By Melissa Camacho
This well-rounded panel was brought together by Shudder, who is behind the upcoming documentary about how horror is queer. The guests include the director of this LGBTQ horror film history doc Sam Wineman (The Quiet Room), Nay Bever (co-host of Attack of the Queerwolf podcast), Bryan Fuller (creator of Hannibal), Don Mancini (creator of the Child's Play franchise), Lachlan Watson (actor in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) and Jordan Crucchiola as the moderator.
The conversation focused mainly on how each guest, who all identify as queer, interpreted horror in their craft, as well as stating how crucial it is to have open conversations about sexuality, identity, and diversity in the entertainment industry. Important topics were also brought up such as, “Why don't I see myself in horror,” and how some problematic characters were heroes in the eyes of a queer person.
The topic of queer coding was also brought up a lot in the conversation and how it has helped some folks identify with certain characters in movies. Wineman mentioned that as a queer person, you read your own interpretations of a character and take ownership of it. Horror might appeal to queer folk because of that sense of “otherness” and how some might connect to that feeling of not belonging. Wineman also mentioned how a movie or a show might not explicitly be queer, but because it was created or directed by a queer person, it is ultimately queer.
Mancini cited his own experience in the Child’s Play franchise. While the first three movies weren’t overtly queer, he has gone back and realized why the character of Andy was fatherless, citing his own personal life. But when he got around to Bride of Chucky, he consciously tried to “gay it up.”
Continuing the queer coding topic, Fuller discussed how he never intended to write Hannibal to be a queer story, but fans have projected their own interpretations onto the characters. Fuller also states that the love story between the two male leads was subconscious at first, but it ultimately turned “canon” since it naturally made sense. It was also brought up on the topic of Hannibal that not all of the fans saw the story as queer. But, it just goes to show how vastly different each person’s experiences vary on how they absorb media.
Reclaiming monstrosity and reveling in it was brought up by Crucchiola who expressed how problematic some queer characters are, especially if they are labeled as evil or villains. “Otherness” is often vilified or used as a negative trait for characters and even used as an excuse in the real world to harm people who are different. Bever brought up a serious argument that if a trans person sees issues with a character, one has to understand and respect that person’s opinion. More so because, unfortunately, trans people are disproportionately killed for who they are. While the panelist was not minimizing the real issue of violence against people in the queer community, they also pointed out how these “villains” in horror were heroes in a way who sought out revenge. To quote Wineman talking about Sleepaway Camp, “[Angela] just kills everybody that sucks. I want to watch movies where everybody who sucks dies.”
While the theme of horror being queer has been circulating around for years, Crucchiola asks the question, “Why now,” referring to why queer identity has become more relevant in modern conversations and media. Fuller points out that there are so many streaming services out there now and that platforms are trying to create different things for a variety of audiences. The desire for different types of content is out there. Watson brings up how much pride they have to be who they are, and how open they can be to be themselves in our day in age. They also mention how certain stories, such as Sabrina, are allowed to be written “queer as humanly possible.”
Overall, I think this was a remarkably interesting panel full of insightful guests who are icons in their own right. Listening to them talk about this topic makes me extremely excited for when Shudder’s queer horror documentary premieres. I would love to learn more about the history of horror and how queer folk have taken ownership of it. I want to hear from other horror icons and their part in the queer community. As somebody who is still trying to adjust to their own queer identity, I leave you with a quote from Fuller who summed it up perfectly, “It's a wonderful thing to be weird. It's a wonderful thing to be ‘other.’ I feel sorry for the squares.”