The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Directed by James Whale / Written by William Hurlburt

Queer creators: Yes. Director James “the Queen of Hollywood” Whale was openly gay. 1 Several other actors associated with the film were known to be queer, including Ernest Thesiger and the allegedly bisexual Colin Clive. 2

Explicitly queer characters: No. That said, Whale reportedly told Thesiger to perform the role of Dr. Pretorius as an “over the top caricature of a bitchy and aging homosexual,” which is perhaps as openly queer a character as was possible in 1930s Hollywood. 3

Queer elements: This film can be read as a classic example of a queer artist subverting and mocking heterosexual values, as it thoroughly dismantles the heteronormative notion of the nuclear family unit. It is also an incredibly campy film, fitting an aesthetic that has been historically associated with queerness and rejection of the norm.

The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

Directed by Jack Arnold / Written by Harry Essex and Arthur Ross

Queer creators: No

Explicitly queer characters: No; however, this article from Medium argues that there is a lot of pent up (homo)sexual tension between the men of the film.

Queer elements: To quote an analysis written by film scholar Jordan Crucchiola, “it’s about handful of men sharing a homo-social excursion wherein they encounter a large, amphibian-like phallic symbol.” 4 So… there’s that. Plus, though the creature only seems to want to admire the film’s heroine at a distance, it frequently attacks the scantily clad male characters, in sequences of assault that are left entirely up to the audience’s imagination, leaving queer viewers to fill in the blanks. 5

The Daughters of Darkness (1971)

Directed by Harry Kümel / Written by Pierre Drouot, Jean Ferry, Harry Kümel, and Jo Amiel

Queer creators: Unknown

Explicitly queer characters: Yes

Queer elements: This Belgian erotic horror film is an early example of the lesbian vampire trope in later media. The strange and unageing Countess Elizabeth Báthory arrives at a Belgian hotel, and several nights of violence and debauchery follow. Gender roles and heteronormative sex are twisted and subverted in this gory and explicit thriller.

The Blood Spattered Bride (1972)

Written and directed by Vicente Aranda

Queer creators: No 

Explicitly queer characters: Yes

Queer elements: This Spanish film is a reinterpretation of Le Fanu’s Carmilla and was released one hundred years after its inspiration’s publication. Like the novel, this film features a fantastically seductive lesbian vampire and a disintegrating heterosexual relationship, along with a string of bloody murders. The full trailer for the film is in Spanish, but an English-language promotional video was released in 1974 to advertise this movie alongside Paul Leder’s 1974 film I Dismember Mama.

The Hunger (1983)

Directed by Tony Scott / Written by Ivan Davis and Michael Thomas

Queer creators: No; however, the film stars David Bowie and Susan Sarandon, both of whom are/were openly queer. 

Explicitly queer characters: Yes

Queer elements: The vampire seductress strikes again, but this time she’s bisexual! This film takes the traditional vampiric blurring of life and death to the next level, as main character John, current lover of the film’s requisite vampiress, is an elderly undead who is unable to die or to quit aging, leaving him trapped forever in a strangely queer in between. Also, Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve are in love (or lust, at least).

Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1987)

Directed by Jack Sholder / Written by David Chaskin 

Queer creators: No

Explicitly queer characters: No, although main character Jesse is usually read as gay for many reasons, including his late-night encounter with his gym teacher and a gay bar in town.

Queer elements: The second installment in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, this film is sometimes lauded as one of the “gayest” horror movies of all time. Though creators Chaskin and Sholder have equivocated on whether or not they will admit to any intentions of creating a queer film, the homoerotic subtext of the film is undeniable, due in large part to Mark Patton’s performance as one of the first male scream queens in Hollywood. Unfortunately, Patton has stated that this film publicly outed him in a way he was not ready for, and he blames the film for ruining his budding film career, making this film both an example of queer horror and queer exploitation on screen. 6

The Lost Boys (1987)

Directed by Joel Schumacher / Written by Janice Fischer, Jeffrey Boam, and James Jeremias

Queer creators: Yes

Explicitly queer characters: No

Queer elements: Vampires again, but this time sporting giant earrings and fancy hair. Yes, main character Michael Emerson spends a lot of the film obsessing over a girl named Star, the attraction between Michael and all the male vampires of the film is undeniable. Since the film’s release, various critics have zeroed in on the homoerotic attraction between Michael and the undead David. After all, you’ve got to stake a vampire to kill him, and the sexual implications of that visual are truly undeniable.

Nightbreed (1990)

Written and directed by Clive Barker

Queer creators: Yes

Explicitly queer characters: No

Queer elements: Clive Barker’s previous film, Hellraiser (1987), was released to strong critical acclaim and also features distinctly queer elements. His second film, Nightbreed, was not so successful commercially. However, this film, about a man who becomes a monster and must join with the other monsters and creatures of the night to rise up and defeat those who oppress them, is clear allegory for Barker’s own experience as a gay man. Even at the start of the film, we see the protagonist’s therapist gaslighting him into believing that he is “bad” and “villainous,” only for this protagonist to end the film as the hero that will help his people find a home.

Jennifer's Body (2009)

Directed by Karyn Kusama / Written by Diablo Cody

Queer creators: No

Explicitly queer characters: Yes

Queer elements: Megan Fox, who herself identifies as bi, plays a bisexual cheerleader who is also a succubus (think vampire but with more sex) that regularly kills and feeds on the boys of her school. This film combines the lesbian-vampire trope of Carmilla with the sexy-teen-monster trope of Twilight to create a campy, gory, and thoroughly queer horror experience.

Shirley (2020)

Directed by Josephine Decker / Written by Sarah Gubbins

Queer creators: Yes

Explicitly queer characters: No

Queer elements: Though this film was advertised as a biographical drama, it is only loosely based on the true life of horror writer Shirley Jackson. Actually, the film draws more inspiration from Jackson’s first novel, Hangsaman, which features several strongly lesbian-coded characters as well as a queered exploration of heteronormative marriage. The film echoes many of these queer elements and includes a more-than-hinted-at (though never consummated) sapphic flirtation between the titular Shirley and the newly married Rose Nemser.