to the above stars Cailee Spaeny (Bad Times at the El Royale), Gideon Adlon (The Society), Lovie Simone (Greenleaf), and Zoey Luna (Pose) as four high school students who dabble in black magic – to disastrous effects, of course. The official synopsis reads: “When starting at a new school, Hannah befriends Tabby, Lourdes, and Frankie and quickly becomes the fourth member of their clique. Hannah soon learns that she somehow brings great power to the quartet.” Although Legacy could have benefitted from an extra half-hour runtime, it’s the rare reboot slash revival that manages to successfully pay homage to the original while expanding on its mythology.
Fear Street (2021)
Cast: Kiana Madeira, Olivia Scott Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr., Julia Rehwald, Fred Hechinger, Ashley Zukerman, Darren Britt-Gibson, Maya Hawke, Jordana Spiro, Jordyn DiNatale, Sadie Sink, Gillian Jacobs, Emily Rudd, Ryan Simpkins,
The horror genre received a much-needed queer makeover last year with the arrival of Leigh Janiak’s blockbuster trio of Fear Street films, based on R. L. Stine’s beloved teenage novels of the same name. The fantasy-slashers, released over a span of three weeks on Netflix, stars Kiana Madeira and Olivia Scott Welch as Deena and Sam, star-crossed lesbian lovers who find themselves at the center of an ancient curse that has doomed their hometown of Shadyside for centuries. While the series has received praise for its performances, writing, and entertainment value, it was ultimately Madeira and Welch’s groundbreaking romance that was singled out for praise by critics and viewers due to the notorious lack of mainstream LGBTQ+ representation in the horror genre.
Cast: Dylan Fergus, Bryan Kirkwood, Hank Harris, Andrew Levitas
This underrated slasher flick follows a serial killer on a mission to butcher the entire gay community. No, honestly. How fun! Hellbent first premiered during gay and lesbian film festivals in 2004 and 2005 and has been credited with sparking a wave of “gay slasher” films. For those who love a good slasher movie with a “whodunnit” storyline, check out Hellbent. The characters are fleshed out (imagine that?), the killer is terrifying and the suspense… THE SUSPENSE!
Cast: Jamie Clayton, Odessa A’zion, Brandon Flynn, Goran Višnjić, Drew Starkey, Adam Faison, Aoife Hinds, Selina Lo, Hiam Abbass
A reboot of the 1987 classic of the same name, and the 11th entry in the franchise, Hellraiser stars trans icon Jamie Clayton as the iconic Hell Priest slash ‘Pinhead’ and leader of the Cenobites. Directed by David Brucker, the new film follows a young woman (Odessa A’zion) struggling with addiction as she comes into possession of an ancient puzzle box, which has the power to summon a group of sadistic supernatural entities from an alternate dimension. Praised as one of the best films in the classic series, Hellraiser was celebrated for its gory kills, queer rep and Clayton’s lead performance.
High Tension (2003)
Cast: Cécile de France, Maïwenn, Philippe Nahon, Andrei Finti, Oana Pellea
Although it has a disastrous score on Rotten Tomatoes, High Tension is one of the most clever and terrifying slashers of the 21st century. The French film, widely associated with the New French Extremity movement, stars Cécile de France and Maïwenn as two young students who fend off a deranged serial killer at a secluded farmhouse. The film is notable for its queer storyline and bonkers twist, which has since influenced others in the same genre. The less said, the better.
The Hunger (1983)
Cast: Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, Susan Sarandon, Cliff De Young, Dan Hedaya, Beth Ehlers, Rufus Collins
Thanks to its dark and glamorous aesthetic, The Hunger has – like many other films on this list – found a cult following. Oscar-winner Susan Sarandon stars as Sarah Roberts, a doctor specializing in sleep and aging research who finds herself entangled in a love triangle with a vampire couple, played by Catherine Deneuve and the late David Bowie. It’s homoerotic as hell and has been cited as a major influence on various works in the Gothic subgenre.
Jennifer’s Body (2009)
Cast: Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Johnny Simmons, Amy Sedaris, Adam Brody
Despite its poor performance at the box office, Jennifer’s Body has become a cult favorite – particularly amongst queer women. The film stars Megan Fox as a cheerleader who becomes possessed by a succubus – a demon who seduces men kills them and devours their flesh etc. Slay! The Diablo Cody-directed comedy horror isn’t overflowing with queer narratives, although Jennifer shares a kiss with her best friend Needy (Amanda Seyfried) and their sexual tension is alluded to throughout the film. In a 2009 interview, Fox confirmed her character’s sexuality as she described Jennifer as a “cannibalistic lesbian cheerleader”.
The Perfection (2019)
Cast: Allison Williams, Logan Browning, Steven Weber, Alaina Huffman
Get Out star Allison Williams returns to the horror genre as the talented but troubled cellist Charlotte, who travels to Shanghai to reconnect with her former mentor Anton (Steven Weber). There, she befriends another of Anton’s students Lizzie (Logan Browning). After becoming sexual with one another, Charlotte agrees to accompany Lizzie across rural China and what follows is pure… terror. If you’re squeamish, stay away from The Perfection. If you’re not, enjoy!
Cast: Daniel Wilkinson, Brian Raetz, Lindsey Nicole, Ryan Moore, Celina Beach, Nicole Dambro, Keith Webb
Hunter Killian (Brian Raetz) returns home to Michigan with the support of his friends in New York to come out as gay to his disapproving conservative father. Pitchfork transforms from a coming-of-age drama into a full-blown slasher flick when the gang becomes hunted by a deranged, pitchfork-wielding lunatic with mummy issues. It’s gory, raunchy and it’s full of twists and turns!
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Cast: Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Richard O’Brien, Patricia Quinn, Nell Campbell
Does this even need a bio? For those who haven’t seen, The Rocky Horror Picture Show tells the story of a young couple whose car breaks down near a castle habited by a group of strangers in faaaabulous costumes who are celebrating an annual convention. Their leader, Dr. Frank N. Furter (Tim Curry) – a self-proclaimed “sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania” – has created a muscle man called Rocky in his laboratory, which is great. Jim Sharman’s film has attained a massive worldwide following and boasts the honor of being the longest-running theatrical release in film history, spanning four decades. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is often regarded as one of the best musical films of all time.
Cast: Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, Ari Cohen, Lochlyn Munro, Chandra West, Ty Wood
Directed by Kurtis David Harder, the Shudder exclusive follows a same-sex couple who move to a small town in search of a better environment for themselves and their 16-year-old daughter. “Nothing is at it seems” in the town, “as something sinister lies behind the picturesque homes and welcoming faces of their new neighbors.” Written by Colin Minihan, Spiral also stars Ty Wood (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), Chandra West (NYPD Blue), and Lochlyn Munroe (Riverdale).
Stranger by the Lake (2013)
Cast: Pierre Deladonchamps, Christophe Paou, Patrick d’Assumçao
Hailed by several critics as one of the best films of 2013 and 2014, this French thriller follows an older man called Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps) who develops an attraction to a man called Michel (Christophe Paou). He discovers Michel drowning another man in a lake but doesn’t report it because of his attraction to him. We won’t spoil too much, but Stranger by the Lake is a dark and erotic queer thriller that is a must-watch this Halloween.
Cast: Kevin Bacon, Anna Chlumsky, Carrie Preston, Theo Germaine, Quei Tann, Austin Crute, Monique Kim, Anna Lore, Cooper Koch, Darwin del Fabro
Pronounced “They Slash Them,” this new slasher stars Kevin Bacon as Owen Whistler, the director of a conversion therapy camp who is joined by several queer and trans individuals for a week of programming to “help them find a new sense of freedom”. As the camp’s methods become more unethical over the course of their stay, the campers must work together to protect themselves against a mysterious serial killer.
What Keeps You Alive (2018)
Cast: Hannah Emily Anderson, Brittany Allen, Martha MacIsaac, Joey Klein
Canadian film What Keeps You Alive follows married couple Jackie (Hannah Emily Anderson) and Jules (Brittany Allen) who visit a remote cabin in the woods to celebrate their one-year anniversary. There, Jackie discovers that her wife is harboring a dark and murderous past, and her intentions of a cute queer weekend getaway were not entirely… pure.