Halloween Horrors with a Queer Twist

by David-Elijah Nahmod

Bay Area Reporter

Tuesday October 27, 2020

Halloween Horrors with a Queer Twist

In the mood for something spooky? Here are some movies (and a book) you can watch to enhance your Halloween season. All titles have a decidedly queer twist.

"Carmilla"
Based on J. Sheridan Le Fanu's 1872 novel of the same name, Emily Harris' "Carmilla" tells the tale of Lara (Hannah Rae), a lonely girl living in isolation with her widowed father and her stern governess Miss Fontaine (Jessica Raine). But then Carmilla (Devrim Lingnau), a mysterious young girl who survives a deadly carriage accident, is allowed to stay in the house while she recuperates.

Lara and Carmilla very quickly develop an attraction to each other, which includes cutting their hands and licking each other's blood. It doesn't take Miss Fontaine long to realize that Carmilla is seducing Lara, and that Carmilla is a vampire.

This slow-paced, atmospheric film has an almost dreamlike quality. Raine is superb as the repressed governess who has a few sexual secrets of her own, but the film belongs to the two young girls whose budding romance masks something deeply sinister. It's a brilliant new take on an old classic. Carmilla is available on DVD and streams at Vudu and Amazon Prime.

"The Vampire Lovers"
In an earlier take on Le Fanu's "Carmilla," "The Vampire Lovers" was produced in 1970 by England's famed Hammer Films, purveyors of traditional Gothic horror cinema. The film is chock full of drafty castles, fog-bound graveyards, and topless young women. Polish-born Ingrid Pitt is sensational as Carmilla, the original lesbian vampire with a yen for young ladies. She leaves her vampiric fang marks on her victims' breasts! Famed horror movie star Peter Cushing is on hand as the vampire hunter, determined to end Carmilla's reign of terror. Available on DVD, BluRay, and streaming at Amazon Prime.

"Daughters of Darkness"
This 1971 cult film comes to BluRay in a brand new 4K restored print taken from the film's original camera negative. Delphine Seyrig, then a huge star of European cinema, plays Countess Elizabeth Bathory, a centuries-old Hungarian noblewoman who retains her youth with the blood of young women. She and her "secretary" Ilona (Andrea Rau), are staying in a desolate hotel in Belgium, where they become involved in an erotic game of cat and mouse with a pair of young newlyweds (John Karlen, Danielle Ouimet). Karlen is best known for his role as Willie Loomis on the classic TV series "Dark Shadows." Some D.S. fans may be titillated, others shocked, to see Karlen in the buff in this film. He's hot!

But it's Seyrig's movie. Her lesbian vampire is mysterious, elegant, and hypnotic.
Also streaming on Amazon Prime and Tubi TV, although this is not the restored version

"Stan the Mechanic"
Actor John Hernandez, an adorable fuzzy bear, plays Stan, a gay auto mechanic who introduces horror movies. The concept for Stan the Mechanic is in the tradition of Svengoolie, the hosted horror movie show that airs on MeTV. Stan not only introduces a scary movie, he'll cut in during the film to crack a bad pun. There are also host segments during the film in which Stan delves into the film's background or talks about the cast members, usually offering a quick overview of their careers.

The premiere episode, now available on HereTV, a gay on demand service available on Comcast, offers "Hellbent," the world's first gay slasher movie. "Hellbent" is a fun little number about a group of gay men who are partying in West Hollywood on Halloween night while a mad killer runs around decapitating the local population. Shot on a low budget with a mostly unknown cast (excepting the late Nick Name, a.k.a. Kent James, performing a sexy rock number with his band), "Hellbent" is good, fast-paced fun and offers up some nice scares.

Four episodes of "Stan the Mechanic" will air on Here. The series becomes available on Amazon Prime in January. Additional episodes are being produced.

"Painter"
Not a horror film per se, "Painter" is a dark, creepy psychosexual drama in the Hitchcock mold from openly gay director Cory Wexler Grant. Betsy Randle is positively chilling as Joanne, a wealthy art collector who becomes a patron of struggling artist Aldis (Eric Ladin). Joanne very quickly becomes obsessed with Aldis and tries to take control of his life. She's even willing to kill for him. You may never have heard of Randle before, but you'll never forget her after seeing her go after Aldis' rival in this film. She is one scary momma!
Streaming at Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google Play and You Tube.

"Bride of Frankenstein"
This 1935 sequel to the 1931 classic is one of the gayest monster movies ever made. In this film, the lonely monster (Boris Karloff) demands that his creator, Dr. Frankenstein (Colin Clive), create him a mate. The good doctor balks at first, until he's blackmailed by Dr. Praetorious (Ernest Thesiger), his old professor from the university.

Chock-full of graveyard humor, openly gay director James Whale injected a gay sensibility into the film that must have been apparent even to 1935 audiences. Dr. Praetorius, for example, is a queen who expresses disdain for women, and the monstrous bride (Elsa Lanchester), with her flowing white gown, streaked hair and heavily painted lips, not to mention her "dramatic" gestures, comes across like a drag queen.

This is an absolutely unforgettable film, a must-see for every gay horror fan. Pair it with the decades-later "Gods and Monsters," based on Christopher Bram's fictional novel ("Father of Frankenstein") about director Whale. Available on DVD and BluRay; streaming at Amazon Prime and YouTube.

Rob Rosen's 'Sort of Dead'  

"Sort of Dead"
Here's a little spooky reading to round out your Halloween season. Rob Rosen's novel "Sort of Dead" is the delightful tale of Nord (his Mom had named him after Nordstrom's department store), a recently murdered young gay man who finds a boyfriend in the afterlife. Together, they set out to find Nord's killer. The book is a fast-paced, easy read, and includes hilarious sequences in which Nord and Max, his BF, visit Max's old apartment and invisibly watch the abode's current resident beating off to gay porn. They soon manage to make contact with the guy, and manage to enlist his aid in finding the killer.

The ghosts, by the way, spend eternity in the nude and spend a lot of time "checking each other out." Don't let the pandemic ruin your Halloween; spend it with Nord and Max and have some great laughs.

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.

Copyright Bay Area Reporter. For more articles from San Francisco's largest GLBT newspaper, visit www.ebar.com

Comments on Facebook