Historically, horror films haven’t always been kind to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people, though many members of the community maintain a wonderfully unique relationship with the genre. There are a number of competing theories as to what's behind this unique relationship — but perhaps it’s just an appreciation for the fine art of camp.
Thankfully, the canon of queer horror titles has been slowly building over the past several decades, aided by a number of recent indie films that prioritize inclusion and twist some of the character tropes followed strictly in more mainstream movies.
While there are many to choose from, here are 11 queer horror films to put toward the top of your watchlist for "Gay Christmas" — otherwise known as Halloween.
“They made their bed. Now they have to die in it.”
Gay Londoners Marc and Fred went to war when they were refused a double bed at a remote Christian guest house. They won in court, and now they’re back to claim their conjugal rights. What could possibly go wrong?
“A mother should protect her child.”
Gabby Hoffman, of "Transparent" fame, stars as a mother whose grief over the death of her toddler turns into paranoia that her neighbors are part of a satanic cult. Think of it like "Rosemary’s Baby" with a lesbian twist.
“When the night belongs to the devil, the party goes to hell.”
"Hellbent" was the first horror film aimed at gay audiences to successfully break out of the film festival circuit. It came complete with openly gay lead characters, drag queens and a scythe-wielding maniac in workout tights and a devil mask. The killer’s outfit alone was enough to make you want to run away screaming — or toward him, depending on what you’re into.
“What are you hungry for?”
A stringent vegetarian starts to develop a voracious appetite for human flesh after enduring a hazing ritual at her veterinary school. Tackling all manner of topics from peer pressure to female lust and gender roles, "Raw" is not for the faint of heart. So much so that a Los Angeles theatre was handing out barf bags with the tickets after audiences kept getting sick.
“Every generation has its monster.”
A gay New Yorker brings a group of his friends to his hometown, where he plans to come out to his ultra-conservative father. The fun starts when a feral savage with a pitchfork stitched onto his arm joins the party. If you’re after a standard hardcore slasher flick with plenty of one-dimensional characters who inevitably become fodder for a lunatic, this one’s for you.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985)
“The man of your dreams is back!”
"Freddy’s Revenge" is one of those films that you sit down to watch with your straight mates and all of the sudden the subtext rapidly becomes text. Not before long, you find yourself looking around the room, wondering whether you're projecting your gayness into the plot or if this is indeed meant to read as gay. Rest assured, that with scenes of leather bars, locker rooms and male scream queens — it is pretty gay.
High Tension (2003)
The French continue to bring simultaneously brilliant and visceral narratives to the horror genre, and "High Tension" is no exception. Following a terribly brutal home invasion, a college student is in a race against time to save her best friend who’s been kidnapped by the deranged killer. The third act of this intense thriller will definitely leave you gagging.
Stranger by the Lake (2013)
“Will he kiss me … or kill me?”
At a cruising spot for men, tucked away on the shores of a lake in the picturesque south of France, Franck falls in love with Michel, an attractive, potent and lethally dangerous man. "Stranger by the Lake" is perhaps one of the sexiest, most elegant thrillers ever made.
The Hunger (1983)
“Nothing human loves forever.”
Come for the over-the-top fashions, stay for the iconic Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon sex scene. Sprinkle a little David Bowie on the top, and you’ve got a thoroughly enjoyable, albeit light on plot, queer vampire tale.
The Skin I Live In (2011)
Famed gay director, screenwriter and producer Pedro Almodóvar elevates the body terror genre with a tale that chronicles the weird dynamic between a plastic surgeon, played by Antonio Banderas, and the woman he keeps locked away in his lavish mansion.
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
“Sister, sister, oh so fair, why is there blood all over your hair?”
No queer horror list would be complete without calling attention to the endlessly enduring sub-genre that is the psycho-biddy film. Perhaps one of the most quotable camp classics ever, "Baby Jane" brought the palpable off-screen tension between famed rivals Bette Davis and Joan Crawford to the big screen, for the queer community to relish for years to come.
Scott Conant is the LGBTQ Editor for Comcast XFINITY. You can watch his top 11 picks and over 100 more LGBTQ-related horror titles in The Ultimate Queer Horror Collection, available on the XFINITY LGBTQ Film & TV Collection.