Horror is one of the few genres in which queer people and particularly queer women aren’t all that underrepresented. We’ve been doing lesbian vampires alone since at LEAST 1871, when le Fanu’s Carmilla was originally published. This is great for me personally as I love horror movies! Unfortunately, often the reason we’re “represented” is because we’re there to provide a ~steamy lesbian love scene~ before being brutally murdered or to serve as a classic psycho lesbian killer character. This is sort of to be expected and isn’t always even a dealbreaker; I mean, we did sign up for a horror movie. Sometimes you might be in the mood for some sapphic psycho slashing in something like May, the vampire lesbians of self-proclaimed erotic horror flick Vampz, or some super disturbing gore with Martyrs. Sometimes, though, you want to choose to be spooked by stuff that isn’t the heteropatriarchy. To that end, here are movies where the queer women are neither solely a psycho killer nor a victim. That isn’t a promise that all (or any) of the queer women necessarily survive the movie, but they are at least allowed to die in the same manner as straight people and not in a particularly sexploitative scream queen fashion. Discussion of the expansive genre of queer vampire movies has been limited because that’s a whole situation on its own. These movies are not ranked in order of quality nor do I really make any claims about their watchability or particularly recommend them! Some of them are good; some of them are bad in a fun way; some are just actually bad.
The Haunting, 1963
A vintage winner of a movie and rare example of the movie being arguably as good as the book! Based on The Haunting of Hill House from American godmother of horror Shirley Jackson, it features Theo, a badass psychic lesbian in the early 1900s. Hattie wrote a great essay about it!
…she’s smart, has some great lines (and great style — lots of black and even *gasp* trousers) — she beats Luke at cards, which his aunt has already said is an impossibility. She isn’t married, or anything like Eleanor (who is financially dependent on her sister and brother in law) and she seems far more confident and perceptive than the other characters — okay maybe the psychic abilities help. Basically Theo kicks ass and I just thought she was there to balance out Eleanor’s drippyness. In horror we’re so used to seeing women as victims or as evil, but Theo is neither.
The Hunger, 1983
This classic would sound made up if you were just hearing about it for the first time, much like how it now sounds completely surreal to a younger generation that Mel Gibson and Tina Turner once made a post-apocalyptic action film together. Anyways Catherine Deneuve, Susan Sarandon and David Bowie walk into a bar and are all very attractive and lithe vampires at different times in this film, a foundational entry into the Bisexual/Lesbian Vampire Canon as initially put into motion by Carmilla. There are so many iterations on this at this point — Nadja, Vampyros Lesbos, a little webseries-now-film you may have heard of also called Carmilla — but if you’re only going to watch one this would be a good one to go with probably. Before we had Carol, we had Catherine Deneuve as a thousand-year-old Egyptian vampire who wanted to do it with a hot gerontologist.
Modern Vampires, 1999
This movie honestly sounds bananas. The actual description from IMDB, with no editorializing on my part, is “A borderline fascistic Dr. Van Helsing unwittingly hires crack smoking gang-bangers to pursue the decadent vampires who secretly control Hollywood and the United States.” It feels safe to say this was born of a very specific time and place and that was 1999, god bless us all. The movie’s tagline invites us to “Taste the Evil…. Taste the Fun!!!!!” and honestly my first thought is that I’ll take a pass! But also Natasha Lyonne plays a bit character who makes out with Natasha Gregson Wagner and gets turned into a vampire later. So you know, this movie is large, contains multitudes, Natasha Lyonne, etc.
Soul Survivors, 2001
The confusing and mediocre plot of 2001 “psychological thriller” Soul Survivors contains the diamond (???) in the rough of Eliza Dushku having sex with a girl named Raven. Her name being Raven is the most realistic and affirming part of this movie, which also has the extreme misfortune of Casey Affleck in its cast. Check out that raven tattoo though! Do you get it!
She Creature, 2001
A classic story of woman pretending to be a mermaid for a traveling circus feeling an unexpected attraction to the real live sexy mermaid her husband has kidnapped for their show, and also the mermaid kills and eats people. Although the mermaid they’ve kidnapped keeps eating the people they’re working with, “Lillian also finds herself developing a strange psychological bond with the mermaid, a connection more powerful than her vows to her husband.” Same!
The Sisterhood, 2004
Remember the creepy frat in that one episode of Buffy? What if it was like that but with a sorority and it was kinda gay? This was apparently the thought process of filmmaker David DeCouteau, who followed up his movie “The Brotherhood” with “The Sisterhood,” which concerns a “hot sorority house” with a “sinister secret.” Also on offer are “decadent pleasures.” What more could you ask really! I have not watched this movie and do not plan to — I don’t necessarily recommend that you do either — but if you do please come back here and tell me about it.
Jennifer’s Body, 2009
A self-aware misandrist 2000s feminist classic that you’ve definitely seen gifs of on Tumblr. Luckily for you Erin just revisited this! What a delight that one is. Does anyone else find Megan Fox 100x more attractive when she’s covered in blood and homicidal? Cool me neither!
The next day everyone is mourning their fellow students and members of faculty who were killed in the fire. Well, everyone except Jennifer. She’s having a great time. She’s also pretending last night never happened, which while we’re breaking down Jennifer’s first encounter with a rejection of heterosexuality, that’s also what I did the first time I slept with a woman, so.
Survival of the Dead, 2009
A butch in the National Guard — who is literally named Tomboy? For some reason? — has to navigate a post-apocalyptic zombie wasteland with her comrades. It’s from George Romero, director of groundbreaking zombie films and also this film, which more importantly has a lesbian in it and in that respect is also groundbreaking and of significance as part of his artistic legacy. Her arms also look groundbreaking in this picture amirite?
Satanic Panic, 2009
It’s a little surprising there isn’t more queer subtext or regular text in Satanist-themed horror; one could maybe argue that things like Suspiria or House of the Devil have some undertones but if you want to see some girls making out up against a tree you will have to watch the less good Satanic Panic, in which six friends on a canoe trip (???) are waylaid by the satanic cult that one of them was kidnapped by and lost her brother to 25 years earlier. Do people really reunite on canoe trips? I guess we’ll all have to watch to find out.
The Moth Diaries, 2011
Set in the traditionally gay and creepy atmosphere of a girls’ boarding school, this is a movie about finding out the hot girl stealing all your friends is a vampire and is also trying to pressure you into committing suicide. All I can find in reference to this movie’s gayness are mentions of “latent lesbianism” but Senior Editor Yvonne Marquez has confirmed for me that there are “gay parts” in what seems like a middling-at-best horror movie that is probably still better than Lost and Delirious.
Breaking the Girls, 2012
In 2014 we covered Jamie Babbitt’s horror lesbian psychodrama and I regret to inform you that the takeaway was that it isn’t great. Here is what Kate Severance had to say about it:
It’s hard to get around the fact that the only character who is self-identified as a lesbian is also batshit crazy, and she straight up murders people to win the love of her straight crush. That obviously backfires, since everyone knows that we can’t have nice things, even in fictional depictions of lesbianism where, oh, you know, our narratives don’t have to follow conventional stereotypes. Crazy, right? Breaking the Girls is a thriller, though, so even murderous crazy lesbians have more on their plate than meets the eye. Unfortunately, what’s going on below the surface (of the pool HAHA) isn’t really a rallying call for healthy sexuality either. There’s about a hundred tired stereotypes to keep the plot afloat (in the pool HAHAHA), so if you can stand all the daddy issues and straight couple afraid of queer desire, you’ll still have fun.
An ambiguously reviewed indie that Kate was not a huge fan of in 2014.
I watched it, and I’m as into horror as the next homo who wore fingerless black gloves in middle school, but hoo boy. A lesbian is assaulted and raped and contracts a disease as a result. That’s a gigantic trigger warning within itself. What follows is some fairly hardcore body horror that will either have you cheering for a return to “real horror” after a year of Insidious sequels and Paranormal Activity wannabes, or turning away from the screen until you turn it off.
The Taking of Deborah Logan, 2014
This is so good and so scary and ALSO features one of the more realistic portrayals of a lesbian I have seen in any contemporary movie, let alone a horror film! She’s a country butch with long hair who’s chillingly relatable in that she’s lonely and worried about her aging mother and not over her ex and probably kinda has a drinking problem if she’s being honest with herself and is reliable and sweet. I will indulge in the one spoiler of this post to let you know that you don’t have to watch her die because she doesn’t! Also this movie is legit terrifying just a heads up.
Women Who Kill, 2016
Almost alarmingly of the moment, Women Who Kill features two ex-girlfriends who have not only stayed friends but cohost a podcast about serial killers together. When one starts dating a mysterious new girl, her ex begins to suspect she’s not just endearingly odd but a murderer. Watch this with your ex-girlfriend for seasonal bonus points.
Mother May I Sleep with Danger?, 2016
For this I refer you to Stef and Erin’s excellent live-recap-situation of this compelling James Franco-helmed Lifetime original featuring sapphic lesbians and also Tori Spelling.
Why does this movie exist? Who let James Franco do such a thing? Do we as a society deserve this movie? Why was Tori Spelling so OK with playing the mom? These are the questions which vexed my colleague Erin and I as we sat down to enjoy the Citizen Kane of Lifetime original cinema. What follows is a tale of heartache, a tale of lust, a tale of maternal instinct and ultimately a tale of straight cis dudes being the absolute worst.
Before we depart into the night, let us take one moment to consider the newest entrant into this particular genre: Thelma, which comes out November 10th and which I already know I am going to lose my goddamn mind over. Also Yvonne thinks Tragedy Girls looks gay! Do you agree? Discuss amongst yourselves.