Creators in the horror genre are typically cisgender and straight. However, there are numerous LGBTQIA+ artists, directors, and authors that contribute to the genre at a large scale. They provide their artistry and distinct approach to craft some of the most influential and inspiring works of horror. Oftentimes, they utilize their queer experiences in order to heighten awareness and create unique angles as well as uplift further representation of LGBTQIA+ characters and stories. Their contributions as LGBTQIA+ horror creators are important in and of itself, but their awareness of their queerness and how it relates in their work heightens their importance in the genre and the film and publishing industries as a whole.
For years, horror has been utilized as a social force where discourses on race, class, gender, and sexuality take place. It comes as no surprise when LGBTQIA+ artists and creators find their way to the genre in order to relay a specific message to an audience, big or small. Whether it is literary horror or cinematic, there are numerous queer horror creators that everyone should be aware of.
Without further ado, here are several of the many LGBTQIA+ artists that contribute to the genre that you need to know.
Clive Barker rose to mainstream popularity in the 1980s for his short story collection titled Books of Blood. Today, he is largely known for the Hellraiser movie series which has been recognized by the LGBTQIA+ community as representation of BDSM in media. His books and short stories have been adapted numerous times since the 1980s. Most recently, Books of Blood was adapted for Hulu by Brannon Braga in 2020.
While Barker is known for his authorial talents and captivating storytelling, it is only somewhat known that he is gay. He does not enforce his sexuality as central to his creativity; therefore, he does not mention it often. Regardless of this fact, Barker is a gay man who participates in the horror genre and has contributed to it in such a major way that his characters have become icons.
Don Mancini is known for the Child’s Play franchise, and perhaps most notably the creation of the Good Guy doll from Hell, Charles Lee “Chucky” Ray. During San Diego Comic Con 2020, he was involved in a panel that spoke on queerness in horror. Mancini admitted that his identity as a gay man wasn’t integral in the creation of the first three movies in the franchise, but it undoubtedly influenced Andy’s character. He expressed his loneliness in his home as he came to accept himself and his queerness, as a result he subconsciously made Andy fatherless to depict this feeling.
As Mancini came to embrace his sexuality in his filmmaking and screenwriting, he began to include queer icons like Jennifer Tilly in Bride of Chucky, Seed of Chucky, and so on. He now unapologetically includes LGBTQIA+ icons, symbolism, queer-coding, and more in the franchise.
Diandrea Rees—better known as Dee Rees—is a Black lesbian director whose credentials include Pariah and The Last Thing He Wanted. While she hasn’t delved entirely into the horror genre, it was reported that she is working with Blumhouse to deliver a horrifying tale. There is very little known about the project, but Rees is an incredibly talented director who will undoubtedly create an unforgettable horror movie that could be semi-auto-biographical like Pariah.
She has worked with immensely talented directors and producers such as Spike Lee. Dee Rees' career is expanding at a rapid pace and is definitely a director to pay attention to.
Queer writer and director Stewart Thorndike is best known for her horror flick Lyle. It features a lesbian couple in a metropolitan setting waiting for their newest addition to their family to be born. The movie includes themes of queer mothering and motherhood as well as the discourse on two lesbians raising a child rather than a heterosexual couple.
Thorndike is acutely aware of her place as a genre filmmaker and a queer woman. As such, she weaves together personal, political, and socially relevant topics pertaining to LGBTQIA+ experiences in the United States. They’re hauntingly honest and breathtakingly capture the real-life horrors of queer life.
James Whale is largely recognized for Frankenstein (1931), The Invisible Man (1933), and Bride of Frankenstein (1935). He directed some of the most iconic creature features to grace the Universal Studios lot in the 1930s. Whale was openly gay and included it as subtext in several of his films. This is quite extraordinary, as gay lives were not entirely accepted by the government and LGBTQIA+ bars or known hangouts were vehemently targeted by police. The fact that Whale was openly gay and included it in his films magnifies his importance to the genre as a whole.
It is likely that he was faced with homophobia while becoming a successful director who revolutionized creature features with his adaptation of Frankenstein and The Invisible Man. James Whale is justifiably considered a pioneer for queer horror creators based on his experiences and ability to succeed as a gay man in 1930s Hollywood.
Bryan Fuller created the series Hannibal, based on original characters and stories by Thomas Harris. It follows Dr. Hannibal Lector (Mads Mikkelsen) prior to the events of the iconic film The Silence of the Lambs (1991) at the moment he is getting to know Will Graham (Hugh Dancy).
Fuller was one of the panelists alongside Mancini at San Diego Comic Con 2020’s queer horror panel. He discussed the queer-coding of his characters and the relationship they shared. As a queer creator, he spoke to the likelihood that they had a homosexual relationship and embraced fan theories and shipping between them.
Throughout his career, Fuller has attempted to make an outright gay character and partially succeeded through Hannibal, but he didn’t fully succeed until he adapted Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. As a gay man and horror creator, LGBTQIA+ representation is central to his storytelling, which is not often the case. However, he embraces his queerness and urges other queer creators to do the same.
Carmen Maria Machado
Carmen Maria Machado is a queer author who has written two books—one of which, In the Dream House, tells of the real-life horrors of an abusive relationship. It is Machado’s memoir, and it's written with a distinct voice of dystopian pain as well as loneliness, grief, betrayal, and suffering. In the Dream House is incredibly painful, but at the same time, it is profoundly beautiful. Her ability to create horrors with an intent to carry on with her readers well beyond their reading is nothing short of impressive.
Machado’s other horror hit, Her Body and Other Parties, is a short story collection that includes genres like horror and science fiction. It became largely popular due to a retelling she included of the iconic children’s scary story “The Girl with the Green Ribbon” from In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories. The future looks bright for Machado as fans await her next book, which has yet to be announced.