“A moving, horrifying, tender and revealing series of shorts”
The horror genre has always been lovingly embraced by the LGBTQ+ community. Whether we’re protectively defending our favourite misunderstood “monsters”, thirsting after a vengeful witch, or intricately dissecting the plot’s subtext to match our queer theories; it’s a genre we’ve passionately invested in despite our community’s seeming absence from its stories. Of course, it’s not unusual for LGBTQ+ stories to be under-represented in film. In fact, it could be argued that horror was one of the first branches of film that explored themes from our community. Horror’s tendency to push boundaries allowed for characters like Glen/Glenda from the Child’s Play franchise and the involvement of LGBTQ+ filmmakers like Don Mancini further helped our community inch into the spotlight. Now that the media has finally started to push our stories as canon, rather than subtext, LGBTQ+ filmmakers are able to come out in storm and share their art, and at the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival they’ve done just that, with a revealing, gory, campy and brilliant collection of short films.
Debuting at this year’s Brooklyn Horror Film Festival is Slayed! a series of shorts from LGBTQ+ filmmakers which delve into important and often ignored aspects of the community. They offer a snapshot into the lives of many in the community while also addressing stigmas and prejudices faced by many.
Spanish short Estigma (Stigma), from David Velduque, delves into the topic of HIV. Our lead, Alex (Alvaro Fontalba), is bitten by a monstrous beetle during a booty call with lover Dani (Manuel Tejera), and what follows is a sequence of body-horror as Alex’s body mutates and disfigures from the beetle’s infection. Despite this short’s visceral metaphor for the HIV virus, the short breaks-down stigma by not only showing Alex in a healthy and tender relationship, having safe-sex with a lover who does not villainise him for his status, but only uses body horror to reveal to the audience how Alex sees himself, not how he actually is. It’s a tender examination of life and love with HIV while also addressing the false assumption that those with the virus can no longer have safe sex, as well as society’s stigmatization and “monstrous” image of the virus and those who live with it.
Addressing stigmas and hatred forced upon the community is a popular topic in the series. Penance (from Kayden Phoenix) looks into the controversy of conversion tactics by religious groups, with a vengeful twist. Even though they must swallow (literally) the words that come from the proud tongue of the priest, spreading his falsities, the young teens rebel and prove that despite their efforts they still stand hand-in-hand with their partners and embrace within their church during their own twisted performance of religious practises. Bathroom Troll (from Aaron Immediato) examines the hatred and fear trans and non-binary people must face in bathrooms from bigots. In this revenge horror, young teen Cassie (Bianca Sanchez) is verbally and physically harassed by a group of teens for not “looking like a girl” in the girl’s toilets. Even though Cassie doesn’t wish to fight hatred with hate, her overly zealous, satanic practising mother (Melissa Connell) forces her to seek revenge using a revenge troll who flips the hatred and terrorises the bullies every time they enter a bathroom. This campy film is a delightful ode to Carrie with the overly religious and domineering mother, bullying teen girls, mystically powerful protagonist, visual references to Carrie’s stage scene and even the leads names being similar. Despite the seriousness of the themes explored, this short remains fun and harkens back to 80’s B-movies.
As well as tackling important issues faced by the community, the series also gives a new LGBTQ+ perspective on tales of romantic relationships. Jerimiah (directed, written and edited by Kenya Gillespie, with music composed by them also) looks into the importance of accepting your own sexuality, while also pushing yourself to form bonds with others which can prevent the stalking hatred and darkness from engulfing your existence. The Original (directed by Michelle Garza Cervera) is an emotional sci-fi story about the difficulty of moving on from old, dying relationships. Using the metaphor of physical sickness, lead Alana (Ariana Lebron Baez) cares for her girlfriend Gwendolyn (Rebecca Layoo) when she gets sick and goes to extreme lengths to try to make her better, including pushing for a medical procedure that will transfer Gwendolyn’s mind into a new, healthy body. The procedure goes awry, and Alana has to make the most difficult decision of her life, raising the question of how far someone will go for a chance at happiness. Shot in black and white and referencing classic horrors like Frankenstein, it’s a heartfelt and heart-breaking horror love story.
The shortest of all the shorts, Docking (directed by Trevor Anderson) is a quick, surreal and funny sci-fi film about being afraid of relationships and, well, docking (Google it). It has a creepy, sci-fi atmosphere and is like 2001: Space Odyssey, except taking the phallic nature of spaceships to the extreme. Closing the series is Switch (from Marion Renard) with a French coming-of-age body-horror. While embarking on their first sexual experience with a girl from school, a young teenager (Félix Matagne) is shocked to discover their genitals switch every time they cum, to the horror of their current sexual partner. This film explores body dysmorphia, the fluidity of gender and sexuality and the acceptance of this freedom. Like any great teen drama, this short can be both harrowing and delightful as we watch this teen discover and explore their identity.
Slayed! is a moving, horrifying, tender and revealing series of shorts from some remarkable filmmakers in the LGBTQ+ community, who will hopefully use this platform to project their careers in film and horror and give this industry the much needed queer flavour it deserves.