A Look at LGBTQ+ Representation in Horror Through the Years

Jasmin Savoy Brown (“Mindy”) stars in Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group's "Scream." Photo by Brownie Harris.
Jasmin Savoy Brown (“Mindy”) stars in Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group's "Scream." Photo by Brownie Harris. /

Pride month may be coming to a close, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still look at LGBTQ+ representation not only this month but all months.

Like other genres of film, the horror genre has a long-standing history of providing LGBTQ+ representations throughout the years. So, with the following movies, we will take a look at how each film portrays the LGBTQ+ community, and what kind of representation is given in each film. Whether a movie does things implicitly or explicitly will be important to note going forward. Also, the time in which a film even acknowledges the LGBTQ+ community is obviously necessary to note, as some films couldn’t be too explicit due to the production code.

Also, it is important to note that there are significant spoilers for the films discussed below.

Dracula’s Daughter (1936)

As the film is from 1936, there is obviously no explicit mention of homosexuality in Dracula’s Daughter. However that doesn’t mean that the film doesn’t implicitly exude homosexuality. The character of Dracula’s daughter, Countess Zaleska, takes a particular interest in a female victim. While this can be seen as problematic as it portrays the LGBTQ+ community as predatory, even to have something like this in 1936 is shocking to see. Dracula’s Daughter does feel censored, which is the unshocking part, though of course, this was done to appease advocates for censorship, which became a big thing in Hollywood a few years prior. Her interest in the female victim hasn’t gone unnoticed though as the film is seen as the first depiction of a trope that would become known as “The lesbian vampire.”

The Haunting (1963)

Here is a film that is totally on this list due to subtext. Viewers, in particular LGBTQ+ viewers, can’t help but notice the character of Theo, in particular with the way that she shows no interest in men, and instead shows interest in another woman, Eleanor. It’s also worth noting that this movie’s characters are not siblings, unlike the Netflix adaptation, so don’t worry about this being some weird familial love with The Haunting. Though The Haunting’s LGBTQ+ themes may be much more subtle than many would like, it’s understandable given that this was a film that was released in 1963. The major victory with The Haunting is that it doesn’t portray someone who is LGBTQ+ coded as being a predator, unlike what “lesbian vampire” films like Dracula’s Daughter portrays the LGBTQ+ community as.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

The first film on this list with much more overt representation, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which is based on a musical, features the character Frank-N-Furter, who straight-up calls themself an alien transvestite, with even a whole song dedicated to it called “Sweet Transvestite.” While the movie has its problems, such as how it portrays Frank as predatory and they are performed by a cisgender actor, it cannot be overstated just how much of an impact The Rocky Horror Picture Show has had on not only LGBTQ+ representation but also on the community as a whole. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is consistently celebrated by the LGBTQ+ community for its explicit portrayal and how Frank-N-Furter seems to be “out and proud” about it.

Sleepaway Camp (1983)

Going from something that is often celebrated to something that is the exact opposite, Sleepaway Camp is usually seen as one of the more problematic portrayals of the LGBTQ+ community. First of all, the film does not exactly paint a positive view of gay couples, as the film seems to imply that a bit of the problems that the movie’s villain “Angela” has is because she caught her dad having sex with his male partner. However, this leads to the worst part of the movie with the film’s final twist. It is revealed that “Angela” is not actually Angela but is in fact her brother Peter, who was raised to act like Angela after her death. With this twist, Sleepaway Camp not only portrays trans, queer, gender nonconforming, etc. in a murderous light but also portrays the process as one that is unwilling and as an illness. This should go without saying, but this is an incredibly harmful way to portray members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The movie just all-around has problems with how it portrays members of the LGBTQ+ community that makes this film not only age poorly, but actually make it quite offensive. Sleepaway Camp doesn’t even get credit for being an explicit portrayal of LGBTQ+ themes when it comes to “Angela.” Instead, it does it in a weird middle ground area. Unlike many other problematic portrayals, this one is plain irredeemable and hurtful.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)

Now here is a film that simply cannot go unmentioned when talking about LGBTQ+ in horror. The theme of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge can be summed up as being about a teen boy trying to come to terms with his sexuality. Examples of what is in the film include a gay-coded bar, men are often shown with minimal clothing and lead character Jesse’s implicit attraction to his best friend.

There is simply too much to go into with this film, but you can check out this article which goes even more in-depth into the queer themes that A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge has to offer.

Hellraiser (1987)

Hellraiser is an interesting film to talk about because of what the movie doesn’t show. In the movie, Pinhead is portrayed as a cisgender man. If he’s not then the film does a horrible job at portraying that to the audience. However, in the book that Hellraiser is based on, The Hellbound Heart, Pinhead is depicted as much more androgynous, even given feminine qualities. Most people aren’t aware of this, especially given the iconic Pinhead performances in the Hellraiser series. This has even resulted in backlash over the casting of fantastic actress Jamie Clayton into the role of Pinhead in the new reimagining of Hellraiser. Given this context though, it is incredibly understandable as the reimagining seems to be going in the direction of making the character androgynous and/or gender nonconforming, like what the book does.

The whole reason I bring this up here is that with this context, it can feel like the original Hellraiser might be guilty of LGBTQ+ erasure, which is just as important to point out as implicit and explicit portrayals.

American Psycho (2000)

This is a film I used to think should never belong on a list like this, given just how overtly homosexual the film seems to be on the surface, especially given the lead antagonist/protagonist Patrick Bateman. However, in looking back at the movie, American Psycho actually has some LGBTQ+ themes worth at least giving a mention. First of all, the story can be read as being an exploration of Bateman’s psyche and repressed feelings. Although this isn’t something I personally subscribe to, as I feel that Bateman is simply sadistic in nature, the theory has merits. The real reason the film is on this list is because of Bateman’s interaction with a gay guy during the movie. When Patrick Bateman attempts to kill a colleague, the man assumes that Bateman is actually hitting on him, which flusters Bateman, who lets him go. While the film may not have great LGBTQ+ representation, it’s always worth looking at horror films that don’t kill off their gay characters, as that is certainly a trope of the time.

Jennifer’s Body (2009)

Almost universally panned on its arrival, Jennifer’s Body is now seen as not only a film about the female body but also as a film with LGBTQ+ themes. The undertones of the relationship between the title character, Jennifer, and the movie’s protagonist, Needy, is undeniable. While Needy may be in a heterosexual relationship during the film, it’s clear that she much prefers her relationship with Jennifer, with the two even sharing a kiss during the movie. While Jennifer’s Body by today’s standards may not be groundbreaking with its LGBTQ+ themes, it is undeniable that the film has gained a following over the years, with many citing its themes and helping girls understand their sexuality as major reasons why. The movie is clearly doing something right by the LGBTQ+ community if it’s doing this.

Fear Street Trilogy (2021)

Moving on to recent films, this is a film that must be talked about regarding LGBTQ+ representation in horror. With Fear Street comes a trilogy of films released by Netflix, which has a lesbian character as the trilogy’s lead and her ex-girlfriend as a significant supporting character. Not only does the trilogy provide representation in this way, but also the trilogy heavily focuses on the persecution of LGBTQ+ people. To have a film series that not only gives LGBTQ+ characters leading roles but also has the story revolve around their sexuality feels like the proper step forward many have been asking for.

Scream (2022)

While the Fear Street Trilogy may revolve around the character’s sexuality, the most recent entry into the Scream franchise takes another approach with its character of Mindy Meeks. In Scream, there are only brief mentions of Mindy’s queerness, but this doesn’t mean that it isn’t made clear, as Scream makes it very clear that Mindy is interested in girls.

Some people prefer having LGBTQ+ characters act like everyday people and not have the story revolve around their sexuality as that is also true of people in the LGBTQ+ community. However, others will prefer it the other way around, where stories heavily emphasize character’s sexuality and make it a central plot point. In all honesty though, there should be room enough for both types of representations.

To now even have the conversation of what kind of representation is better is a big step forward, as something that is clear with the earlier entries is that people didn’t get to decide what kind of representation they got. They got what Hollywood was willing to give them and had to be flexible and grateful for what they got, whether or not they should’ve been.

With the upward trend that is happening now, the list going forward of LGBTQ+ representation in horror should be endless, as horror movies include even more LGBTQ+ characters.

Next. Universal Studios announces another Halloween Horror Nights haunted house. dark

Do you agree with what was said about these films? What other movies would you include when looking at LGBTQ+ representation in horror?