11 Classic Horror Movies With Surprising Hidden LGBTQ+ Subtext

Summary

  • Many horror films contain subtle LGBTQ+ subtext and themes even before the explicit representation is accepted.

  • The horror movie monster is often used as a metaphor for LGBTQ+ people, exploring the fear and misunderstanding they face in society.

  • LGBTQ+ themes can be found in horror films dating back to the early 1900s, with varying degrees of subtlety and representation.

Numerous horror movies are peppered with subtle LGBTQ+ subtext and themes. While there are many brilliant modern examples of LGBTQ+ horror films, this representation has not always been so clear in film histories. In the decades before explicit representation of non-heteronormative characters was accepted, filmmakers often coded characters as LGBTQ+ with more subtle themes and details. As a result, many horror films with supposedly heterosexual characters are widely recognized as containing LGBTQ+ subtext.

The horror movie monster has been used as a metaphor for LGBTQ+ people for decades – representing an ostracized member of society who is feared and misunderstood, often unfairly. The fantastical nature of horror allowed these themes to be explored even in an era that criminalized many members of the LGBTQ+ community. As a result, numerous coded LGBTQ+ horror films (including some modern examples) have been created that date back to the 1920s, each featuring varying degrees of subtlety.


11 Nightmare on Elm Street 2

After decades of speculation, it has been confirmed A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge a strange subtext was deliberately given. The plot itself is full of LGBTQ+ metaphors, depicting an adolescent in the final role of a girl who transforms into Freddy Krueger. There is a very deep search regarding his true inner identity and even a sequence where Freddy literally “comes out” of the young man. This culminates perfectly when Jesse’s girlfriend attempts to have sex with him and he runs into his friend Ron’s bedroom – prompting the iconic response, “She’s waiting for you in the hut – and you want to sleep with me?!

10 Bride of Frankenstein

To James Whale Bride of Frankenstein is widely considered an oddly coded film. These themes were so deftly incorporated that one Bride of Frankenstein has become an LGBTQ+ icon. Wale himself was homosexual, as were two of the film’s stars, Colin Clive and Ernest Tessiger. They each give delightfully campy performances that are decidedly arch and urban. Thesiger’s Dr. Pretorius is even represented as a “a very strange gentleman.” Further reading suggested The bride’s rejection of the Beast as a sexual partner is representative of the inability of the LGBTQ+ community to conform to perceived societal norms. In addition, the design of the bride herself is related to drag culture.

9 The office of Dr. Caligari

Dr. Caligari awakens Cesare from the Office of Dr. Caligari

Robert Wein’s 1920 masterpiece of German Expressionism, The office of Dr. Caligari has been revised to include LGBTQ+ themes. The male leads, for example, show much more affection for each other than for the woman they claim to love. Meanwhile, Dr. Caligari himself hid a young man in his office (or closet) who appears at night to reveal “the truth.” Indeed, Cesare’s murders are littered with sexual imagery: each takes place off-screen, involving characters in bed and highly suggestive phallic imagery. Interestingly, Conrad Veidt (who played Cesare) had starred in a popular documentary about homosexuality just months before, featuring a strikingly similar character design.

8 Dracula’s daughter

Gloria Holden lurks in Dracula's Daughter.

Many films mix vampirism with sexuality; the highly seductive representation of vampires drinking the blood of their victims has become almost a cliché. Whether by accident or design, the 1936 sequel Dracula, Dracula‘c Daughter maintains this and as a result creates several scenes filled with lesbian undertones. What follows is a highly sexualized seduction of a young woman in the classic Dracula film considered one of the first instances of a lesbian film being presented. The plot itself has also provoked speculation, with the Countess’s search for a cure seen as analogous to modern perceptions of LGBTQ+ people suffering from a treatable illness and an individual desperate to be considered “normal” by society.

7 The lighthouse

The 2019 Robert Eggers film The lighthouse is littered with complex themes and multiple potential interpretations. One such the interpretation emphasizes homoeroticism throughout the film, including the relatively stripped-down physical altercations, the couple’s slow dance, and their growing obsession with each other’s sexual habits. The pair are often seen in states of agitation, culminating in their violent confrontation during The lighthouseenigmatic ending. Even the location itself is suggested as homoerotic, with many of the The lighthouse depicting two frustrated men in a giant phallus.

6 The old dark house

A bearded man holds a frightened woman from the Old Dark House

The old dark house is another James Whale horror film filled with LGBTQ+ subtext and themes. It features another extremely camp performance from Ernest Thessiger, which could be considered stereotypically gay. Thesiger’s character is named “Horace Femm,” the last name possibly being code for gay and trans themes. The Femm patriarch, moreover, is played by an actress, Elspeth Dudgeon (although she is credited as John Dudgeon). This is an early example of gender subversion, a common contemporary attempt to portray LGBTQ+ characters. interesting The old dark house was also the inspiration for the quirky cult classic The Rocky Horror Show.

5 cat people

Irene standing next to an anthopromorphic statue of a cat in Cat People (1942)

1942 cat people portrays Irene Dubrovna, a woman who believes she is descended from an ancient tribe of cat people who transform into panthers when sexually aroused. The film is littered with LBGTQ+ themes, especially given the central narrative. The plot depicts a woman struggling to accept her primal desires while trying to adhere to societal pressures. In many ways, cat people serves as a metaphor for sexual repressionusing feline features to represent female sexuality.

4 The woman created by Frankenstein

Susan Denberg in Frankenstein, Made Woman

Peter Cushing’s fourth Frankenstein film, produced by Hammer Horror Productions, is from 1967 The woman created by Frankenstein. In it, Victor Frankenstein (Cushing) transfers the soul of an executed man into the body of his mistress. In many ways, can be considered a trance allegory. It depicts a character trapped in a gender identity that doesn’t match the one they were assigned at birth. He treats 1967 quite sympathetically. Like many Frankenstein creations, Susan Denberg’s Christina is presented as a misunderstood victim of circumstance.

3 Jeepers Creepers 2

A scarecrow is posed by Jeepers Creepers

Jeepers Creepers 2 is much more homoerotic than many audiences may remember. One subplot depicts a character being questioned about his sexuality, and much of the first act showcases a male physique. The Creeper himself is depicted carefully selecting various men, selecting them for their specific body parts that will satisfy his needs. Once selected, the Creeper subsequently ingests the specimens, effectively obtaining them physically. As a result, many aspects of Jeepers Creepers 2 could be interpreted as LGBTQ+ subtext.

2 Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde

Ralph Bates as Dr. Jekyll in a laboratory in Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde.

The 1971 Hammer Horror film, Doctor Jekyll and Nurse Hyde is an interpretation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel, but the main character is transformed into a beautiful woman. Many LGBTQ+ themes are present throughout Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hydebut gender research in particular has resonates with many gender-nonconforming viewers. It also contains several familiar references to “queer business‘, suggesting that this LGBTQ+ subtext is surely intentional.

1 The Babadook

A slight departure from the other contributors to this list, The Babadook it was never intended to be considered LGBTQ+. However, in a confusing error, The the Babadook was accidentally tagged in Netflix’s list of LGBTQ+ movies. Therefore, The Babadook became a surprising LGBTQ+ icon, with many members of the community delighted in the misfortune and embracing it. Interestingly, several LGBTQ+ themes have since been proposed and identified in the horror film.

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