Latent Images
Staff Favorites: Queer Horror
by Julian Hart

Here at Latent Images, we are passionate about leading student discussions on film and media. As part of a new ongoing series, each month we will be highlighting a different selection of favorites from our team of staff writers and contributors. Monthly selections will alternate, varying on different kinds of topics — from actors, to film scores, to noteworthy moments — giving students the space to discuss, recommend, and praise as they please.

For this October season, we asked our writers to discuss their favorite queer horror films. The selection includes an array of international arthouse and genre films prime for a Halloween night viewing. Enjoy!

Vampyros Lesbos, 1971, dir. Jesús Franco, West Germany and Spain

Gay vampires are the heart and soul of queer horror! Europe’s first successful lesbian-themed film opened a door for LGBTQ+ cinema around the world and has influenced queer horror for decades. The story follows Linda Westinghouse, an American living abroad in Istanbul, who is plagued with erotic dreams of a mysterious woman seducing her. After seeing the women perform at a nightclub, Linda tracks her down to a beautiful remote island off the coast of Turkey, where she is finally introduced to the seductive and alluring Queen of the Night, Countess Nadine Carody. The Countess is mesmerized by Linda and plans on turning her into a vampire, but Linda is fearful of becoming a killer. While Linda’s sexuality is conveyed by her relationships with her boyfriend and the Countess, Countess Nadine’s sexuality is more openly discussed in the film. The scene devoted to her past from whence she was human, to being bitten by Count Dracula, to her isolated immortality, is so unbelievably emotional and beyond powerful, that it’s almost hard to believe it was made in 1971. Vampyros Lesbos was ahead of its time by decades. Still, its contribution to the iconic blood-sucking lesbian cinematic universe (which includes other big names like Jennifer’s Body (2009), Adventure Time (2010-2018), and Netflix’s First Kill (2022)) is unparalleled. – Robin Jacobson

Vampyros Lesbos is currently streaming for free on Midnight Pulp and can be rented/purchased on multiple platforms.

The Velvet Vampire, 1971, dir. Stephanie Rothman, USA

A lone estate set amongst the barren and rolling landscape of the California Desert. A couple is invited to spend a weekend with a mysterious woman. Here, The Velvet Vampire comes to life! Directed by Stephanie Rothman and shot in glorious 16mm film, The Velvet Vampire follows the tale of one couple’s discovery and tribulations as their gracious host. This apparently widowed and deceptively beautiful woman is secretly a vampire, undoing and reworking the bonds of the duo’s heterosexual desire. The film is promptly in the realm of exploitation cinema, with raunchy sex, both straight and queer, forming striking and dreamy story beats multiple times throughout. Visually, Rothman can capture the surreal settings of both the desert and the bedroom with dreamy vividity, with colors so drenched in the scandalous and the secret that it would give Mario Bava a run for his money. If you’re a fan of vampires, exploitation films, queer cinema, or all of the above, Rothman’s film is the one for you. – Garrett Cord

The Velvet Vampire is currently streaming for free on Tubi and can be rented/purchased on Amazon Prime Video.

 Titane, 2021, dir. Julia Ducournau, France

Another milestone in French New Extreme cinema, Titane is not really a fun or enjoyable watch, even by the criterion of body horror. The film’s violence is deliberate yet pensive, without the slightest intention for shock value in mind – Through infliction of pain and discomfort, Titane aims to convey the agony of gender dysphoria in its rawest and most visceral form: physical suffering. We follow Adrien (Agatha Rouselle), a mysterious serial killer on the run; they have a titanium implant in their head that alienates them from society and others. Like cannibalism in Ducournau’s 2017 Raw, the metal is only a disguise: what truly sets Adrien apart from humanity is their inability to feel comfort in their own skin. As we see, throughout the story, Adrien tries to break free from their shells through extensive self-harm. Although stomach-churning to some, Titane appears liberating – perhaps even comforting – to some others. – Richard Zheng

Titane is currently streaming on Hulu and can be rented/purchased with most digital vendors.

Hellraiser, 1987, dir. Clive Barker, UK

“At the intersection of pain and pleasure…” While not outrightly queer, but being penned by a queer writer-turned-director, Hellraiser is the perfect watch for October! After a mysterious box is opened, releasing the cenobites (genderless extraterrestrial beings that bring pain to whoever opens the box) we follow our protagonist Kirsty moving into a new home with her father and stepmother, where she finds the mysterious box in the attic, along with the forming body of her uncle, who she finds out is trying to be brought back to life by her stepmother, Julia. We follow both the journey of Kirsty, trying to stop this from happening, and the journey of Julia, bringing men home to kill them to fuel her secret lover Frank’s (Kirsty’s uncle) reintroduction into the world of the living. Throughout the film, the cenobites are associated strongly with BDSM/bondage imagery (whips, chains, leather…) and the concepts of pain and pleasure, which, while not stating overt queerness, pushes against the heteronormative depictions of the same subjects seen in other films around the same time. Not to mention, the cenobites are presented as genderless, only going by names such as Pinhead and Butterball. These factors imply the film’s strong relationship to the queer community, and make this one of, if not my favorite, piece of queer horror I’ve seen. – Nolan Primavera

Hellraiser is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video and can be rented/purchased with most digital vendors.

Closet Monster, 2015, dir. Stephen Dunn, Canada

A terrifying glimpse into the reality of internal and external homophobia, replicated into a masterful display of body horror. Closet Monster follows the tale of Oscar Madly, an artistic and closeted teenager, who becomes attracted to one of the new employees at his job. However, a sharp stabbing sensation always weans him away. Oscar’s father is a traditionalist; he frowns upon Oscar’s attempts at cross-dressing and wishes for his son to have a conventional life with a female. As the film progresses, this feeling will worsen, until it manifests itself as he pulls out a metal rod from his stomach and threatens his homophobic father with it. Closet Monster is an excellent representation of the grim realities of homophobia, and the mental/physical turmoil it can inflict. The film is shot beautifully, with bright contrasts and slow reveals, all working to pan out a depressing coming-of-age tale. While not considered a conventional horror film, the body horror is highly gruesome, and homes in on the physical manifestations of homophobia. – Molly Kurpis

Closet Monster is currently streaming on Strand Releasing and can be rented/purchased with most digital vendors.