Having seen only the first two episodes of Shudder’s excellent queer horror doc, aptly titled Queer for Fear: The History of Queer Horror, I can safely say that I am obsessed with the direction and interviews from gay creative (and absolute legend) Bryan Fuller. We dive all the way back to the literary origins, laser-focused on themes and context. From Mary Shelley to Bram Stoker, these authors paved the way for horror and representation in ways that would reverberate down through the annals of pop culture history. Featuring thorough, informative interviews from all walks of life, Fuller paints a picture from differing perspectives that helps to dissect just what makes us love horror so very much.
Episode one examines those literary figures—which include Mary Shelley, Oscar Wilde, and Bram Stoker—before dipping its toes into the world of the film adaptations of these works. Where books spoke to one generation, the world of cinema would cast an even wider net of outreach. Some of the revelations in this section shocked me to my core, including the fact that Stoker’s estate personally sought out and destroyed nearly every existing copy of bootleg Dracula rip-off, Nosferatu. It appears a miracle that one lone copy survived the purge, and became the basis upon which many cinematic interpretations would take inspiration. I also found it fascinating that Stoker had written love letters to Walt Whitman! When the doc dives into Bride of Frankenstein, I was shocked at how much of a queer celebration it seemed to be—the director went so far as casting many gay actors in most of the roles, and was unapologetically out of the closet in the 40s, which was virtually unheard of.
Episode two was where I really became invested. Hitchcock’s works are the subject of this one—the absolutely iconic director managed to subtly and easily slip gay characters into many of his works. Even if they were mostly villains, this was a revolutionary concept. A stark reminder that Rope is a glaring blind spot among my watchlist, that particular title is given a heavy spotlight that makes it seem utterly fascinating. The real highlight, though, is Psycho! One of my top five favorite films of all time, learning any nugget of information about Psycho (which released way back in 1960!) is a total pleasure. Hitchcock again made sure to cast a queer man, in what is quite obviously a queer role in the form of Norman Bates. Hearing Oz Perkins, genre director and son of Anthony Perkins, talking so fondly about his father, lamenting the way audiences ate up his truth without accepting it, and the cinematic evolution throughout the sequels serves as the highest point of the documentary thus far.
Being a four-part doc, I have only seen half of what Fuller has on offer. I can only assume that from here, the series will continue to scale up through the decades all the way to present day! I am very excited for future episodes that will simply have to cover titles like Scream and Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation. Perhaps some fat could be trimmed to make one long movie-length doc, but presenting Queer for Fear: The History of Queer Horror in the style of a miniseries seems like a fair gamble to me. I love how comprehensive it goes, and the celebrities chosen are far-reaching. Recognizable drag queens like Alaska Thunderfuck, BenDeLaCreme, and Gottmik are stellar additions, and legends such as Heather Mattarazo, Rachel True, Kimberly Peirce, and Don Mancini pad out the insightful commentary. Don’t miss Queer for Fear, especially if, like me, you’re a gay lover of the genre.
Queer for Fear: The History of Queer Horror highlights LGBT+ horror through the ages when it debuts exclusively to Shudder on Thursday, September 29th.