It’s unusual for me to find a handful of gay male horror all at once to blog about, yet alone a more diverse selection that includes gay male, lesbian, and trans horror and gives me something new to add to the complete homo horror movies page. This trio of films worked on all counts, so let’s get right into Spiral, By Day’s End, and Bit.
Shudder film Spiral does a pretty damn good job of giving us a gay film in the style of timely and socially aware horror that is reinvigorating the genre these days thanks in large part to Jordan Peele. This film even approaches its gay theme with an interracial relationship.
Before I get into why this film is so good, here are just a few aspects I feel the need to call out so that I don’t seem to be overpraising it simply because of its niche importance.
- a) Some viewers may find certain parts a little preachy due to the activist mindset of the characters experiencing oppression. It should be recognized, however, that it is included to present a case of understanding to straight audiences, because otherwise this film is just preaching to the gay choir.
- b) On a similar note, because it has a social messaging purpose, this isn’t a “gay horror film” for everyone. For instance, if the opening gay bashing in It Chapter Two triggered you, there are plenty of scenes here that will probably do the same. This isn’t simply a horror movie with gay leads encountering the same sinister threats as straight people do in horror movies; their gay identity is the springboard for the whole plot, with evil heterosexuality as the big looming threat.
- c) There are some blatantly stereotypical aspects to the gay characters that might annoy some viewers who prefer homogeneous humans that just “happen to be gay”. However, stereotypical or not, they’re realistic and help define the time from which these characters come (the movie takes place in 1995, when major strides were being made by a vocal queer community).
- d) There’s actually a little too much going on here. In an undeniably successful effort to keep the pace going, the film throws numerous horror tropes at us, yet most of them are just touched upon and don’t actually come together to create a cohesive, significant plot thread. I’m talking to you, ghost girl returning her video tapes way late.
The story focuses on a gay couple moving into a new home: a Black man and his white partner, who has a teenage daughter from a previous marriage to a woman.
The proud gay Black guy suffers from PTSD due to a bashing incident when he was younger. Therefore, he’s very suspect of everyone around them, including their new neighbors.
When he begins to experience frightening situations in the new home, we are put in the position of wondering if it’s really happening or if it’s all due to his mental state. He’s quite sensitive to everything to the point of paranoia, but it sure does suck us in.
A good part of the film feels like one of those classic 1990s thrillers about suspicious behaving neighbors, with the main character doing the kinds of dumb, risky things while investigating that make you shout in frustration at the screen.
As the story unfolds, it incorporates some random supernatural aspects, but it does deliver a few surprises at the end that are dark, ominous, and horrortastic and also frighteningly address the current state of our nation.
BY DAY’S END (2020)
Amazon Prime selection By Day’s End makes the most of a low budget, minimal cast and single setting, and even navigates found footage better than many of the excessive indies that attempt the subgenre. All this while serving up unnervingly cognizant zombies and an intimate lesbian love story.
We’re dropped right into the middle of a rough patch for a lesbian couple. Rina has lost her job as an attorney and has emotional issues, and Carly is estranged from her family and has an interest in getting into photography and filmography. They’ve temporarily moved into a motel until they can get back on their feet.
We meet a couple of neighboring motel guests, including a woman and her under the weather husband, and a quirky survivalist who has been following a story of a mysterious outbreak in Europe. Uh-oh.
The story is told through Carly’s videos and security camera footage. The fixed camera POV and very limited number of zombies roaming the property really create an isolated atmosphere, so we’re always anticipating what’s around every corner. I dare to say it reminded me of the vibe I got the first time I played the original Resident Evil: Nemesis.
There are a variety of creepy, random zombie encounters, including a cameo by horror queen Maria Olsen, who wonderfully hogs the screen as a freaky zombie. Plus, you feel like you’re in the lowbrow, sleazy motel with them due to tight shots in confined spaces like the balcony walkway and the couple’s room.
But most important is how perfectly the film weaves in the troubled yet genuine relationship between Carly and Rina, even touching upon the issues that seem glossed over earlier before the zombie action begins. By the time things gets really bad at the end, the dilemmas they’re going through become very real and heartbreaking.
Bit can be rented on Prime, but is also currently available to watch free on Tubi. Be warned, Tubi is owned by big conservative media, so they run anti-Democrat political attack ads. Ironic, considering the film is about a clan of queer feminist vampire women that targets conservative men.
It’s labeled as a horror comedy on iMDB, but while it’s quirky and edgy due to its content and focus on a bunch of trendy teens, it’s not a humorous film at all to me. In fact, despite its hip chicks, cool and contemporary soundtrack, and smoky club settings, this is the preachiest film in this trio.
The catch—the preachy subject matter is the feminism, not the trans issue. This film makes the main character’s queer identity incidental. In fact, it’s never implicitly stated that she’s trans, so you have to pay attention to the dialogue. How that sits with you depends on how you feel about trans visibility in movies. Important to note is that Nicole Maines, the actress playing the lead, is trans (she’s already made her mark playing trans superhero Dreamer on Supergirl).
She goes to visit her brother in LA for the summer and becomes drawn in by the nightlife of these night creatures. Now she must navigate her new identity as a vampire that must focus her feeding on killing scummy men. Awesome.
There is a fun queer vampire clan story here, and the girls, including their fierce leader, do some good gory damage to their victims. Even the dialogue provides some smart social commentary, however the talking becomes a bit excessive to the point of slowing the pace down.
I enjoyed the film, but I was initially a bit disappointed that a heavy-handed vampire film about identity with a trans lead focused more on feminism than her gender identity. Then again, that is perhaps the whole point of the film…she is a woman, so feminism is a major part of her identity. Pretty sneaky, sis!