No hack jobs: 10 queer slasher movies that are good for a scare—or a laugh

No hack jobs: 10 queer slasher movies that are good for a scare—or a laugh

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Clockwise from top left: Killer Unicorn, The Retreat, Knife + Heart, Hellbent

Don’t pick up the phone, don’t answer the door, and—whatever you do—don’t turn off the TV… because there are plenty of queer slasher movies to watch!

This past weekend alone, two new features join this exclusive cinema canon: They/Them, Peacock’s clever gay conversion camp riff on the formula, and Bodies Bodies Bodies, A24’s Gen Z skewering horror-comedy.

It’s a well-documented fact that the gays love a good horror movie—the history of scary cinema is rife with allegories for the LGBTQ experience (sometimes intentional, sometimes not). But many have a special place in their hearts for slashers, a subgenre that frequently combines fun frights with a “whodunnit?” angle as its heroes (and the audience) try to deduce who’s behind the mask before it’s too late.

Related: The cast of ‘They/Them’ sounds off on why queer people love horror so much

Historically, the slasher hasn’t always made space for queer characters, relegating them to the easy early victims, the butts of jokes, or even the killer in question. But that’s changed in recent years, as a number of films have pushed beyond mere lip-service to actually build unique horror narratives around gay protagonists and themes. Finally, we’re not just subtext—we’re the actual text!

In honor of the release of They/Them and Bodies Bodies Bodies we’ve compiled a list of 10 more queer slashers from the past 20 years that are more than good for a scare. To qualify, the films needed to have at least one LGBTQ lead role—and while we can’t exactly speak for the killers themselves, we’re pretty sure that buff unicorn is gay.

Be warned, mild spoilers may lie ahead for a number of these titles.

Fear Street Trilogy (2021)

Netflix‘s adaptation of R.L. Stine’s popular Fear Street books is three frights for the price of one. By distilling the young-adult series into a decade-hopping trilogy, director Leigh Janiak and her collaborators play it fast and loose with the genre pastiche, riffing on late-’90s meta-horror, ’70s summer-camp slashers, and the witchy paranoia of early America. The films’ through-line is a romance between two young women whose fight for survival takes on new layers with each successive step into the past.  And don’t let the teen protagonists fool you: Fear Street doesn’t hold back when it comes to the (shockingly violent) kills—you’ll never look at a bread slicer the same way again.

Streaming exclusively on Netflix.

The Retreat (2021)

The catch with reclaiming slashers for the queers is that, by traditional genre rules, that makes our LGBTQ characters the potential victims to the masked assailants—which doesn’t exactly feel like a win for inclusivity. The Retreat is keenly aware of this and decides to flip the script to exciting effect. When a lesbian couple is abducted from their cabin-in-the-woods getaway weekend, they find themselves at the hands of torturous homophobes. Spoiler alert: they escape, but the movie isn’t over yet. Instead, The Retreat becomes a queer revenge thrill ride that gives our requisite “final girls” the opportunity to have the last slash.

Streams on FuboTV and Showtime. Available for rental on Amazon Prime Video, YouTubeTV, Vudu, and iTunes.

Midnight Kiss (2019)

An entry into Hulu’s Into The Dark horror anthology series, Midnight Kiss didn’t make a ton of noise when it dropped on the streamer, but it’s got enough familiar faces, jump scares, and barely clothed guys to be worth a watch. From The Ruins and Swallowed director Carter Smith, the film follows a group of gay men and their straight gal pal on an annual trip to the desert (almost certainly Palm Springs) for New Year’s Eve, where they engage in the titular game to score a smooch as the clock turns twelve. The problem is, they have an uninvited guest: A leather-clad killer who takes their BDSM fascination way, way too far.

Streams exclusively on Hulu.

Killer Unicorn (2018)

The murderer’s a total party animal in this low-budget horror-comedy set in Brooklyn’s drag scene. Clad in nothing more than a unicorn mask and some pink sequined booty shorts, someone’s out slaying drag queens, bringing new meaning to the term “death drop.” Killer Unicorn certainly wasn’t going to win any awards, but this campy slasher has a ball with genre conventions, staging some gag-worthy kills, and making plenty of room for tongue-in-cheek nods to its influences, like the trailer’s big laugh line ode to the original scream queen: “Jamie Lee Curtis made that look so much easier! Who has a cigarette and a bump?”

Available for rental on Amazon Prime Video, YouTubeTV, Vudu, and iTunes.

Knife + Heart (2018)

Drenched in neon light, Knife + Heart is a lewd and lurid love-letter to both Italian giallo cinema and erotica. It’s the summer of 1979 in France, and a masked serial killer is stalking gay adult film stars, offing them with phallic prosthetic that’s been fashioned into a switchblade. Her actors dropping like flies, producer Anne takes the investigation into her own hands, all while shooting a new film of her own inspired by the murders called “Homocidal.” From director Yann Gonzalez, this freaky fantasia elevates its exploitative influences into something more transgressive, conjuring up a truly unique arthouse slasher that just might be the best film on this list.

Streams on Kanopy, Shuddeer, AMC+, and Freevee. Available for rental on Amazon Prime Video.

Hellbent (2004)

While its self-appointed title as “the first gay horror flick” isn’t exactly true, Hellbent deserves credit for fully going for it, especially in 2004. There’s no subtext here, no monster—or victim—as a metaphor for the gay experience: It’s about a bunch of gorgeous, ripped gay dudes getting picked off one by one while celebrating Halloween in West Hollywood. With a horny killer (he’s in a devil mask) who hacks and slashes the revelers for no apparent reason, the film doesn’t have the thematic heft of modern so-called “elevated horror.” Instead, it gleefully leans into the conventions of the subgenre, delivering the scares and plenty of memorable kills. And that’s good enough for us!

Streams on Here TV. Available for rental on Amazon Prime Video.

High Tension (2003)

Okay, we have to admit that even including this film on our list is something of a spoiler, but we tried to warn you in the intro! Before he crossed over into English-language features, French director Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes, Crawl) crafted this wicked, small-scale shocker. Best friends Marie and Alexia head to the latter’s parent’s secluded home for the weekend, but the quiet family visit is violently interrupted by a terrifying intruder who torments the young women. Suffice it to say, there’s a big twist that feels like a logical stretch—and insinuates something more than a little problematic—but what remains is enough well-executed scares to please most thrill seekers.

Streams on Kanopy, Tubi, and Pluto TV. Available for rental on Amazon Prime Video, YouTubeTV, Vudu, and iTunes.

Make A Wish (2002)

What happens when a group of lesbian ex-lovers go on a camping trip in the middle of nowhere? You get yourself a cheesy cult classic, that’s what! From queer filmmaker Sharon Ferranti, this microbudget murder-fest is by no means a masterpiece—you’ll know which character is the killer the second they’re introduced—but its hard not to admire its makeshift pleasures. And, hey, for 2002, it’s downright groundbreaking that a film about a group of out, gay women was made at all. We think Make A Wish (or Psycho Lesbian, as it was known in the U.K.) is worthy of a second life on the midnight screening circuit.

Unfortunately, Make A Wish is not currently available to rent or stream. However, a DVD can be purchased through distributor Wolfe Video.


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