While October may be the time of year everyone reserves on their calendars to bustle into packed theaters of teenagers ready to scream, I’ve always found summer is a pretty underrated time when it comes to binging horror. I mean, think about it. For the scaredy cats out there, you’ve got plenty of sunshine and nice weather to remind you are in fact, not being chased by the Blair Witch. And you’ve got plenty of lazy afternoons trying to find ways to escape record-breaking heat as our planet spirals towards catastrophic global warming. Have I convinced you yet?
It’s also just a generally fun time to watch scary movies and maybe it’s because many of the classics I grew up with take place during the summer: Friday the 13th, Scream, IT, Children of the Corn, and even horror-adjacent Stand By Me. So, what’s not to love about spending a hot June afternoon curled up on the couch with snacks and a blanket to hide behind? What makes it even better is when you’re watching movies where you just feel seen.
I’m talking, of course, about the horror movies out there spiked with some lesbian drama. They do exist! In fact, horror, by virtue of already being a controversial genre that’s not often taken seriously, managed to have some of the earlier depictions of homosexuality and continues to be unafraid of having gay characters or thematic subtext in its screenplays.
So, what should you be forcing your girlfriend to sit and watch with you this summer? Here are some of my recommendations:
Jennifer’s Body (2009)
Duh. This supernatural horror-comedy was–and I say this without a hint of irony–ahead of its time. What this woman-written-and-directed film suffered from was a team of male producers who pushed the wrong aspects of the movie in its marketing. The film follows Anita “Needy” Lesnicki (Amanda Seyfried) investigating the odd behavior of her best friend, Jennifer Check (Megan Fox), after a devastating fire at a dive bar. Turns out, Jennifer is feeding off the flesh and blood of local boys to sate her new demonic form. It’s not just loaded with complicated romantic subtext between Needy and Jennifer, but the director allows those under-the-surface urges to play out in a non-gratuitous way. On top of that, the film has received some recent academic revisiting in the wake of the #MeToo movement, examined as a depiction of women’s bodies and minds being used for gain by powerful men.
Mother May I Sleep With Danger? (2016)
This is made-for-TV film is about as goofy and bad as you would expect it to be, but hear me out. Though it’s a remake of a 1996 heterosexual thriller/dark romance, James Franco and Amber Coney conceived a twist, portraying the story between a lesbian couple instead. It tells the story of Leah Lewisohn (Leila George) who finds out her girlfriend Pearl (Emily Meade) is in fact a vampire who hopes to indoctrinate Leah into her coven of revenge-seeking “Nightwalkers” who punish abusive men. It’s a weird and wild ride and, honestly, how seriously can we take Tori Spelling in any Lifetime movie at this point? Still, who doesn’t love lesbian vampires and gay remakes?
The Haunting (1963)
You have options with this one, it’s true, but the 1999 remake is just bad. So, back to the original, which routinely ranks on lists of best horror films of all time. The film, based on the Shirley Jackson novel, follows a group of paranormal investigators spending a few days in an infamously haunted house in Massachusetts. It’s a film about a woman, Nell (Julie Harris), striving to be free and independent as much as it’s about potential ghosts. More than that, it features a famous horror lesbian Theodora “Theo” (Claire Bloom) who draws the attraction of our main character. There’s an insane amount of unpacking you can do on virtually all of Nell and Theo’s interactions, all the while suddenly being scared of every shadow in your house. If you want a more overt rendering of Theo’s sexuality, the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House spells it out pretty clearly.
Black Swan (2010)
This movie is the epitome of every teenage lesbian and bi woman’s dilemma “do I want to be you or do I want to be on you?” This psychological horror follows Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) and Lily (Mila Kunis) as they both vie for the leading role in Swan Lake. Nina’s commitment to embodying the darker parts of the character lead her on a psychological spiral with an ambiguous, but certainly not happy, ending. Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman have pretty insane chemistry as frenemies who may just fall into bed, even if it’s only in Nina’s wild sex dreams.
All Cheerleaders Die (2013)
This goes from slasher to revenge film to zombie massacre at breakneck speed, but it’s a lot of fun getting there. Maddy Killian (Caitlin Stasey), upon being accepted onto her school’s cheerleading team, manages to successfully seduce a fellow cheerleader, Tracy (Brooke Butler). This angers her boyfriend who kills the cheerleaders in a rage but Leena (Sianoa Smit-McPhee), Maddy’s ex-girlfriend, manages to revive them all as revenge-seeking zombies. Wild. The movie is goofy and ridiculous and manages to topple some classic horror tropes. The weird concoction of high school slasher, lesbian witches, and zombie movie is pretty much a weird but enjoyable blast.
There’s more out there, if you’re willing to read between the lines and settle for subtext. But horror is a malleable genre that tends to be first in line for progressive storylines and plots, so have hope. In the meantime, grab some popcorn, some drinks, and curl up on the couch with a blanket (maybe to hide behind) and your girlfriend for some summertime scares.