Queer horror is often perceived as a category where a homophobic being (human or inhuman) terrorizes queer people. Social themes are always present where prejudice and violence to queer people is the norm of this subgenre. However, there is a theme on Queer Horror that examines issues inside the LGBTQ+ community. This type of Queer Horror leans on psychological and thriller themes that analyze universal human elements with a queer perspective.
Examples of this can be about internalized homophobia, domestic violence, prejudice, coming out, love and lust. For the straight audience, they might see thriller queer movies as the ideal representation of the LGBTQ+ community which is wrong since, for queer viewers, the topics tackled are more complex than you might imagine. The following movies are an explicit representation of great and interesting QueerHorror thrillers that must be analyzed to comprehend social problems that the LGBTQ+ community faces within.
Last Ferry (2019) is written by Ramon O. Torres and directed by Jaki Bradley which tells about a lonely gay lawyer called Joseph (Ramon O. Torres) who travels to Fire Island for vacation and to find love. Upon arriving, Joseph struggles to meet people due to being shy but instead is mugged after an unsettling cruising encounter with a stranger in the woods.
Thinking the worse is over, Joseph later witnesses a murder on a beach and tries to escape from the killer. As Joseph tries to forget about the horrifying encounter, he later plunges into the lives of his new crush Cameron (Sheldon Best) and his best friend, Rafael (Myles Clohessy). These two best friends are different but share a terrible secret that Joseph must once again confront to survive.
Last Ferry introduces an aesthetic on paradises and safe spaces for queer people that soon becomes target practices on the community. Joseph is an example of a shy guy who experiences hate and assault on a supposed location that presents itself as a safe space. Unfortunately, this is a representation of hate crimes that queer people suffer when assaulted during fake hookups either online or personal. Often these incidents end with the victim murdered or brutally wounded. Psychologically speaking, it puts the victim inside another closet to feel safe.
On the other side, our main leads (Joseph, Cameron, and Rafael) present different personalities that highlight their roles in the film. In one particular breakfast scene, Rafael drinks alcohol with an impulsive and rough attitude at one end of the table while Joseph doesn’t talk and eats a simple breakfast at the other end of the table. In the middle, Cameron sits and examines both people while trying to figure out how to support them. These attitudes highlight class differences among gay men and the trio’s circle of friends.
Finally, loneliness and love are the big themes of Last Ferry as it examines the vulnerability of gay men on a supposed vibrant community. For that, our killer is motivated by love betrayal but grapples with a guilty conscience as it navigates a world where gay men blindly perceive love and lust.
Alena (2015) is a Swedish adaptation of a comic book by Kim W. Andersson, written by Daniel Di Grado, Alexander Onofri, and Kerstin Gezelius and directed by Daniel Di Grado. The film adaptation takes place in a Swedish all-girls school where the titular new student Alena (Amalia Holm) is constantly bullied by the school’s lacrosse leader, Fillippa (Molly Nutley) and her friends.
Alena grapples with the death of her lover Josefin (Rebecka Nyman) which only appears as a ghost that torments Alena while encouraging her to fight her bullies. Meanwhile, Alena befriends another girl, Fabienne (Felice Jankell) which soon they begin a relationship only to be tormented by Fillippa. As the bullying increases so do Josefin’s murderous rage which escalates to a brutal and tormenting revelation.
This film presents one of horror’s most favorite themes which is outcasts getting revenge on their tormentors; however, Alena delves more on psychological trauma and less in body count. Both versions of Alena (comic book and film) are slightly different in terms of queerness. While the comic book deals with internalized homophobia, the film embraces queerness. Alena’s character in the film is at first shy but rapidly tries to open herself by being more engaging at school while her comic book character is more rebellious and distances herself from everyone.
Alena and Josefin’s relationship is turbulent, but care about each other; the comic book shows a stronger relationship while the film there is a developing distance. Queer viewers who experienced bullying can relate to Alena as she struggles to defend herself from her bullies while discovering their queer identity. Unfortunately, bullying towards LGBTQ+ teens still occurs worldwide and even gets worse on countries where sexual orientation and gender identity doesn’t exist and is criminalized.
Queer teens struggle with a lot of teenage emotions but can’t express them publicly due to fear of being bullied and/or assaulted. These violent incidents have often led to murder with no solution to stopping bullying from being escalated further neither an approach to protect queer teenagers. Therefore, Alena’s case is a perfect explicit example of bullied queer teenagers who struggle to find hope and justice.
WOMEN WHO KILL
Women Who Kill (2016) is written and directed by Ingrid Jungermann which takes place in Canada on the lives of two True Crime podcasters, Morgan (Ingrid Jungermann) and Jean (Ann Carr). Both are ex-girlfriends who work as True Crime podcasters focusing on analyzing female serial killers.
As Morgan and Jean struggle with their breakup, Morgan begins a relationship with the mysterious Simone (Sheila Vand) at her part-time job. Simone’s personality bugs Jean and Morgan as they examine Simone’s low profile and several incidents that appear as coincidences to Simone. To make it worse, Morgan and Jean uncover a disturbing truth that suggests Simone is a killer and to add, daughter of a serial killer. The whole ordeal pushes Morgan into a web of conspiracies and paranoia as she tries to jug her relationship with Simone and her motives.
Women Who Kill is a remarkable thriller film about True Crime podcasters who get tangled on a supposed real-life serial killer. Morgan and Jean know all the profiles of the serial killers they interviewed, but struggle to find their motives. More interesting is the fact that Simone is a queer female serial killer which puts the film against the trope of the lesbian killer. The film focuses universally on analyzing the suspects and their relationships than on the body count and methods of execution.
Instead, the movie twists the viewer and the characters to understand the attitudes of the suspect and decide if Simone is really a killer or not. In addition, the female queer audience can relate to Morgan, Jean, and their circle of friends’ issues on queerness which in this case tackles lesbian and bisexual relationships. Morgan, Jean, and Simone exhibit different personalities where Morgan and Simone are more socially close than Jean which is why Morgan and Simone can relate each other and possibly an M.O. of the serial killer. While the audience might theorize that Simone is the killer, it also makes us think about how we should react and prove her criminal activity.
STRANGER BY THE LAKE
Stranger By The Lake (2013) is written and directed by Alain Guiraudie which takes place on a French cruising spot where Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps) regularly attends to have sex with different men in the woods. One night, Franck witnesses a handsome man named Michel (Christophe Paou) who drowns his lover at the lake. Fearful for his life, Franck hides as the sky turns dark so he can’t be noticed by the killer.
The event forces Franck to pursue a sexual relationship with Michel and uncover his motive which goes off the rails when a police investigator and Franck’s friend, Henri (Patrick D’Assumcao) pits cracks on Franck and Michel’s relationship. As the truth is revealed, Franck must make a fateful decision to face Michel and save himself.
Stranger By The Lake is a complex thriller movie that examines the nature of love and sex on gay men on cruising spots much like Last Ferry. In my review article, Inside A Complicated Love Nest, I focused on Franck’s relationship with Michel, but after reviewing the film more details and theories emerge on Franck’s angle. Stranger By The Lake forces Franck to investigate and analyze Michel’s motivation through his desires. Sex, love, and violence juxtapose on Franck and Michel’s relationship which further unravels a tricky subject on love attachments among gay men. Michel is a person who doesn’t like love attachments and acts impulsively when pushed to that area.
On the other hand, Franck struggles to learn more about his lover than the murder. In a key scene, Franck is interrogated about the incident in which the inspector tells him about the apathy on gay men surrounding a murder. This means that gay men might have acted further if a homophobic killer was responsible than a sole victim dying alone while the community acts as nothing happened. Put simply, gay men might turn a blind eye on problems inside their own community than an invader to their community. In general, the film plays in putting a killer of a community against it by manipulating its own culture where love, sex, secrecy, and loneliness are being juxtaposed and manipulated.
WHAT WE CAN LEARN
These psychological thrillers share a theme about love attachments with a killer as well as that the main characters being socially close and desire to find love only to find a monster in their own community. Last Ferry and Stranger By The Lake share these similarities:
•The setting takes place in a supposedly safe space for gay men; however, it’s a close environment that lets the killer take advantage of.
•Both films center on a gay man who witnesses a murder on a tourist spot.
•Joseph and Franck get tangled with the killer while discovering many issues within the gay community.
•The central theme of these two films is the complex nature of love and desire among gay men.
Alena and Women Who Kill share these other similarities:
•Both films center on a lesbian who is confused about the nature of the killer they share.
•Alena and Morgan deal with love attachment issues without lust; thus, their situation is emotionally complex than physical. This is a core difference from Last Ferry and Stranger By The Lake.
•Alena and Morgan deal with the repercussions of a murder and how intricate is the situation they are facing.
In the end, these films managed to explore deeper into the queer community from varying perspectives while sharing a common problem whose solution isn’t easy to solve nor comprehend. Universally speaking, the relationship troubles represented in these films can be reflected in straight horror films; however, these four mentioned films show the big factor which is their angle from the LGBTQ+ community. We can learn from these issues, but we must learn its different layers that blur the reality a community is facing.
As a Queer horror fan, I am pleased to revisit these films and still find more intriguing elements that beg me to encourage other horror fans to watch and analyze these films. As part of my When We Are At The Center Of Horror column, the complex survivors of these films were placed in a tight difficult situation that messed their minds but found a new reality that the community couldn’t see.
You can watch these films on Netflix (Last Ferry), Tubi (Women Who Kill) and Shudder (Alena & Stranger By The Lake). Alena’s graphic novel can be read on Comixology.