Horror history features plenty of films about cross-dressing killers—Psycho, Silence of the Lambs, Homicidal, Hide & Go Shriek, and Cherry Falls, just to name a few. But if asked to name a balls out movie in which the killer is a “chick with a dick,” chances are most horror fans will respond with 1983’s Sleepaway Camp. Interestingly, a decade before, 1972’s A Reflection of Fear took on the very same theme, with just as much gender identity and sexual orientation complexity.
Consider Sleepaway Camp first. Angela was born a boy, but after being orphaned, she was made to live as female by her crazy Aunt Martha. Angela wasn’t a boy who felt inside like he was a girl born with the wrong body—her inner and outer genders actually matched. The clash was forced on her. When she is old enough to understand male/female differences and her sexual desire begins to develop, she snaps.
Am I giving heterosexual parenting a bad name?
On top of inflicting the character with gender identity confusion, sexual orientation issues are tossed in to leave us with even more questions as to what’s going on in Angela’s mind. As a child, she watched her father have a homosexual relationship with another man. Is the film implying that this confused her even more? She forms a crush on a boy at camp, however, she too is actually a boy.
Get a clue, kid! She’s not feeling you…and never will…
Is she trying to convince herself that she likes boys because she now identifies as female and has been raised with heterosexual norms? Did seeing her father with another man when she was young leave her with the impression that it’s natural for boys to be intimate together? Or is she indeed a gay boy attracted to other boys?
With this running around camp, surely Angela would be all sprung if she was a gay boy.
We’ll never truly know. When Angela finally does strip down to have sexual relations with the boy, she instead kills him. Was the boy disgusted by her because she doesn’t have the girl parts he was looking for, causing her to feel inadequate as a female? Perhaps once he saw that she was a boy, he rejected her, maybe even attacking her homosexuality, which brought out her fury. Or is she actually a heterosexual boy, and therefore repulsed by the idea of homosexuality when faced with the reality of it?
She’s a boy! Well, I’ll be dicked.
While the original filmmaker had no hand in the sequels, the issue of Angela’s gender identity is barely referenced. She does say in part 2 that she had a sex change. Therefore, instead of just giving up on appearing externally as a female and fully living her male identity, she transitioned to the gender identity chosen for her by her Aunt Martha when she was a child! My blog about the full franchise here.
Many of the same questions can be applied to the film A Reflection of Fear. Sondra Locke, known mostly for starring in cowboy comedies with Clint Eastwood at the end of 1970s, plays Marguerite, a young woman living in an eerie, gothic old house with her mother and grandmother. Marguerite clearly has issues. She’s obsessed with looking at amoebas—long considered asexual organisms—in a microscope. She has a room full of dolls, one of which is her “imaginary” friend Aaron: he actually talks back to her in a male voice, and isn’t particularly nice to her. On top of all that, Marguerite also takes unexplained injections. Curious….
Marguerite’s dad, who has been MIA for years, returns home looking for a divorce because he’s found a new woman, who has come along with him.
What the fuck kind of family am I marrying in to?
Pretty soon, Marguerite is spying on them in bed at night. Soon after that, a boy in black murders both her grandmother and mother with a big wooden stick. Her mother is aggressively beaten in the belly…and it looks like she gets jabbed in the va-jay-jay pretty badly as well. Someone has serious issues when it comes to female parts….
Break it up! This isn’t a Christian father/daughter chastity dance!
With mom out of the way, Marguerite and her father get much closer. I’m talking “EW!” closer. I’m talking touching and kissing on the lips gross. I’m talking Marguerite masturbates and shouts her dad’s name while listening to him having sex with his new woman. Not to mention, when a young man tries to make moves on Marguerite in a boat, he ends up dead. No one is going to take away daddy’s little girl. So, it’s no surprise that the boy in black tries to take out dad’s new lady friend.
Fucking Annabelle. Now everyone blames the doll.
This is where things get weird. Okay, weirder than before. The boy in black chases dad through the house in the final scene. At the same time, we hear—in a sort of “flashback” scenario—audio of the day that dad called the hospital to find out his wife’s condition after she gave birth to Marguerite. That’s right, dad wasn’t there for the delivery. But the real shocker—mom gave birth to a boy. Okay, let it sink in. Now let’s go back.
So, Marguerite was born a boy. Maybe those injections were hormones? Why was she raised as a girl by mom and grandma? Never explained. Did they force it on her, or was it her decision. Either way, she’s obviously fucked in the head because of it. Her male side has manifested itself as her imaginary friend Aaron. And consider the title of the movie—A Reflection of Fear. Yes, Marguerite stares in a mirror during the movie, and the reflected face sure isn’t smiling. I guess she is horrified by the girl she sees staring back at her.
Mirror, mirror on the wall. Why the hell do I have balls?
And then there are the daddy issues. Okay, so Marguerite didn’t have a father figure in her life. Is she so starved for a masculine role model that she misinterprets sex for love? Or is she, who is actually a he, gay and in love with her father? Is she just confused about her sexuality because she so needs to have her father’s love? Does this lead to her wanting him dead because she is repulsed by her homosexual desire for him? Does any of that even matter? There’s a much bigger, gayer issue here. The fucking DAD knew he had a son! He doesn’t question why the son now looks like a girl, but…so…this has to mean…he is sexually attracted to his son. Right? WTF?
A Reflection of Fear seems to have been way in over its head for the time at which it was made, so instead of confronting the issues it raises, it just drops the “she’s actually a boy” bomb to shock and horrify us, then gets the fuck out of there. Roll credits.