The 12 Most Essential Queer Horror Films to Watch Before Hulu's Hellraiser Arrives
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Queer horror may seem new or like a fad, but that's just your parents and their loud TV. Horror stories centered around queer and trans people have been around as long as we have been around – and we've always been here.
Horror has always captivated audiences by exploring the corners of our minds and others, sometimes a reflection of what is and other times, a lesson in what can be. And that's a huge part of what makes the terrifying stories centered around queer and trans people so special but also so, well, horrific. It isn't difficult to find a scary movie about a queer person or a sinister tale about a trans person or someone that goes against gender norms. We've all seen The Silence of the Lambs.
But within the horror genre exists stories and tales from queer and trans people that are about the fears we face, the dangers of just existing in the world, and the often insurmountable odds that many of us are forced to confront every day. GameSpot’s list of horror stories may have moments where people like me are labeled or treated like a monster, but that’s just how it is being part of a marginalized group of people.
GameSpot's essential list of queer horror stories is also filled with stories of love, courage, and what it means to face yourself, your fears, and those that wish for nothing more than your demise and erasure.
This is our list of the best and most essential queer horror films that are worth a watch not only this Halloween season, but every Halloween season (certainly until we create a safe world where members of the LGBTQIA+ community can exist without fear every month of the year).
Not to be confused with the Saw story, Spiral follows a family that's moving to a small town. It's supposed to be quiet and a change of pace from the city life, which is what the two dads are seeking with their daughter.
Set in the mid-90s, Spiral cracks a whip at the run-of-the-mill homophobia that's often so casually written off as small town conservatives being antsy about things their bible supposedly doesn’t like, and shows it for what it all really is. It has a lot to say on gaslighting, paranoia, and isolation and it makes it clear that this kind of evil isn't random. Spiral connects the dots between the pain of marginalized groups of people and how fascists will always use us as firewood.
If you watch one film from this list before Hulu's Hellraiser releases, make sure it's Spiral. It's a must-watch, especially with how relevant its message is in these times. It is such a smart film that is deserving of so much more attention.
2. Rocky Horror Picture Show
Rocky Horror Picture Show is considered a cult classic but it's also every cool kid’s favorite musical, so you've either seen it or had a cool, queer friend show you one of Tim Curry's best films. If you have seen it then you've probably watched it to the point of memorizing it but don't fret if you haven't. It's always the best time to watch Rocky Horror for the very first time (or the millionth time). And that's what many people did with this spooky, sci-fi sing-along! It has been a consistent draw to theater audiences over the years, ever since it first released, all the way back in 1975. Crowds would not only go after having seen it already. They would make sure to memorize a role or three or every single one, and then recite lines on cue with props and friends. It seems like such a long way away from today's pandemic world but it's still fun at home, if you've got cool friends.
3. The Perfection
There are some assault and other plot elements that may not be to everyone's taste, so please be aware of that; if that's no issue then add The Perfection to your Netflix queue and get ready for a sweet and sinister tale that has a healthy amount of good-for-her horror mixed in as well.
The Perfection follows two women who are both talented cellists as they uncover truths about each other--and the prestigious, Boston music school where they were both taught. Cult elements and a spree of violence, paranoia, and pain splatter across the second half before a disturbing but also beautiful harmony plays out the film.
The Perfection is elevated by intense and dramatic performances by the two film's two leads, Allison Williams and Logan Browning, who both deliver performances even tighter than the strings of their cellos, making this one of Netflix's best queer, horror films.
4. What Keeps You Alive
What Keeps You Alive follows a same-sex female couple on a camping trip at a family member’s cabin. It’s just the two girls, the family's cabin, and the surrounding lake and woods. What could go wrong?
What Keeps You Alive is violent and features intense scenes where characters are pushed in ways that feel beyond human, but that’s just how love goes sometimes. Don't forget to breathe a whole bunch before you watch this one because you’ll certainly need it during the film's intense 98 minute runtime.
5. The Living Dead Girl
As you probably guessed from the title, The Living Dead Girl does in fact feature a girl that is dead and alive, which requires some murdering and blood consumption.
This movie certainly isn't for everyone with its level of violence but if you're looking for an interesting, queer-positive slasher from the early '80s then this is absolutely it.
Studios should make more sapphic slashers because why isn’t that a crowded genre?
Lemora is an empowering film that should speak to all queer people but probably queer women the most. The story follows a girl fleeing to visit her dying father. Things change and quickly become more and more strange. Also, vampires.
There's almost nothing like Lemora, and it really is a film you need to see for yourself.
It may not sound like anything to someone that's cisgendered and/or heterosexual but queer and trans people know what’s like to exist within a society that wants nothing more than to see us stay silent and in the shadows of society.
Lizzie also tells the story of Lizzie Borden, who was accused of murdering her family with an axe. And this film does a beautiful job of weaving everything together and features an incredible performance from Kristen Stewart.
The story of Lizzie is tragic in more ways than one, as it features many lives being extinguished, some more literally than others.
8. High Tension
High Tension stars Marie and Alex, a same-sex female couple, on a weekend getaway with studying, but it's interrupted by a serial killer knocking on the door and decapitating Alex’s dad.
As you can imagine, this does completely change the tone of the weekend, setting off a motion of events that eventually lead to, yes, a lesbian shredding a dude with a saw. You love to see it. And you’ll love to see High Tension too, if you love queer slashers and don't mind gore.
9. Fatal Frame
Fatal Frame isn't just a scary film with things to say either. Like nearly everything on this list, Fatal Frame has wonderful cinematography, which heightens scares and atmosphere even further.
A chilling ghost story that takes place at an all-girls Catholic school, Fatal Frame follows the events of a curse that causes girls to disappear should they kiss a picture of another girl they admire. The origins of this curse begin to unfold after one of the girls, Aya, disappears after another girl, Kasumi does this very thing.
What comes next involves suicide pacts and a chilling reminder of why we should maybe all stay out of all lakes everywhere.
And the way the film engages in a dialogue between religion and queerness, and the bitter battle that queer people are always at the mercy of, is done really well here.
10. Scooby-Doo and the Witch's Ghost
While the Witch's Ghost might not have anything too sinister in it, there aren't any masks in this one. Like zoinks, that’s right, gang; this one has some real scares in it. But perhaps more importantly, and the specific reason for the Witch’s Ghost's inclusion, are the Hex Girls.
An all-girl, goth rock group that’s focused on girl power and uh, having a really good vibe, The Hex Girls made their first appearance in Scooby-Doo and the Witch's Ghost where they help The Scooby Gang solve a mystery involving a ghost witch.
Every queer girl in the early '00s saw themselves represented with The Hex Girls, and this came during a time when there wasn't a lot of queer representation, especially for kids. (Good thing we're not ever going to have a shortage of queer representation for queer kids in media ever again, right guys?)
11. Don't Let Her In
Don't Let Her In is a rather intense tale that follows a male and female couple and their new roommate, who, for better or worse, seems very intent on being a very big part of their lives.
Don't Let Her In features occult themes along with gore and slasher elements. If the genre is your thing then you'll be sure to enjoy this very underrated film.
12. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge
And there's no reason to stop the scares after finishing A Nightmare on Elm Street, one of the best horror films on HBO Max, because the sequel is probably one of the best in the series.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge isn't just a good slasher and an excellent follow-up to Wes Craven's original classic masterpiece. It's also loaded with queer subtext, which came at a really helpful time for a lot of queer people living under Ronald Reagan's homophobic and downright genocidal administration. Direct representation is always better but sometimes all we have is the sneaky representation, and it's important to honor those moments because they matter. Movements are built on moments.
The queer elements aren’t the only reason that Freddy's Revenge comes up so often in horror circles though. It's also just a damn good slasher with rad special effects and a menacing performance from Robert Englund.
Coming in early October, the latest Hellraiser is intended to be another adaptation of the classic Clive Barker story, The Hellbound Heart, with future films planned as well, including a sequel and prequel. And with how the latest trailer looked, that has a lot of horror fans pretty excited.
Queer and trans people are delighted by the casting of Disney's latest Hellraiser adaptation as well, with the big baddie Pinhead being portrayed not just by a woman but by a trans woman!
That’s right! Actress Jamie Clayton, which readers may recognize from Sense 8, will be portraying the new iteration of Pinhead when Hellraiser hits Hulu on October 7th, 2022, as part of Hulu’s annual Halloween celebration, Huluween.
If you’ve missed any of the buzz then be sure to get caught up and see why fans of the series are so excited for this new directionfor the series, beyond the casting, which is the objectively the coolest thing ever and definitely not just me being biased, thelatest Hellraiser trailershould get you plenty excited before the film releases in just a few short weeks, exclusively on Hulu.