Is it just me, or do LGBTI people have a thing for scary movies? I’ve encountered enough gay horror aficionados in my time to say: quite possibly.
So ahead of Halloween on Monday 31 October, we’re revisiting our favourite absurdly camp – but surprisingly decent – horror flicks of the oft-overlooked variety.
Some are criminally underrated. Others have fallen off radar since release. The rest commonly find themselves overshadowed by their bigger blockbuster brothers and sisters – sometimes within their own franchise. Whatever the case, we say pass on seeing Scream for the 100th time (although obviously that’s one of the best films ever – RIP Wes Craven) and scare yourself silly with one of these nine films instead…
1 Drag Me To Hell (2009)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%
Sam Raimi’s mini masterpiece. This timeless revenge tale/mile-a-minute WTF rollercoaster reads, on paper, like an idiotic, histrionic comedy (projectile nosebleeds? Check. Talking goats? Check). The reality is a film that, while inducing several belly laughs, takes the responsibility of scaring its audience pretty seriously.
This is in part thanks to an earnest, committed performance from Alison Lohman. She plays unassuming, harmless loan officer Christine Brown, who finds herself cursed after refusing a debt extension to an elderly gypsy. Utter chaos ensues.
2 The House of the Devil (2009)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%
A loving homage to the grainy, trope-laden horror films of the 70s, this excruciatingly simple retrograde thriller deserves far more attention than it’s received. Jocelin Donahue plays cash-strapped Samantha, a college student who takes on the babysitting job from hell. Literally. Director Ti West creates a genre piece where the rules don’t apply: the build up is deliberately overlong, the hackneyed tricks feel original, and the balls out finale is unexpected and glorious.
Greta Gerwig, pre-hipster comedy queen status, pops up in a brief role as the protagonist’s bestie (she doesn’t last long). It’s slightly bizarre that she’s in it, but her playful personality is as irresistible here as always.
3 Planet Terror (2007)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 77%
Actress Rose McGowan has been in the news a lot this year for calling out sexism in Hollywood, and in Planet Terror, she plays go-go dancer Cherry, a similarly powerful, fearless woman (complete with a machine gun where one of her legs should be) taking on the zombie apocalypse.
They’re hardly known for their feminist credentials, and Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s gross out extravaganza is typically, purposely exploitative. But in Planet Terror (and its sister feature Death Proof) you find yourself rooting for the women all the way.
4 Suspiria (1977)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%
An exquisite, otherworldly horror from Dario Argento about a murderous conspiracy at a German ballet school. It’s worth watching for the transfixing, elaborate sets pieces alone, which are achingly cool even by today’s standards. Think surrealist 70s Barbie’s dream house, but splattered with blood.
Of course, a remake is in the works starring Chloe Grace Moretz and Tilda Swinton. Sounds great in theory, but we’re fearful for all the wrong reasons…
5 The Neon Demon (2016)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 54%
Critical debate around Nicolas Winding Refn’s follow up to the all-conquering Drive was fervent around its release this summer. But despite the column inches, the hyper-stylish tale of an ingenue supermodel chewed up and spat out by Hollywood bombed hard at the box office.
But it’s a little easier to focus on the film’s strengths now the dust (and unrelenting criticism) has settled. Like Suspiria, the film is visually resplendent, when horrendous acts of violence aren’t being carried out. It’s let down by a few scenes that push the boundaries of taste for no real reason, but underneath the blood, guts and gloss, there’s an engaging message about the superficiality of modern culture. If you care to hear it.
6 Hellbent (2004)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 48%
The world’s first gay slasher film? That’s progress for you! This is a straightforward horror, about a bunch of attractive gays in Cali being terrorised by a masked stranger (the average Saturday night for many of us). Sure, it’s a weak entry to a sub-genre launched years before with 1978’s Halloween. But it’s original in the sense that it preceded 2006’s Another Gay Movie, itself a poor imitation of US teen comedies of the American Pie ilk.
The critical consensus on RT reads: ‘Hellbent is proof that gay slasher films can be just as tedious and mediocre as straight ones’ – but we couldn’t help but find it entertaining. Watch with your squad.
7 Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1990)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 78%
Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of the classic novel is one of the the most elaborately camp horror film you’ll ever see – but it works.
Unabashedly melodramatic, painstakingly traditional, and boasting a stellar cast including Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins, Sadie Frost (yes, Sadie Frost, who plays the scariest character and all but steals the film) and a deliciously handsome, 26-year-old Keanu Reeves. The film was a huge hit upon release, but while others of its kind have gone on to gain cult status, Dracula is, in our opinion, sorrily overlooked. Blame Twilight.
8 Krampus (2015)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 65%
One film destined for cult classic status is the Christmas-themed Krampus, released last December. Toni Colette (always a pleasure) stars as the somewhat-stressed matriarch of a family whose festive period is gatecrashed by a malignantly grumpy force. Bah, humbug!
Judging by its first half alone, this could’ve been one of the best horrors of the decade. The early scenes of snowed-in suburbia set a genuinely foreboding tone, and at least initially, our titular antagonist is terrifying. But then, the story gets too demented for its own good and the horror-comedy balance gets off-kilter. (Although the psychotic ginger bread men are epic. And the killer jack in the box is grotesque.)
9 Evil Dead II (1981)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 98%
Long before Drag Me To Hell, Sam Raimi made his name with the gorily iconic 80s franchise, The Evil Dead. We can’t think of many examples of a sequel winning somehow more plaudits than its predecessor, to which its identical, but here we are. Attractive young people staying at a log cabin are terrorised by malicious corpses, and the scares are prefect. And relentless.
Also, can we just say, Ash is the hottest horror hero of all time. And 58-year-old actor Bruce Campbell, who recently reprised the role for the critically-acclaimed TV series Ash Vs. the Evil Dead, is still a dreamboat. If you’re after something more modern, a surprisingly amazing (albeit humourless) Evil Dead remake was released in 2013, with Bruce and Sam taking producer credits.