Horror movies can be a curious little corner of the media universe where you can track where society stands on social issues. This is clearly reflected in Queer Horror, a continually evolving reflection of the closeting, outing, and normalization of LGBT relationships and how they are perceived over time.
Pride month may have come and gone (June), but it’s not to late to present some of our favorite LGBTQ horror films. It’s a story of continued progress, in fits and starts through the ages. Though we are quite proud of our Dead List of Important Queer Horror Films, there may be no better analysis of the history of the sub-genre than Vulture article by Jordan Crucciola “55 Essential Queer Horror Films”.
In that article, Crucciola breaks down the history decade by decade:
- 1930 – 1950: Fear the Queer Monsters
- 1950 – 1960: Kitchy Monsters and More Queer Subtext
- 1960 – 1970: Farewell to the Hays Code
- 1970 – 1980: The Lesbian Vampires are Loose!
- 1980 – 1990: Resurgent Conservatism, the AIDS Crisis, and the Mainstreaming of Queer Culture
- 1990 – 2000: New Queer Cinema and Gay Vampire Dads
- 2000 – 2010: Out and (Getting) Proud
- 2010 – 2020: They’re Here. They’re Queer. Get Used to It.
It really is a good synopsis and pretty spot on. I do think that the 1980s was a step back from the more adventurous and liberating 1970s, though. With the amount of positive representation nowadays, but the political environment serving a backlash against perceived woke agendas, this decade will be an interesting period. It is unlikely that we see an actual backsliding towards closeting the culture, but at a time when we are facing the prospects of the courts reversing gay marriage policy, it may require the arts to continue the process of the advancement of inclusion.
For those of you who are in to the History of Horror Films, you really should understand the Hays Code, and what it managed to censor from the mid 1930s to the mid 1960s, where LGBTQ orientations were considered to be oscene.
The Hays Code as presented by Will H. Hays, president of the MPAA in “A Code to Govern the Making of Motion Pictures” 1927 :
Resolved, That those things which are included in the following list shall not appear in pictures produced by the members of this Association, irrespective of the manner in which they are treated:
- Pointed profanity – by either title or lip – this includes the words ‘God’, ‘Lord’, ‘Jesus’, ‘Christ’ (unless they be used reverently in connection with proper religious ceremonies), ‘hell’, ‘damn’, ‘Gawd’, and every other profane and vulgar expression however it may be spelled;
- Any licentious or suggestive nudity – in fact or in silhouette; and any lecherous or licentious notice thereof by other characters in the picture;
- The illegal traffic in drugs;
- Any inference of sex perversion;
- White slavery;
- Miscegenation (sex relationships between the white and black races);
- Sex hygiene and venereal diseases;
- Scenes of actual childbirth – in fact or in silhouette;
- Children’s sex organs;
- Ridicule of the clergy;
- Willful offense to any nation, race or creed;
And be it further resolved, That special care be exercised in the manner in which the following subjects are treated, to the end that vulgarity and suggestiveness may be eliminated and that good taste may be emphasized:
- The use of the flag;
- International relations (avoiding picturizing in an unfavorable light another country’s religion, history, institutions, prominent people, and citizenry);
- The use of firearms;
- Theft, robbery, safe-cracking, and dynamiting of trains, mines, buildings, etc.;
- Brutality and possible gruesomeness;
- Technique of committing murder by whatever method;
- Methods of smuggling;
- Third-degree methods;
- Actual hangings or electrocutions as legal punishment for crime;
- Sympathy for criminals;
- Attitude toward public characters and institutions;
- Apparent cruelty to children and animals;
- Branding of people or animals;
- The sale of women, or of a woman selling her virtue;
- Rape or attempted rape;
- First-night scenes;
- Man and woman in bed together;
- Deliberate seduction of girls;
- The institution of marriage;
- Surgical operations;
- The use of drugs;
- Titles or scenes having to do with law enforcement or law-enforcing officers;
- Excessive or lustful kissing.
Excessive kissing? Careful now!
Needless to say. Things have changed.
Independent horror has been coming up with so many great (and a few not great) Queer features, that it is getting hard to keep up with what’s new and important. The Scariest Things will continue to update our Dead List so that we can keep pace with the best material coming out of the festivals, in particular.
So take a listen to The Scariest Things reflect upon the horror films bearing the rainbow flag.