Filmhounds Magazine

All things film – In print and online

Queer for Fear (Documentary Review)

3 min read

's new docu-series for Fear is a fascinating walk through the of and it's queers creators from its inception to now, showing how integral to horror queerness is and always has been. It is a refreshing with many exciting scholars, actors, filmmakers, and of course drag queen Alaska Thunderfuck, all discussing the iconic figures behind horror from the beginning.

Brought to us by the brilliant Bryan Fuller, the creator of Hannibal, Queer for Fear provides us with a wonderful range of views and opinions on many of our favourite characters and creators.  It offers a fresh and illuminating take on horror itself as well as films and novels through the years in an exhaustive way with no condescension or pretences. A true love letter to the genre, this re-examination through an explicitly clear lens is refreshing and entertaining, and you learn as much as you laugh.

Episode one begins right at the start of Gothic and horror literature with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Grey, and Bram Stoker's Dracula. These founding figures of horror are discussed as much as their work, giving a fascinating insight into horrors very beginnings. For horror fans this may be familiar stuff, but the queer lens keeps it fresh and the variety of adaptations to discuss provides more than enough material as the episode moves onto the cinema, ending with Nosferatu and the first adaptation of Dracula. A comprehensive introduction and done excellently. It is kept simple, with interviewees on a spectacular red chair but with an unassuming background, and clips from the films in-between, along with some fun effects to keep some interest in the transitions.

This format remains the same for episode two, moving ahead to the Classic universal monsters, of course heavily linked back to the first episode, particularly by gay director James Whale's films Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein based on Shelley's novel, though with noted differences. Of course, from the mid-thirties things were considerably harder for Whale with the Hay's Code policing what could be shown on screen and homophobia being rampant, but his contributions to the genre are explored in detail and with the gratitude he deserves. The episode then moves onto Alfred Hitchcock's films and their queer subtext, and of course gay actor Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates in Hitchcock's most famous film, Psycho. Again, this is explored through a thoughtful and respectful discussion, and the episode is thought-provoking and compelling.

Queer for Fear solidifies what many of us knew all along, these are not empty, violent stories of mindless monsters and massacres, but products of their time and reflections on their creators, many of whom are depicting the ostracisation they felt as LGBTQ+ people in an unwelcoming society. Their stories are dealt with tactfully, and clearly resonates with so many of the interviewees. We are familiar with horror as social commentary through a gendered, racial, and queer lens, and this documentary makes a wonderful introduction for viewers to the queer history of horror, as its tagline promises, as well as horror in general. Horror has always been shocking, subversive, and emotional, and the history behind why is well worth exploring. If you are a fan of Shudders other fantastic documentaries such as Cursed Films this docu-series this one is definitely worth checking out as well, and all horror fans would enjoy the in-depth discussion of horror most iconic, queer figures.

Queer for Fear episode one is available now.