Queer Horror Film and Television: Sexuality and Masculinity at the Margins (IB Tauris, 2016)
In recent years, the representation of alternative sexuality in the horror film and television has "outed" itself from the shadows from which it once lurked, via the embrace of an outrageously queer horror aesthetic where homosexuality is often unequivocally referenced. In this book, Darren Elliott-Smith departs from the analysis of the monster as a symbol of heterosexual anxiety and fear, and moves to focus instead on queer fears and anxieties within gay male subcultures. Furthermore, he examines the works of significant queer horror film, television producers, and directors to reveal gay men's anxieties about: acceptance and assimilation into Western culture, the perpetuation of self-loathing and gay shame, and further anxieties associations shameful femininity.
This book focuses mainly on representations of masculinity, and gay male spectatorship in queer horror films and television post-2000. In titling this sub-genre "queer horror," Elliott-Smith designates horror that is crafted by male directors/producers who self-identify as gay, bi, queer, or transgendered and whose work features homoerotic, or explicitly homosexual, narratives with "out" gay characters. In terms of case studies, this book considers a variety of genres and forms from: video art horror; independently distributed exploitation films (A Far Cry from Home, Rowe Kelly, 2012); queer Gothic soap operas (Dante's Cove, 2005-7); satirical horror comedies (such as The Gay Bed and Breakfast of Terror(Thompson, 2008); low-budget slashers (Hellbent, Etheredge-Outzs, 2007); and contemporary representations of gay zombies in film and television from the pornographic LA Zombie (Bruce LaBruce, 2010)) to the melodramatic In the Flesh (BBC Three 2013-15). Moving from the margins to the mainstream, via the application of psychoanalytic theory, critical and cultural interpretation, interviews with key directors and close readings of classic, cult and modern horror, this book will be invaluable to students and researchers of gender and sexuality in horror film and television.
Elliott-Smith, Darren. Queer Horror Film and Television: Masculinity and Sexuality at the Margins (IB Tauris, September 2016)
‘“Come on Boy – Bring it!”: Embracing Queer Aesthetics in Marcus Nispel’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ in Style and Form in the Hollywood Slasher Film. Clayton, W. (ed.).
Marcus Nispel’s 2003 aesthetically polished remake of Tobe Hooper’s iconic original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) was essentially a box-office success, taking approximately $80 million during its US theatrical release period…
I want to argue initially that, despite the film’s often disjointed intertextual references to Hooper’s original , the remake’s tone, themes and aesthetics significantly have more in common with Bay’s slick, commercialised, hyperkinetic stylistic tendencies in that they have been ‘updated in their capacity for gore and contemporary pacing’ (Lizardi 2010). While this extends to the film’s visual reimagining of an ‘MTV-sanctioned counterculture’, whereby the ragtag gang of misfits in Hooper’s original are swapped for ‘a vanload of beautiful people adorned with corporate product placements’ (Keursten 2005), it also highlights a self-referential awareness of the place of the slasher sub-genre in both cultural and film theory. Here the hyper-stylisation of Nispel’s remake collides with the hyper-emphasis of the horror film’s academic and ideological critique. This works towards an updating of the original film’s mythology, a commercialising of its aesthetics and, arguably, a ‘queering’ of its monstrous patriarchal structures (in which a now all-pervasive matriarchy persists) and of the sub-genre’s erotic objectification of the female body, supplanting this with that of the fetishised male victim.
‘“Come on Boy – Bring it!”: Embracing Queer Aesthetics in Marcus Nispel’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ in Style and Form in the Hollywood Slasher Film. Clayton, W. (ed.). (Palgrave Macmillan 2015), pp. 180-194.
‘‘Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik’: Unearthing Gay Male Anxieties in Gothic Soaps Dante’s Cove (2005-2007) and The Lair (2007-2009)’
‘‘Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik’: Unearthing Gay Male Anxieties in Gothic Soaps Dante’s Cove (2005-2007) and The Lair (2007-2009)’ in Melodrama in Contemporary Film and Television, Michael Stewart (ed.), (Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, July 2014), pp. 96-113.
‘Gay Zombies: Consuming Masculinity and Community in Bruce LaBruce’s Otto; or, Up With Dead People and LA Zombie’
‘Gay Zombies: Consuming Masculinity and Community in Bruce LaBruce’s Otto; or, Up With Dead People and LA Zombie’ in Zombies and Sexuality: Essays on Desire and the Living Dead. McGlotten, S. & Jones, S. (eds.). (McFarland, 2014), pp.140-158.
‘Death is the New Pornography!’: Gay Zombies and Hypermasculine Cannibalism in Queer Horror in Screening the Undead: Vampires and Zombies in Film and TV.
With the signs of horrific difference displayed on the surface of the monster’s skin, difference can be acted upon (by avoidance or destruction). The zombie is a visibly ‘outed’ monster forced to inhabit its decaying flesh for eternity. The zombie can ‘be watched’, rendered visible and set apart in order to protect others from infection and conversion. The guardedness inherent in homosexual panic is also not far removed from this. I want to reconsider the zombie as a perfect metaphor for the homosexual within the moving image, first by analysing the figure’s potential for queer meaning then looking specifically at contemporary depictions of the gay zombie in the horror film before focusing mainly on the shambling, semi-articulate, gay zombie from Bruce LaBruce’s melancholic zombie satire Otto; or, Up With Dead People (2008). Here my objective is to understand how the figure can be used both as a cipher for homosexuality and for sub-cultural critique within Western gay male culture.
‘Death is the New Pornography!’: Gay Zombies and Hypermasculine Cannibalism in Queer Horror in Screening the Undead: Vampires and Zombies in Film and TV. Leon Hunt, Milly Williamson and Sharon Lockyer (eds.) (I.B. Tauris, 2013).
‘“Go be gay for that poor, dead intern”: Conversion Fantasies and Queer Anxieties in TV’s Supernatural’
Academic writing about Supernatural’s appeal to queer spectators has largely dwelled on the cult series’ Gothic milieu and mise-en-scene. Further still, its knowing treatments of the homoerotic relationship between its two attractive males leads, the demon-hunting Winchester brothers Sam and Dean, clearly offers up their fraternal love for queer appropriation and fantasy. Most critical analyses of Supernatural’s ‘queerness’ seem to focus on Sam and Dean in particularand the scenes in which their traditional heterosexual masculinity is questioned, queered and marginalizes. A more informed understanding of the show’s appear for gay male spectators might be served by studying the show’s representation of explicity gay male characters. I argue in this chapter, via a study of two episodes (The Real Ghostbusters, and Ghostfacers) that the shows appeal for gay men particularly lies in a disidentification with the show’s hypermasculine protagonists, revealing a simultaneouls desire to be with (to bed) and eventually to be like Sam or Dean in a collapse of identification and desire.
‘“Go be gay for that poor, dead intern”: Conversion Fantasies and Queer Anxieties in TV’s Supernatural’, in Supernatural: TV Goes to Hell. Stacey Abbott and David Lavery, eds.), (McFarland, 2012), pp. 105-118.
‘Homosexual vampires as metaphors for…homosexual vampires? – True Blood, Homonormativity and Vampiric Assimilation’
‘Homosexual vampires as metaphors for…homosexual vampires? – True Blood, Homonormativity and Vampiric Assimilation’ in True Blood: Vampires and Southern Gothic. Brigid Cherry (eds.) (I.B. Tauris, 2012), pp. 139-156.
‘Queering Carrie: Appropriations of a Horror Icon in Charles Lum’s Indelible (2005, US)’
‘Queering Carrie: Appropriations of a Horror Icon in Charles Lum’s Indelible (2005, US)’, SCOPE: Online Journal of Film and TV Studies, (ed.) Iain Robert Smith (Issue 15, January 2010). University of Nottingham.
'Revolting Queers': The Southern Gothic in Queer Horror Film and Television
This chapter's analysis of Southern Queer Horror will seek to demonstrate the ways in which Southern queerness can be seen to be transgressive, borderless, disorganizing, de-territorialising and shown to embrace a fluid state of ‘becoming’. It will do so firstly via a consideration of blurred sexual and gendered identities and bodies/subjectivities that are not fixed in space or time via Lucio Fulci’s surreal Louisiana-set zombie horror The Beyond (1981), the spectral Southern hospitality of the cannibal townsfolk of Pleasant Valley in Tim Sullivan’s Gaysploitation horror sequel 2001 Maniacs! (2005) and Alan Ball’s nostalgic-queer vampires in True Blood (HBO 2008-2014). Secondly, I will turn my attention to the importance of fluidly performative subjectivities (of gendered, racial and sexual subjectivities) as seen in the postmodern parody of new Queer Horror film and television which works to deconstruct ‘post-Southern’ identities. This postmodern play is where Bibler suggests that, ‘writers play with claims of truth and authenticity by self-reflexively referencing the images, tropes, signs and symbols of Southern culture from earlier works’ (Bibler 2013, 188), I will argue that this can be seen most clearly in the textual reflexivity that exists in the simultaneous gender and genre play as seen in Ball’s True Blood, and more recently in Alan Rowe Kelly’s A Far Cry From Home (2013) a Deliverance/Texas Chainsaw Massacre parody which queers the backwoods horror sub-genre in order to posit a critique of oppressive right-wing Christian homophobia. I will then conclude with a consideration of the literalization of the fluid queer body via Patricia McCormack’s concept of the ‘squishy’ body (2008), Jack Halberstam’s notion of queer ‘bodies that splatter’ (1995) or, in more Deleuzian terms, the ‘body without organs’ (1980). This is seen to be represented in the dilapidating, decomposing, rotten and melting bodies of the zombies and victims from The Beyond; the soft, splattering, pliant and queered flesh of Sullivan’s Maniacs sequels; and in the liquefying, gloopy corpses of True Blood’s vampires and vampire queers.
Coming 2019 as 'Revolting Queers': The Southern Gothic in Queer Horror Film and Television in The Queer South on Screen. Pugh, T. (ed.). University of Georgia Press