After a fun night out at a bustling night club, Rachel (Willam Belli), Emma (Erica Andrews), and Bubbles (Krystal Summers) decide to take the party elsewhere when two handsome men invite them home. Even though she wants to go, Bubbles reluctantly agrees to stay for one drink. However, her instincts were right — they should have turned down the after party invite. These men had malicious intentions and plotted to murder these women who — they claim — “tricked” them because they didn’t know Bubbles was transgender. The men brutally murder Rachel and Tipper, their other friend, and leave Bubbles in a coma. When she awakes, Bubbles is ready for revenge. With the help of her equally enraged friends, Bubbles plans to torture and kill the men who raped her and murdered her dear friends, making for a satisfying rape-revenge film.
The rape-revenge subgenre has a lengthy history, often riddled with equal amounts of critics and die-hard fans. Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives (2010) subverts the genre conventions by centering around transgender women, who experience high rates of rape and murder off-screen. By showing the rape-revenge fantasy of trans women, the film grants trans women agency and power over transphobes. This setup also pushes back on the murderous trans woman trope seen in horror classics like Psycho (1960), Dressed to Kill (1980), Sleepaway Camp (1980), and Silence of the Lambs (1991), which is harmful to actual trans women, who are not violent by nature. The trope is fueled by cisgender society’s fear of gender transgressions and can lead to people having negative views on transgender women without even knowing them. By painting the trans women as women who have been wronged rather than senseless murderers, the women of Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives directly contrast with trans-coded killers like Norman Bates (Psycho), Bobbie (Michael Caine), and Buffalo Bill (Silence of the Lambs).
Though there are a few problems with the film such as the casting of cisgender drag queens as transgender women and the portrayal of violence against trans women on-screen – as pointed out by GLAAD – the film is a mainstay in the conversation of transgender portrayals in film. The director, Israel Luna, wanted to make the film to draw viewers’ attention to violence against trans women in real life. Luna consulted with the trans community in Dallas, TX, where they filmed, and consulted with the transgender actors in the film to ensure they felt the film was empowering rather than exploitative. With the notes of camp and B-horror movie influences, the film initially received negative reviews for the low-budget appearance. Since its initial release, the film has garnered a cult following largely made up of transgender people who turn to the slasher as revenge fantasy tailored to the experience of trans folks.
Perfectly imperfect and wonderfully cheesy, Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives actively pushes back on the rarely questioned trope of trans women as murderers in a wildly entertaining way. The campy classic highlights the issues with the treatment of trans women on and off the silver screen while making trans women the vigilante heroes of the story in a fight against transphobic attackers.