Friday, October 24, 2008

Queers for Fears

Until recently, horror movies and gays weren’t seen as very compatible—despite the fact that an inordinate number of gay men I know are rabid fans. (And you all know yours truly is certainly one of them.) But the list of notable gays in horror film goes beyond fringe films like Hellbent to encompass men who’ve contributed to some of cinema’s greatest screamers. Here's my run-down, originally written for Next Magazine. (You can read my piece on the hottest men in horror in next week's issue.)

James Whale—Back in the very early days of horror, James Whale created not one but two landmarks: Frankenstein and its campier, entertaining sequel The Bride of Frankenstein. Whale worked to inject subtext into the films, which are, after all, about a misunderstood and persecuted outsider. The director was memorably portrayed by openly gay Sir Ian McKellan in Gods and Monsters, a fictionalized account of Whale’s final days.

Vincent Price—An accomplished stage actor and gourmand, the regal Price will forever be associated with horror after appearing in scores of macabre movies. Price was an effective presence in films ranging from Hammer Horror classics like Masque of the Red Death to the gimmicky romps of William Castle. Although Price’s homosexuality was never confirmed, it was a source of intense speculation, and his campy performances and passion for the finer things in life have made him something of a gay icon.

Tony Perkins—The ultimate mama’s boy, Psycho’s Norman Bates, was portrayed by a man just as troubled by his own “dark side.” Perkins had been a teen heart throb and a Tony-nominated actor before taking on the role that would define (and somewhat derail) his career. Looking back at Hitchcock’s classic, we can see subtle moments suggesting Norman was, if not one of us, then certainly a repressed kindred spirit.

Clive Barker—Prolific horror/fantasy novelist Barker created an unforgettable screen monster with Pinhead, the demonic villain in the classic Hellraiser. This S&M inspired baddie took whips and chains waaay beyond pleasure into the realm of horrifying pain. Barker went on to produce Gods and Monsters and has seen many more of his novels adapted for the screen.

Don Mancini—The writer behind Child’s Play resurrected his wise-cracking killer doll, Chucky, with two increasingly queer sequel spoofs: Bride of Chucky, starring Jennifer Tilly and a then-unknown Katherine Heigl, and Seed of Chucky, with a sexually confused, Ed Wood-inspired character named Glen/Glenda. Bride of Chucky also features a likable gay character and a man candy lead (soap actor Nick Stabile). Let’s just say my tape of Bride of Chucky is a little worn around the Stabile’s gratuitous shirtless car wash scene.

Kevin Williamson—The man who revitalized the horror genre with Scream explored gayness more overtly on his groundbreaking soap Dawson’s Creek, but some viewers picked up on subtext in his slasher satire, analyzing the close relationship between killers Billy (Skeet Ulrich) and Stu (Matthew Lillard). (This element was overtly spoofed in the homophobic Scream take-off Scary Movie.) Meanwhile, we have Williamson to thank for introducing us to hunks like Ryan Phillippe (I Know What You Did Last Summer), Josh Hartnett (Halloween: H20), and Milo Ventimiglia (Cursed).

David DeCoteau—I feel almost ashamed to mention him in the same breath as legends like Tony Perkins and Clive Barker, but no run down of horror queers would be complete without mentioning DeCoteau. He’s transformed gaysploitation horror into, if not an art, then into a profitable formula. Straight-to-video cheapies like The Brotherhood, Voodoo Academy, and Leaches transform B-horror conventions into an excuse to put boys in their altogether instead of girls. DeCoteau certainly has a knack for casting quality eye candy: The Brotherhood 2’s Sean Farris went on to star in this year’s homoerotic ultimate fighting hit Never Back Down.

No comments: