Stranger Danger: Exploring the Home Invasion Sub-Genre

The-Strangers

The year was 2008 and I had just had just moved to a new state where I knew no one, with a new baby and a (now ex) husband who was in the military and gone 80% of the time. On a rare night when my ex was home, I would go to the movies to have some alone time. When The Strangers was released, I was there on opening night, over the moon to be alone and enjoying the genre I love most after a hard day of changing diapers and folding laundry. When I say I was too scared to walk to my car after I saw The Strangers, I am not exaggerating; this movie TERRIFIED me to my core. I am sure a lot of my fear was based on being in a totally new area with no friends or family around with a helpless newborn depending on me to keep him safe,  coupled with being on my own most of the time, but I’ve always loved horror that can strike a cord with me in that way. 

Given how I feel about the first film, I was pretty pumped when I learned there would be a sequel to The Strangers. 2018 has not had a whole lot of horror, so we went into the theatre optimistic that The Strangers 2 could recapture some of the spooky glory. Welp, let’s just say that plan did not pan out. It’s hard to pinpoint just one complaint about The Strangers 2; the writing was laughable, the acting atrocious, especially from the teens, and nobody did anything that actually made any sense. The old “let’s split up!” trope was so frustratingly cliche, and the filmmakers decided to add a twist patriarchal nonsense when the movie Dad insisted on taking his teenage son with him to track down the killers, leaving his exasperated wife and rebellious teen daughter home to hold down the fort. The ending was also real stupid. All of what made the original incredible was gone; the slow-burn suspense, the cat and mouse dynamic, the relatability of the protagonists, the mystery of the killers with just a tiny hint of  what kind of people they might be were all chopped in favor of cheap jump scares, cliches, and killers that were written like every other slasher (think Jason) rather than given unique attributes of their own.

I was disappointed but thems the breaks for horror fans. After watching this, I do what I often do after watching a less than stellar movie-I revisited other films in the sub-genre I absolutely love and I’ve got quite a few in the home invasion sub-genre. I’ve listed them in the order I saw them:

When a Stranger Calls (1979) 

This was actually my first home invasion movie; I saw this bad boy at a sleepover (where I saw many a banned horror film in my childhood) and my third grade ass was scared shitless. As a child who was regularly left alone with babysitters, this really hit me in my core. I remember being distinctly frozen with fear at the line about checking on the children. I damn near screamed at the twist. I am sure the older cousins in my family who babysat really enjoyed me following them everywhere they went, including the bathroom, for fear that if I left their side the killer that was surely hiding in our house would take their chance and murder me. 

Them (2006)

I discovered this gem thanks to a fellow horror fan on a mommy chat group, but sadly I accidentally came across the spoiler when I was doing my research on where I could watch this film. I feel like going in blind without knowing the twist would pack a much bigger punch, but alas. Them is set in the quite country side of France in which a couple are psychologically tortured by some nasty home invaders, somewhat in the vein of Funny Games. It’s very well made and scary AF. 

Inside (2007)

Also one of the three French movies my chat room buddy recommended, Inside is one of those movies that’s incredibly well-made, brilliantly acted, visually terrifying, and I pretty much white-knuckled it the entire time, but it’s not a film I would be able to sit through twice. Inside is about a women who breaks into a pregnant widow’s house to try and steal her baby by any means necessary. For me personally, sitting through Inside was very difficult as someone who has been pregnant and actually had anxieties about being murdered for my fetus (I am sure all those true crime books about women who suffered similar fates while I was pregnant with my second didn’t help). This film is pretty violent and super gory. It also has a pretty good if not somewhat predictable twist. 

Funny Games (1997)

I actually saw the 2007 remake with Naomi Watts before the original and though they are pretty similar, I prefer the original if for no other reason than I find the antagonist in the remake incredibly annoying, to the point where it angers me to see his face on screen. The plot is pretty basic; two menacing yet well-dressed dudes break into a family’s vacation house to toy with them and murder them just for shits and giggles. What makes this movie stand out for me is the ” movie rules” the villains break, like talking to the audience, that makes it feel campy and fun. Honestly, I feel like it’s the movie Eli Roth wanted to make when he filmed Knock Knock. 

Silent House (2011)

Silent House is a remake of Uruguayan film, La Casa Muda, about a young women and her father who venture to their old vacation house to fix up, only to find a menacing someone waiting for them. This was filmed in real time, which I think really made an impact for me. It gets kind of confusing toward the end, but the twist ending explains everything. I really liked this movie, and I appreciate they didn’t make any comments on the antagonists mental health (which they easily could have done). This movie does delve into child sexual abuse so if that’s a trigger for you, proceed  with caution. 

You’re Next (2011)

This pretty much has everything you could want in a home invasion movie; humor, a strong, three dimensional female protagonist who remains human throughout the movie, awesome kills, a twist that I sure didn’t see coming, all presented in a well written, acted, directed, and shot package. 

Hush (2016)

This movie doesn’t deviate too much from the standard strange invader hellbent on killing a “helpless” woman who lives alone in isolation. However, the protagonist is a deaf woman who fights back hard against a douchey looking white dude trying to kill her, and I appreciated that. I would have liked this movie even more if it had featured an actual  deaf actress in the role of the deaf character. 

This is not a comprehensive list by far, so feel free to drop some of your favs! 

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A Quiet Place and the Importance of Representation

AQuietPlace

My family and I had been looking forward to A Quiet Place pretty much since we saw the trailer; my 7-year-old proclaimed almost weekly how ready he was for this movie to come out and with my slowing introducing horror to the kids, I was also pretty excited to see our first horror movie in the theatre as a family.  The movie is a post-apocalyptic, tense, nightmare hell-scape in which silence is the only means of survival against horrifying spider-crab monsters that hunt by sound and focuses on a family with young children (which LOLOLOLOLOL to surviving a silent apocalypse  with children; y’all are as good as dead). There is little to no exposition in the film itself and most of it is told through old newspaper clippings in the background, the family’s written information of the monsters (again in the background of the home) and through the characters’ actions. There is almost no dialogue and the family communicate with each other through ASL (American Sign Language). 

I really enjoyed this movie overall. Of course I had some tiny nit-picks because I am a picky bitch like that, such as how these parents could be so well-prepared, self-sufficient, and knowledgeable (which I could accept as I got the sense these people were farmers prior to the apocalypse) and yet be SO CARELESS as to leave a small child to trail behind the family while they’re walking home and expect he won’t make a shit-ton of noise. These people had 3 whole-ass children! They should have known better. Also I can’t imagine doing anything as ridiculous as having a newborn baby during a silent apocalypse, but I realize their options may have been limited in this case. All that aside, I really liked pretty much everything about this film; it’s safe to say I was on the edge of my seat, trying to eat my Butterfingers as quietly as possible and waiting for some bad shit to happen on-screen. The monsters were absolutely amazing and I appreciate so much that they were shown and not silly looking. 

The thing I appreciate most about this movie, however, is the inclusion of an actual deaf actress to play a deaf character. Whenever a marginalized character is portrayed, chances are someone from that community is not in the staring role (such as cis actors playing trans characters, able-boddied or neuro-typical  actors playing  disabled characters, actors with light skin being made up to look darker) and that’s not if the character’s marginalized identity is erased altogether. But the director and actor John Krasinski used his privilege for good and pushed for a deaf actress, Millicent Simmonds, to play the role of Regan, the family’s oldest daughter who is deaf.  A deaf mentor was also used on-set as well as an interpreter for Simmonds. 

With that being said, whenever we talk about representation, I don’t personally think it’s enough to just include a character and have the appropriate actor play the role; it’s also important to pay attention to how the character is being portrayed. Since I am not part of the deaf community, I can’t speak to whether or not this portrayal was positive, so I will leave you all with some voices from the community (I encourage everyone to seek out perspectives from those in the Deaf community on this film because these two sources I’ve provided are not even close to a comprehensive list of people who we should be listening to) :

‘A Quiet Place’ Falls Into A Tired Trope About Deafness‘A Quiet Place’ Falls Into A Tired Trope About Deafness

New horror film ‘A Quiet Place’ starring deaf actress Millicent Simmonds highlights various aspects of deaf culture

Heartthrob:The Stalker Sub-Genre You Love, Now with More Misogyny!

Heartthrob

Every girl wants a boyfriend who will attack any man that talks to her at her work! 

Ok friends, I am not going lie,  I am a little heated right now. Michael and I settled in to watch a movie, thinking it would be a relaxing night discovering new horror when BAM we got hit in the face with a harmful, grotesque, misogynistic addition to the stalker sub-genre. 

Think about any movie made which features a female stalker who makes life generally miserable for the object of their obsession, almost always a man (Fatal Attraction, Swim Fan, You Get Me, Unforgettable). There is usually another women in the picture for this man, a wife or girlfriend he’s cheated on with his stalker at some point, or an ex that can’t move on. The stalker murders a few people before moving on to the man they’re obsessing over, or his current significant other. Of course this stalker perishes at the end and the audience cheers for the male protagonist, who triumphs over his unhinged stalker; sometimes his partner finishes the antagonist off, but either way, none of the plot between the protagonist or antagonist is presented as romantic. We’re not supposed to say “that woman severely emotionally, physically, and sexually abused this man and his partner and killed those closest to him but they were just so PERFECT for each other!” 

I guess Chris Sivertson, the director of this trash heap, did not get the memo on how to do a stalker sub-genre movie. At first I was excited about the roles being reversed, with the man being in the antagonist role as this is much more realistic and we really don’t need another movie about how women are cr*zy bitches, AMIRITE!!!1 The movie was really good up until the ending; the protagonist, Sam, was a pretty good character, a little 2 dimensional but there were really no characters who were really that fleshed-out. Her romance with the school geek, Henry, starts out on a super creepy note when Henry disables Sam’s car in order to have an excuse to talk to her (AFTER calling her a slut in great big capitol letters in his journal after they have a small argument the first time they meet). But he confesses this to her after the start dating and she apparently thinks it’s NBD because he’s QUIRKY and SMART, and doesn’t get how to talk to people, so it only makes sense that he would mess with her personal property, potentially putting her at risk! 

Henry continues his fuckery by tapping Sam’s phone and listening to her every phone call, in-person conversation, and even her sleeping. He of course escalates to murder because Sam dared to have a sexual past before she met him and we can’t have that, now can we? Henry murders some random guy who’s name I can’t remember  because he had the audacity to have sex with Henry’s property! Henry’s jealousy, stalker tendencies, and manipulation continue to brach out when he breaks into a mutual friend’s room because she saw him the night he committed murder, assaults another of Sam’s friends after he touches Sam and punches Sam hard enough to break skin when she tries to intervene. 

At this point, Sam is starting to realize something is not right with Henry and she steers clear for a while. People in her life tell her Henry is overly controlling and jealous and Henry continues to prove them right, by murdering another friend who had previously slept with Sam. Sam isn’t sure what to do, which is totally realistic and understandable; the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence is when they leave. Leaving an abusive partner is not easy and I wasn’t mad at the movie for this. 

What DID chap my ass was the ending. Henry’s nonsense escalates during the climax of the film and Sam learns that he was the one who killed her two friends. When Sam refuses to run away with him, Henry stabs himself, dying. Now Sam mentions earlier in the film that her father passed away from suicide so this would understandably be a traumatic thing for her to witness and she would no doubt have complicated feelings about it. HOW-FUCKING-EVER, when we see Sam later at college, we learn via voiceover that she regrets never telling Henry she loved him, laments that no one understood her the way Henry did, and how no romantic or sexual encounter can ever be as exciting because what she had with Henry was just so electric. We see a typical indie movie flashback of the good times they had together as she explains this. 

WHO IN THE FUCK thought they could spin this shit into a tragic love story?! As someone who has worked and currently works with victims of domestic violence, I am horrified at the message the end of this film pushes on the audience; DV is romantic, it’s exciting, and no one will ever understand you or make your life as thrilling as your abusive partner. DV is not romantic, it’s terrifying. And don’t we find it a little odd (or frustratingly predictable) that when the stalked roles are reversed (a male antagonist  obsessing over a female protagonist) suddenly the antagonist is not an unhinged  POS that deserves to die but a tragic genius who just loved too dang hard for his own good and should be thought of as the love of his victim’s life (like, literally Sam calls him the love of her life…AFTER he disables her car, taps her phone, breaks into her house, murders two of her friends, physically attacks her, flies into a jealous rage at her place of employment, and kills himself in front of her.  ROMANCE! 

This is a trash movie, don’t see it ever. 

2017: Year in Review

We’ve made it through another year, friends! 

You know, when I sat down to write, I was going to get on my soapbox about what a slow year it was for horror in 2017. But going through my list, there was actually a decent amount that came out of the year! Of course we also got some garbage but that’s par for the course in the horror genre. 

So I am going to go through my top 5 favorites and the movies that made my eyes water because of how bad they were. 

Let’s start off with the good!

Get-Out

Toxic whiteness: the most terrifying villain of 2017 for the 500th year in a row.

1. Get Out 

This is not a hard one to rank. Get Out was not only my favorite movie of the year, but it’s easily my favorite movie of all time, within the genre and out of it. You can read more of my thoughts about this film here . This was a showstopper, completely original and desperately needed. I look forward to throwing my cash at any and all projects Jordan Peele creates; yes I will pay $6 a month just to watch to Twilight Show reboot and only the reboot, I do not give a FUCK. 

2. Gerald’s Game

Now that we’ve got the clear winner out of the way, things get a little harder; there were a total of THREE Stephan King adaptation, which happen to be my favorite type of adaptation and to top it off these were three very good adaptations. Since I liked them all so much, I am ranking them by how well they avoided bullshit tropes. Gerald’s Game narrowly wins out for the following reasons: it had a strong female protagonist, an abusive man dies in the first few minutes of the film (even thought I would have liked the film adaptation to include the heart-bursting kick Jesse delivers to Gerald’s balls but no film can be perfect) and it has just the right amount of gore.  

3. 1922

1922 wins the second spot for Stephan King adaptations. This was my favorite story in King’s anthology Full Dark No Stars about a farmer who, like many entitled domestic abusers, decides his needs are the only ones that matter and so important they’re worth murdering for, my favorite part being the slow and agonizing justice he’s dealt. This adaptation brought this short story to life beautifully. It didn’t win out over Gerald’s Game only because it removed my absolutely favorite part of the book in which the murdered victim comes down to stairs being controlled by hundreds of rats like a marionette puppet; this scene is 100% less cool in the film and I resent it deeply for that. 

4. IT

I wrote about how much I liked It in my Fall review in October despite my eyes almost rolling out of my head from the beyond unnecessary damsel in distress sub-plot that was not in the book; I guess they thought it was better than a child orgy but I would have preferred if they left both out, tbvfh.  

5. Raw

It’s not exactly revolutionary for a horror film to use gore/murder as stand-in for sexual awakening and this film was not subtle about the protagonist’s desire for human meat and sex being parallel. I think the fact that this over-used trope didn’t feel tired in the slightest shows the skill of the filmmakers and esspecially the actors. 

There were a few films that were just plain fun; Annabelle: Creation, XX, Devil’s Candy, and Happy Death Day were all a blast to watch and all get honorable mentions. 

The Bad: Various Levels of Pure Shit

I am not going to rank the trash movies because they honestly don’t deserve more of my time (you can see my Instagram for gripes I had with some films I watched during my 31 days of horror that I didn’t write about here on the blog). Split is the only film that comes out distinctly ahead of the steaming garbage pile; I wrote about why it’s not a good idea to equate those with DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) to child abductors and murders simply by virtue of having a mental illness. The fact that this piece of shit was released the same year as Get Out is personally insulting to me. The rest, aside from maybe mother!, we just confusing, boring, or literally not horror. 

I have hope for 2018 but if you hate sequels or reboots, you might want to skip it and go straight to 2019 as 2018 is chalk full of them. My partner and I have some big plans for 2018 (including getting married, yay us) and hopefully I get get my shit together and update this thing more than quarterly. Hope everyone has had a great year and I’ll see you in 2018! 

 

Fall Horror Hits and Misses: It, mother!, and Happy Death Day

Hey all!

My favorite season of Fall is upon us. I make no apology for my love of Fall; no more sweating my makeup off at work, no more shooing my partner away at night because our upstairs bedroom becomes a furnace and his baseline body temperature is already equivalent to the sun, and best of all Halloween makes it socially acceptable to talk about slasher movies and decorate ones house with skulls (two things that take place all year round in our house).

Speaking of horror, Michael and I are 21 days into our 31 days of horror challenge in which we watch a horror movie every night of October. I am going to talk about my favorites (and least favorites) next month, but there are a few movies I wanted to talk about now. We all agree that 2016 was one of the best years for the genre; some of my absolute favorites debuted during that time, but after Jordan Peele gifted us the genius that is Get Out, 2017 seemed to clock out early. After what seemed like a long dry spell, we were gifted with It, mother!, and Happy Death Day.  

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Happy Death Day 

All of these films (aside from mother!, I’ll get to that later) were really solid, my favorite being Happy Death Day so let’s talk about it first! Happy Death Day is like Groundhog Day but with murder. The plot is pretty simple and straightforward; a college student, Tree, is murdered the night of her birthday and must re-live the day of her murder until she solves the mystery. Tree is presented as Basic White Girl who loves drinking and is in a sorority with equally Basic White Girls. The list of people who have a motive to kill her is pretty long. It would been SO EASY for Tree to be the completely helpless blonde girl who is killed in a gratuitously violent and somewhat sexual way like many female victims before her. However, even though Tree succumbs to her killer multiple times, she fights back hard. She plots (mostly alone), plans, and does everything in her power to solve her own murder. This movie does not pass the reverse Bechdel test (there are not more than two named men who talk to each other about something other than a woman) but it sure passes the regular Bechdel test with flyer colors! The one gripe I have with this movie is that is assumes that men who look at gay porn but date women are gay rather than bi. It’s disappointing but not surprising. 

It

It

It was my second favorite film from this selection; if you know anything about me you know that It has been a staple in my horror diet since I was a child, both the book and the miniseries so of course I was waiting with baited breath for the remake, which did not disappoint. 2017 Pennywise has been given a terrifying update that only adds to Tim Curry’s unsettling but campy version. The best part for me is that fact that new Pennywise has mannerisms and features that do not look human, like when he opens his mouth to take a bite and his gums and teeth move like that of a great white shark or how he sometimes slithers away. Like Happy Death Day, there were a few choices in It that do not make any sense except to hold up hetero-normative white supremacy such as, in a scene that deviates from the book, Bev is kidnapped by Pennywise, forcing the 7 boys to come together to rescue their damsel in distress (complete with the kiss to awaken her and all. *eye roll*) despite the fact that Bev is by far the strongest character in the group and if anyone was going to be kidnapped, it should have been Stan, the weakest link by far. Also a deviation from the book: Mike, the only black character, is no longer the group historian who fills everyone in on the history of Dery, Maine and it’s series of strange murders; that role has been given to Ben and the result is that the only black friend in the group has almost no role (I didn’t count, but it seemed like Mike’s character didn’t even have enough lines I could count on both hands). 

mother

mother!

Now onto my least favorite, mother! I don’t have a whole lot to say about it because there are only so many ways I can say “imagine that really pretentious classmate you had in AP English who thought he was the next Hemingway wrote an allegorical movie about the Bible.” I didn’t dislike the film as much as it did absolutely nothing for me, which I think partly comes down to personal preference (I do not enjoy films that aren’t literal, at least partly). And I don’t particularly enjoy movies that make women suffer for no reason; I think there are more interesting ways to play out God’s creation and destruction of a Earth besides exposing Jennifer Lawrence’s breasts while she is viciously beaten and called sexist epithets moments after the same crowd murders and eats her newborn baby. Here are a couple of other thoughts on the film, including a very interesting take on viewing the film through a Jewish lens. 

Overall I am pretty happy with the selection of horror this Fall; I was hella impressed with the Netflix adaptations of Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game and 1922 (both films I’ll cover in my 31 days of Halloween post. Hope everyone is enjoying this most glorious of holidays! 

Optimism and Queer Love in the Most Unlikely Place: San Junipero

Kelly-y-Yorkie-en-la-playa

A few months ago, when the second season of Black Mirror was released on Netflix, I eagerly watched all six episodes and wrote about the first episode, fully intending to go through each one on this blog. Then a giant, moldy, xenophobic cheeto was elected president of this country and suddenly some of the episodes were getting too close to home, in particular the episode entitled “Men Against Fire” which literally made me cry.

Before I became a social worker, the subject matter of the movies and TV I was watching didn’t impact me as much, even as a member of two marginalized communities. But doing the work I do in this political climate means that most of what I watch is going to give me a break from all the crap that’s happening in real life and Black Mirror, as brilliant as it is, does not fit the bill of what I can stomach at the moment. So I took a break from thinking about Black Mirror and watched things like All Cheerleaders Must Die (which was breathtakingly disappointing; it started out so strong, with fully-formed queer characters and what looked to be dude bros getting their just desserts only to end with female characters being tortured and murdered while the trash men got to die instantly without any fanfare).

Even though I am not ready to dive into Men Against Fire yet (though I will because it’s truly the most brilliant take I’ve ever seen on how humans “other” people different from themselves) I decided to dip my toe back into one of my favorite episodes, San Junipero, which goes perfectly with the theme of queer representation I’ve been exploring the last couple blog posts.

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Yorkie sporting a perfect 80’s wedding dress to marry the love of her life.

SPOILERS AHEAD

 

San Junipero is the fourth episode in the season and the only one with a happy ending. The technology in this story brings people together rather than tearing them apart as it does in every other episode; people who are at the end of their lives have the ability to enter San Junipero, a virtual reality where one can relive the best parts of their youth. It’s here where Yorkie, a shy, reserved woman, meets the outgoing and vivacious Kelly. The two become close and eventually fall into a romance.

I loved the fact that the episode neither fetishized Kelly and Yorkie’s relationship nor presents them as sexless, as is the fate of many onscreen queer people (and for the record, there is nothing wrong with being a-sexual or not being interested in sex; it’s when ALL queer characters are never allowed to have even an implied sex life because the straights are uncomfortable with queer relationships that include sex); Yorkie and Kelly have sex in a way that’s not played up for the male gaze yet there is no question that these two are getting down with each other. I almost stood up and cheered when Kelly confesses to Yorkie during pillow talk that she’s bisexual and had been married to a man. The best part? The show never ONCE implies that: 1. Kelly spending 49 years with her husband makes her less bisexual 2. Kelly sleeping with and developing romantic feelings towards Yorkie makes her less bisexual 3. Being bisexual means you are confused, a cheater, any other horrifying stereotype placed on bi people or 4. That Yorkie, as a lesbian, should have some kind of internal conflict about falling in love with a bisexual woman. Kelly is 10000% bi, it is a non-issue and I am 10000% HERE FOR IT.

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Kelly proposing to Yorkie so Yorkie doesn’t have to marry her male nurse as a beard to get freedom to make her own medical decisions from her homophobic family.

Kelly later finds out that Yorkie is on life support after being in a car accident and is planning on living in San Junipero full time, an option some can choose to do after death, but needs a spouse to override her religious family’s objection to Yorkie pulling the plug on herself. Kelly proposes to Yorkie and Yorkie accepts; the two are married and then must decide whether or not Kelly will join Yorkie in the digital afterlife. At first Kelly is adamant that she will not live in San Junipero full time out of respect for her late husband and daughter (who died as an adult, leaving Kelly and her husband devastated). It really seems as though the two will never live out the rest of eternity in an 80’s dream together but Kelly eventually changes her mind and joins Yorkie in San Junipero where the two drive off together to the Belinda Carlisle’s Heaven is a Place on Earth and we are left with the most warm fuzzy feelings.

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Perfection.

Remembering a Legend in Nelsan Ellis: Lafayette Reynolds and Representation

 

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Yesterday after my fiance and I got back from his birthday trip, I learned the news of Nelsan Ellis’s passing. If you’re not familiar with the actor, he was best known for his portrayal of Lafayette Reynolds in the series True Blood (and True Blood was the only work of his I am familiar with). I am not one to be personally effected by celebrity deaths, but his death has brought me to a point where I find myself reflecting on Lafayette and why he was so important not only to the TB universe, but for queer, POC representation in general. 

In my last post, I covered queer representations in horror and looking back I am really sad and frustrated to see that not only were all my selections were of white women, but that I left out one of my personal favorite characters, Lafayette, whose story and character is so rich (something that is not super common with queer POC in horror) that I feel ashamed that I left him off that list. But this is not the place for me to lament about my super homogenous choices when highlighting the best queer representation, this is about Lafayette.

 It’s hard to know where to even start with a character as complex as Lafayette; he’s so many things to so many people. He’s unapologetically queer in a small southern town. He’s also Black and endures all kinds of abuse from the townsfolk but never let’s his voice (or style) be muted by the ignorance that surrounds him and is never afraid to command respect for himself when he can. What I also really appreciate about him is that he would never judge another marginalized person for being more quiet about the things other don’t understand about them, whether it be race, gender, or the ability to read minds; he understands that the path he’s chosen is his own. Despite the fact that he is later reveled to be a medium, he never crosses the line into the magical negro role ; every time some white person wants to drag him into some shit, he brings a heavy dose of skepticism and tries to avoid getting involved if he can. At the same time he’s a person who cares deeply about his friends, family and partner and puts himself at risk when he needs to for them (but if there’s a way to help without endangering his own safety, he’s doing it whether people like it or not). EDIT TO ADD: here’s a quote that really exemplifies Lala’s rejection of the “helping” role so many POC are placed in- ““Hookah I ain’t in the helping business no more. I’m in the fuck off while I smoke a blunt business, and business is about to pick way the fuck up.”

He is a drug dealer and sex worker for a short time, his way of  surviving capitalism, racism, and homophobia despite what people in  Bon Temps think (because he stopped giving fucks about what others think a long time ago). Still, he is not defined by these occupations as so many in Hollywood are; as he tells Pam after being kidnapped by vampires “Oh, don’t get it twisted honeycone. I’m a survivor first, capitalist second and a whole bunch of shit after that. But a hooker dead last.” He’s smart and knows how to make his way and he WILL call your ass out when you’re being a hypocrite (remember when he showed up at the homophobic senator’s meet-and-greet to remind the good senator about the time he paid Lafayette for sex? GOLD).

I loved that True Blood didn’t ignore his queerness or his Blackness and still lets him be a fully realized, three dimensional character who is not sexless or a-romantic, as is the fate of many queer characters in TV and film. We get to see him evolve over time; he confronts his relationship with his mother; his partner, Jesus, dies and he has a realistic grief response; he has to make an impossible choice about whether or not to turn his cousin (who has a very complicated and tumultuous relationship with vampires) into a vampire to save her life.  He never stops adapting to his surroundings and his reactions are always realistic and evoke.  emotional investment from the audience. 

And of course none of what made Lafayette special and amazing would have been possible without Ellis. He truly did well by Lafayette and his talents will be missed. I leave you all with the clip of Lafayette kicking the asses of some disrespectful rednecks, because Lafayette will not be disrespected. 

EDIT: I’ve been coming across some quotes in the last few days and here are some of my favorite of  Lafayette nuggets of knowledge:

  “Oh Damn, white folks is just all fucked up.”

 “It ain’t possible to live unless you crossin’ somebody’s lines.”

 “Every man, either gay, straight, or George motherfucking Bush, is terrified of the pussy.”

“Don’t blame the Ferrari just cause your ass can’t drive.”

 

Mister Babadook Comes Out: Queer Representation in Horror

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Happy Pride fron Mister Babadook!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard the internet buzz about Mister Babadook, terrifying Australian ghoul and now a surprising queer icon There are a couple of different accounts as to how the Babadook gained his title; I’ve heard that it started as a fan theory on tumblr and that the movie was classified under the LGBT section on Netflix (and really, these origin stories aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive). Wherever it came from, I am kind of living for this. I am always here for queering things up at all times for no other reason than because we can. I am also down AF for anything that will cause horror bros to loose their shit and if there’s anything that will do just that, it’s a a popular horror monster being co-opted by people horror bros don’t want to share their toys with. Is a queer Babadook without it’s problems? Obviously not; way too many people think it’s cute to say “the B in LGBT stands for Babadook! lolol!” Yeah, we don’t find that funny. 

I thought this was a great opportunity to share with you my favorite queer horror characters, few and far between as as they may be. Historically, horror has had a real problem with including LGBTQ+ characters in a way that doesn’t turn them into dangerous villains or first victims. There’s definitely more LGB representation, but we’ve still got a long way to go for our trans and non-binary fans. So with that said, here are some of my favorite queer horror icons:

May

May will always have a special place in my heart for it’s portrayal of the main protagonist and how it deals with her queerness. May is the story of a lonely girl who goes to really extreme means to make a friend. She has never dated before but meets Adam and they start dating. After things fall through with him, she begins seeing a co-worker, Polly, who is unapologetic AF about her queerness. What I love about Polly is that she is a lesbian who is not afraid to be as femme as she pleases and there’s no “you’re too pretty to be gay!” bullshit in the film. There is also not a lot of fanfare about May and Polly dating, they just date. Of course May, a bi person, is the antagonist and *SPOILER* Polly is a victim. However, they don’t use May’s queer identity to explain her actions (AHEM, Sleepaway Camp, I am looking at you). 

Sick Girl 

Sick girl is part of a TV series called Masters of Horror and is directed by Lucky McGee, who also directed May. Sick Girl is about a relationship between a bug-loving entomologist named Ida and Misty (and a huge bug named Mick). What I appreciate most about this episode is that Ida and Misty’s queerness is presented the way hetero romance is presented on-screen; it’s normal, realistic, and doesn’t need extra attention drawn to it. Plus Angela Bettis is a queen. 

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This movie got all kinds of things wrong, namely sexual assault (when this film first hit Netflix, the synopsis described a brutal rape in the film as a “one night stand.” That description has been changed, thankfully.) with just a touch of biphobia. Samantha is becomes an unfortunate carrier of a strange disease after she is drugged and raped by a man at a party. Her partner is a real fucking peach who accuses her of cheating, implying several times that it’s inevitable because Samantha has been with men before. Biphobic fuckery aside, 99% of the film focuses on Samantha, who doesn’t say offensive shit like that and who is presented as a human being who happens to be queer…and also a zombie.

The Moth Diaries

I am not going to lie, I low-key hated this movie. It was slow AF and boring to boot. The only redeeming quality here is the amazing queer love triangle going on between Rebecca, Lucy, and their mysterious new classmate, Ernessa, which goes down at the boarding school they all attend. What would have made this film good would be if they actually acknowledged Rebecca’s sexuality rather than heavily hinting at her feelings for Lucy, however I enjoyed their ode to the Lesbian vampire sub-genre of horror without all the objectification. 

Jennifer’s Body

I am not sure if two female characters making out once in a film would qualify them as queer characters, but Jennifer’s Body gets an honorable mention because it’s campy and I love it and Jennifer, who puts the moves on her best friend, Needy, is played by a real-life bi person, so that’s nice 

Alien

It was pointed out to me at Crypticon that fans of the film have discovered an interesting tidbit about Lambert; on her ship log information, it reveals that she is actually trans and has undergone gender reassignment surgery. Again, it’s not a plot point that gets discussed at all, but the filmmakers could have done all kinds of offensive shit with a trans character in 1979 and the fact that most people don’t know there is a trans character in Alien speaks volumes. 

I know I am probably missing quite a bit of quality movies with quality queer characters in them, but those are some of my favs in movies I’ve actually seen (feel free to point me in the direction with more of this!). I’ve noticed a theme with these choices, and that seems to be that with only one expectation, the only LGBTQ+ representation here is for the L and occasionally the B. Lesbians and women who like women are kind of the staple queer characters in horror which is alright, I guess but I would love to see a little more variation, esspecially with regard to trans and non-binary characters. 

Crypticon 2017: In Which I Had Too Much Fun to Remember to Take Real Pictures

You know when you procrastinate about doing something and eventually you start having stress dreams about it and one of those stress dreams is you actually doing the thing you’re putting off and it’s so vivid that you actually believe it’s done until someone asks you “why didn’t you clean the litter boxes???” and at first you’re like “uh I did tho?” but after thinking about it, it dawns on you that you didn’t actually change the cats’ litter boxes because it was a dream? Yeah, that was pretty much me writing this post. I work with kids in public school and since the school year is coming to an end, my work schedule is completely topsy-turvy, which contributed only slightly for this delayed post….mostly I just forgot I didn’t do it. 

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Michael and I showing off our boss Stranger Things/Aliens T’s. I say “our” but in reality both these T-shirts are his. 

This was my third year at Crypticon, Seattle’s annual horror convention. In the past, I had only gone one day but this year, we decided to get a weekend pass and stay in the hotel the convention was being held in. Last year we made the grave mistake of only planning on going to panels, back to back to back. It was really not a sustainable way to go about it so this year we took a different approach. Since we didn’t really care about any of the guests (unlike last year, when horror icon Tony Todd was the guest of honor and I was almost dead) so our main objectives were panels, films, and the vendor room, but broken up enough that we could get through most of the weekend. I think we were pretty successful at doing more than we did last year…except for taking pictures. I did a really bad job at that this year. I literally took one or two pics, mostly of our hotel room (did I mention my love of hotels?) which turned out to be an expensive shit hole, but that’s neither here nor there. What were the highlights of the weekend? I am glad you asked!

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I was a BIG fan of the catalog art this year.

Panels 

Last year, we saw what felt like one million panels so this year we reduced that number to ones we only really wanted to see. Since there were a lot more short film blocks we were looking forward to, some panels we thought might have looked interesting (Star Trek and Horror) took a backseat. 

We did go to three: Mental Illness in Horror, Gender and Transgender in Horror, and Black Representation in Horror. All three of them really were amazing; I was worried that the first two panels wouldn’t have have people with mental illnesses/trans/non-binary people on them but they both did! Our favorite by far was the Black Representation in Horror, which was nothing but amazing, talented Black women who had some really smart shit to say about horror (along with a badass powerpoint presentation with gifs that I need in my life). 

Short Film Blocks.

All in all, we sat through three short film blocks; one was AMAZING, one was so-so, one was fucking garbage. I don’t want to be a negative Nancy, but I was very disappointed that filmmakers in the Northwest apparently don’t know how to make a film that’s not rife with lazy, boring misogynistic horror tropes. One film (with an ableist af title that we saw literally right after the Mental Illness in Horror panel) was about a dude who blacked our and accidentally killed annoying people when they were being really annoying. The only problem with this? The only person he kills is his date…after she rejects him….on their seventh date….one can see how the “Danny only murders people when they’re being annoying ” plot falls apart when you realize he’s been on SEVEN dates with the same annoying girl and fails to kill her until she’s like “nah, I think I am done dating you.” No shade, but it was trash. 

Vendors

So much cool art, we could barley handle it! All together, we bought six pieces of art (for under $40). You can see some on my Instagram. Such a talented bunch! 

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Day 2, checking our of our hotel room ( the second one we stayed in after we discovered the balcony door in the first room didn’t close).

We ended up checking out Saturday and heading home that night. We’re old and three days of horror partying is just too much. Maybe next year? 

Hannibal: A TV Show About White Dudes That I Watch for the Serial Killers

Recently, I discovered that all three seasons of the show Hannibal are on Amazon Prime. Pretty much every person in my life, from my fiancé to my very own mother, have watched this show and enjoyed it. I decided to give it a go, seeing as how I love the Thomas Harris universe of Silence of the Lambs/Red Dragon/Hannibal.

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Oh Hannibal, you people-eating rascal.

 

Firstly, I really want to point out the positives. I find myself liking this show very, very much. Though the characters remind me a little of soap opera stars rather than real people, I am okay with that. This is a highly stylized, highly dramatic show where Will Graham’s theatric tortured genius does not feel out of place. The plot really sucked me in and I was hooked pretty much from episode two. At first, I thought this show was a prequel to Red Dragon, but when I realized it was actually a re-imagining of the universe, I came to appreciate it that much more.  Since this is a horror blog, it’s not shocking for me to say the kills in this show are amazing spectacles and I love them. I personally think that Mads Mikkelsen’s Hannibal is slightly superior to Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal (though both performances are top-notch).  Right now, I have just finished season two and I cannot stop watching. Now that I am more halfway through the series (I was crushed to learn Hannibal lived a mere three seasons) I can say there are more things I like about this show than I dislike, but the two things I dislike the most are pretty important for me to talk about.  Keep in mind, I have only watched season 1 and 2 (Michael recently discovered the magic that is the first 3 seasons of True Blood, so I got a little side-tracked) so my commentary is based on just these seasons.

MILD SPOILERS

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I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I didn’t notice how white this show is until now; even though one of the main characters, Jack Crawford, is played by Lawrence Fishburne, he is the only main character who is not white and still alive. There have only been two other more prominent secondary POC characters: Jack’s wife Phyllis “Bella” Crawford and FBI forensics agent Beverly Katz, and both women at this point in the show are dead or dying. Honestly, this bothers me because this show had no problem changing the demographics of the some of the more well-known characters in the films; Jack Crawford in the films is white and reporter Freddie Lounds is a man in the films, a woman in the TV series. Given that the show took small steps to mix up the cast, it doesn’t really make sense to me as to why they would stop at changing the race of only one character (it does make sense; I know its racism).

The second problem I have with this show has to do with how they treat women*; put bluntly, the women in this show are not good at their jobs and the one or two who are competent are punished for it. Dr. Alana Bloom develops romantic feelings for not one, but two men whom she is professionally attached to and allows her feelings (and eventually a sexual relationship) to interfere with her judgment (which tbh is never that great). I know the show is trying to show the audience how slick Hannibal is, fooling just about everyone so of course Dr. Bloom would be no exception. I didn’t have a problem with this until after she sleeps with Hannibal and digs her heels in a little more about how he couldn’t possibly be the Chesapeake Ripper while the men around her are slowly starting to figure Hannibal out (and eventually concoct a plan to catch him while Alana remains in a state of denial until she is literally shoved out a window). Why the Alana/Hannibal sex sub-plot? Hannibal could have just as easily drugged Alana without perusing a sexual encounter with her; she still would have provided him his much needed alibi without calling into question her professionalism (and for the record an adult having casual sex with another consenting adult is 1000% okay and in no way damaging to their integrity but when a licensed professional has sex with a colleague in the midst of several federal investigations, that’s when their professional integrity may be compromised). Alana having a sexual relationship with Hannibal and then going on to defend him without question makes her look even more foolish to us, the audience that knows what Hannibal really is and I don’t like that because I gather from this show Alana is supposed to be smart and good at her job.

The show gives the same treatment to Miram Lass, a secondary character; she’s not very good at profiling and just a pinch racist, tbh. The two women, Freddie Lounds and Beverly Katz, who are good at what they do, are either brutally murdered (Beverly) or arguably the most unlikable character in not only the TV show but the entire Hannibal universe (Freddie). Abigail Hobbs is a two-dimensional surrogate for the projections of Will and Hannibal. Hannibal’s psychiatrist, Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier (played by the amazing and perfect Gillian Anderson), is actually a pretty good character but her role is very small.

Now, these examples on their own are not a deal breaker for me and honestly wouldn’t be so problematic if the men in the show have similar challenges; Hannibal has gotten into Alana and Miram’s heads and it’s understandable why they would not be able to identify him as the killer he is. The problem is the women are the slowest to wise up, even when the men face similar manipulation from Hannibal; Jack Crawford, a man who heaps praise on Hannibal for most of season one and who is also unquestionably manipulated by him, knows something is up. Will Graham is the first person to make Hannibal, even though it’s safe to say he suffered similar psychological torture from Hannibal. Maybe there’s an argument that can be made about the level of psychological manipulation and abuse Hannibal heaps on the women in the way he doesn’t on the men (while he really fucks with Will’s head in season 1, he keeps Miram locked in a well for like 2 years) and why this is done purposefully by him but it’s certainly not addressed in the show.

Again, I want to emphasize that I really like this show; there’s so much right with it! The acting! Those amazing visuals! The incredible story lines! That food styling, tho! Season 2  didn’t blow my socks off; the Will/Hannibal circle jerk that made up 82% of the plot really didn’t do it for me the way it did for other fans, but the variation of serial killers that made up season 1 really hooked me.  I am really excited for the gang to go to Italy to try and catch Hannibal and how Frances Dolarhyde (my favorite serial killer in the universe) will play into season 3. With that being said, I can’t ignore the white male supremacy this show gently nudges on us (probably unknowingly because that’s just the culture we live in). I will still watch intently and hope that some streaming site snatches up the rights to this show for a fourth season, maybe with better, more fleshed out femme characters and not so many white faces?

*This post is very binary because cable TV is sadly very binary.