The horror genre and the LGBTQ+ community have had a complicated relationship. Here’s a breakdown of some of the biggest queer characters in horror, why they’re notable, and what to watch next!
From gay subtext in Bram Stoker’s Dracula to lesbians in every adaptation of The Haunting Of Hill House, queerness and horror have always had a special (albeit rocky) relationship. Here are some queer characters over the ages, what they do well and how they can improve, and some more iconic queer horror to check out.
Frank N’ Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
@seannaltman I see you shiver with antici… pation! 💋 #rockyhorror #franknfurter #rockyhorrorpictureshow #franknfurtercosplay #costumetransition #halloweenlook ♬ original sound – Matt Ivey
Frank N’ Furter is a mad scientist with a killer sense of style hellbent on making the perfect human to be his sexual plaything. He dramatizes femininity and masculinity to the highest order, threatening the social construct of gender with his mere existence.
His sexual nature is written as liberating rather than demeaning. He is openly attracted to multiple genders throughout the film and seeks to bring the taboo into the spotlight.
Frank N’ Furter isn’t perfect, facing critiques of perpetuating stereotypes like queer people trying to “turn” straight people gay, but his character remains iconic today. If you’re looking for a good time, search for a midnight showing or performance of Rocky Horror in your town next Halloween!
Angela Baker in Sleepaway Camp (1983)
Sleepaway Camp – 1983 pic.twitter.com/1WDgsIZpj5
— 🩸ArmyOfBoomstick🩸 (@ArmyOfBoomstick) January 11, 2023
This film is a controversial cult classic. As a transgender person who knew the “twist” going in, I was definitely skeptical, but I ended up loving (most) of it. The main character (and revealed killer) is Angela Baker, a young teenage girl attending a summer camp with her brother.
Angela is bullied by counselors and fellow campers relentlessly, and the only boy who seems to care for her tries to coerce her into being intimate with him. She goes on to kill everyone who wronged her in incredibly creative and gory ways with unnerving practical effects for the 80s.
As a queer person who was bullied growing up, I was rooting for Angela. In the end, we learn that Angela is actually transgender, or at least forced to transition into a girl by her overbearing, unstable adoptive mother. Unfortunately, the twist and final shot turn transness into a horrifying spectacle. This film is just one of many that use the trans-coded, cross-dressing killer trope.
As I said, this film gives you a killer to root for, and I still recommend it as long as you approach it with a critical lens. Plus, the boys wear crop tops and daisy dukes without blinking; the 80s fashion definitely doesn’t disprove the queerness of this movie.
Billy and Stu in Scream (1996)
Billy and stu dominated their 2 minutes of screen time🥶🥶 pic.twitter.com/6wuprMLPUm
— Azthekid (@Azthegreateditz) February 22, 2023
The original Scream was written by the openly gay screenwriter Kevin Williamson. Perhaps the most famous queer-coded characters in the genre are Billy and Stu, the horror-obsessed killers (and star-crossed lovers, in my opinion).
Williamson confirmed that the pair were based on the real-life, reportedly gay killers Nathan Freudenthal Leopold Jr. and Richard Albert Loeb. He admits that if he had more confidence in his identity and abilities at the time, he may have made their relationship more explicit: “maybe I’d be braver. Maybe I wouldn’t be that shy little gay writer who felt like he couldn’t get away with it.”
In the sequel, Randy Meeks (played by Jamie Kennedy) calls out Billy as “homorepressed’ (before promptly being murdered). Say your truth, Randy!
Bee and Sophie in Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022)
@itsthemoviejunkie has a killer twist that keeps you guessing until the end #a24 #bodiesbodiesbodies #horrormovie #movierecommendation #movietok #fyp ♬ Survivor – 2WEI & Edda Hayes
Bodies Bodies Bodies wears its queerness on its sleeve. The first minute of the film is a close-up of the main couple, Bee and Sophie, making out. Within the film, their queerness is played just like in any other relationship. The characters are allowed to be lesbians without it being an announced phenomena; another character, Jordan, is Sophie’s ex-girlfriend, and they have relationship drama without the spotlight being on their identities. Plus, Amandla Stenberg (who plays Sophie) is gay herself!
Bonus points for this film avoiding the “Bury Your Gays” trope. Even if they’re definitely breaking up after this, Bee and Sophie make it out alive.
Mindy Meeks in Scream (2022)
… mindy meeks-martin from scream (2022)! pic.twitter.com/v3cbTQvZaM
— my favorite horror girl is … (@HORRORGIRLZ) January 29, 2022
The newest installment in the Scream franchise features its first explicitly queer character. Mindy is the late Randy Meeks’ niece, played by Jasmin Savoy Brown, who is a lesbian in real life. Just like her uncle, she is this requel’s resident horror expert.
She is casually recognized as queer near the end of the movie, and the film doesn’t skip a beat. She kisses another woman on screen, and just like in Bodies Bodies Bodies, she is allowed to exist as a queer woman without it being her only personality trait. I’m very excited to see her return in Scream VI in March!
Looking for more queer characters and themes?
Freaky (2020) is a body swap horror comedy that plays with gender, romance, and the slasher genre in creative, modern ways.
The Fear Street trilogy (2021) was written by openly gay screenwriter Phil Graziadei, and a lesbian couple propels the story.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985) is acclaimed as the most bisexual film of the franchise, with homoerotic subtext all over the place.
The Haunting (1963) was the first film adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s book The Haunting Of Hill House and features a queer relationship in an unlikely place,
Titane (2021) is a jaw-dropping, gender-bent journey following a woman on the run who takes on the identity of a young boy (seriously, you are not ready for this).
Queer horror has come a long way since the genre began. I’m excited to see this next generation of queer films, characters, and filmmakers continue to take the genre by storm!
You can watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show on Prime Video and Apple TV, Sleepaway Camp on Peacock, the Scream franchise on Paramount+, and Bodies Bodies Bodies on Prime Video and Apple TV.