“As queer people, we are considered outside of society, and I think horror is outside of society”, Lea DeLaria (Orange is the New Black) states in the opening episode of Shudder’s new documentary, Queer for Fear: The History of Queer Horror.
Queer for Fear is a four-part documentary about the history of the LGBTQIA+ community and their connection to the horror genre. Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies, Hannibal, American Gods) is at the helm of this project as executive producer and director of the first two episodes.
“I had been watching horror for decades from a queer lens before I even knew that I was queer, but just understood that I was different. And I think there’s something so universal about it for anybody who feels marginalised; looking at horror from the point of view of the monster,” Fuller says, explaining his love for the genre was what pushed him to become involved with this docu-series.
The idea for Queer for Fear was generated from a previous Shudder original titled Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror, a documentary film on the history of African Americans and their connection to the horror genre through the perspective of numerous African American creators.
“Queer for Fear was by one of the same producers of Horror Noire, and they wanted to look at horror through another marginalised lens,” he explains. “First with the Black person’s experience with Horror Noire, and then the queer person’s experience with Queer for Fear.
“What we have in this first season is really a sampler of, you know, a little bit of biographical history with people and queer allies as well as getting into episodes three and four, which covers the thematic of queerness.”
Fuller is not wrong on the biographical history, where straight people may view this as “reading too much into it” when it comes to queer subtexts in the horror genre. This documentary doesn’t shy away from their truth and unapologetically dives into the history of queerness, so much so that the effect of “reading too much into it” becomes futile.
The two episodes take the audience through a historical journey, starting with queer writers Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (Frankenstein), Oscar Wilde (The Picture of Dorian Gray) and the closeted Bram Stoker (Dracula), then to the film industry speaking on filmmakers, F.W. Murnau (Nosferatu), James Whale (Frankenstein, The Invisible Man) to Alfred Hitchcock’s queer-coded films like Rebecca, Rope and Psycho.
Fuller, along with LGBTQIA+ industry professionals like Leslye Headland (Russian Doll), Mark Gatiss (Dracula, Sherlock), Tawny Cypress (Yellowjackets), Phil Graziadei (Fear Street series), Karyn Kusama (Yellowjackets, Jennifer’s Body) Briana Venskus (The Walking Dead, Marvel’s Agents of Shields) and many more speak on the social commentary of those times for these queer creators. Their explanations are backed up by sources, followed by explorations of queer subtexts and how this genre resonates with them positively and negatively as queer audiences re-examining these works.
Queer for Fear is the first documentary Fuller has directed, and it was an exciting experience, he tells Supanova.
“It’s a different kind of storytelling, but so much is the same because you’re looking to find an emotional connection with the audience through the material,” he says. “And it’s a little bit like a human découpage, where you are putting pieces of everybody’s point of view into a cohesive conversation. And that was challenging because they’re the juxtaposition of images or ideas against a piece of archival or a clip from a film.
“I had to find solutions with David Kittredge, who is the editor on the first two episodes that I directed. And we were constantly pouring over interviews and clips and trying to find the right things that said something to the audience in a way that elevated their appreciation for horror.”
Despite being four episodes, Fuller is steadfast that there is more to tell, “I feel like what we did is provide kind of a foundational platter of why horror’s queer and we only go up to a certain point in history, and we don’t come up to modern day,” he explains, hoping this foundational season will find an audience that will allow them to tell more stories, “Because, with all of the interviews we’ve done, we have at least three seasons of material.”
In saying that, Fuller does hope Queer for Fear will connect to everyone, especially those in the LGBTQIA+ community.
“We want queer people to take away a real ownership of the genre and a sense of pride in the genre, that we aren’t guests at the table. We are the hosts in many ways. And I want straight people to look at the documentary and realise they have a lot more in common with queers than they previously thought, and if they were identifying with the monster in some way, chances are they have a great ability to identify with the queers as well.”
‘Queer for Fear’ is currently streaming via Shudder