Archive for penny dreadful

Dark Musings: Queer Contributions in Horror Fiction (An Incomplete Thesis)

Posted in Dark Musings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 22, 2016 by smuckyproductions

 

I’ve rattled this notion around in my head for some time, and though I don’t have a fully-formed argument yet, I have mused long enough to know that I’m not wrong. There is not enough conversation about queer contributions to the horror genre.

Perhaps because there isn’t a blatant, obvious, easy connection. But if one looks under the surface, there are lines drawn everywhere. Historically, an impressive number of contributions have been made to the horror genre by rumored or open queer people.

hellraiser-necessary-horror-41003216-1981-443b-905a-0ddef4260acf-jpeg-291738

Mary Shelley – with encouragement from her husband, known to be bisexual, and who may have been bisexual herself – wrote “Frankenstein,” the tale a repulsive creature who just wants love. Bram Stoker, rumored to be gay, brought “Dracula” – an undeniably sensual monster who sucks the blood (by penetrating their flesh! Come on!) of other men. Oscar Wilde created what must be the first openly bisexual devil, Dorian Gray, in a novel about the excess of desire. Even Henry James, long rumored to be bi- or even a-sexual, weaved the horrific story of a governess battling morally deviant spirits to save the innocence of her wards.

It doesn’t stop at classic literature. Two of the best horror films from the early days of cinema, “Frankenstein” and “Nosferatu,” were directed by gay men. Is it any coincidence that both films adapt works mentioned above? With one monster hunting blindly for love that is never returned, and the other a pestilential nightmare that sucks people’s vitality while they sleep (predating the terror of contaminated blood during the AIDs epidemic), I think it’s hard to deny the connection. The trend continues into modern culture – with Clive Barker’s “Books of Blood” and the revolutionary “Hellraiser,” which is a dark hymn to ‘unnatural’ sex; even to popular TV shows, like “Penny Dreadful” and “American Horror Story,” which explore queer identities in a much more open light.

These sexually ‘aberrant’ individuals, forced into hiding because of the prejudiced societies in which they find themselves, created works of fiction about beings seen as abject and dangerous, as freaks. In the confines of those stories, they are undoubtedly monsters. But the idea transfers to the way societies project gay identities. As unnatural, as other, and perhaps as deadly. In one way or another, gay people become monsters.

Authors and filmmakers tell stories for many reasons, but a major one is the need to purge emotions – often devastating, unstated. It makes sense that artists who grapple with identity would write about monsters. The ‘heroes’ who battle the beast are not created in the artist’s own image – it is the beast itself that becomes the mirror.

penny_dreadful_vanessa_ives

Horror, too, is one of the most unconsciously cathartic genres in all of fiction. It engages a part of the brain that no one wants to activate in reality – primal instincts of terror, danger, and flight from death – but it does so in a controlled environment where no danger is actually present. Thus, it releases emotion that otherwise would boil and rage unchecked.

So, is it an accident that these queer artists gravitated toward horror? Of course it isn’t a universal trend. It is present enough, though, that I think it deserves recognition. In a community that struggles with self-loathing and self-disgust even today, in our supposedly liberated world, these releases of emotion are necessary. To see a monster on screen or in print and understand its origin, its heart, is to find a piece of one’s self, and give it a name.

Advertisements

Best TV Shows to Binge Watch in October

Posted in Halloween with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2015 by smuckyproductions

We’re in full swing this month, gathering costumes and setting out the queue for dreadful movie nights to celebrate the spirit. With an influx of horror on TV now, there’s much more content to explore this season – but how to do pick out the true terror from the trend-following bile?

From classic chills to modern grotesqueries, here are a few spine-tingling shows to immerse yourself in as the autumn winds rise.

TALES FROM THE CRYPT

500206889_640

HBO, beloved still for Game of Thrones and True Detective, still made a killing in the 90s with this nasty, grimy, and hilarious anthology. Introduced by our favorite pun-loving corpse, the Crypt Keeper, each episode told a different story of bad people meeting worse ends – and always with a crazy twist. The celebrity cameos from actors soon to be famous (think Steve Buscemi) are also gloriously fun. This show set the tone for gory comedic horror, and its black humor still resonates just as disturbingly now.

PENNY DREADFUL

Penny_Dreadful_title_card

This one might be a little controversial – but it’s undeniably perfect for October. Full of grand Gothic castles, baroque camerawork and a legion of legendary creatures, not to mention literal buckets of gore, “Penny Dreadful” holds its own. It’s a lot of fun for its faithful adaptations of classic Victorian horror (I’ve rarely seen a more authentic, brooding Frankenstein’s monster), but it’s also intelligent, and packs an emotional punch with its characters. For a bit of high-brow horror that doesn’t skimp on gore, this show is perfect.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY

American-Horror-Story-Title

I know, I know. Many self-respecting horror fans despise this show for its soap opera tendencies and complete lack of plot. But it’s hard to deny that this is a veritable funhouse of different horrors. Watching a season is like walking through a sprawling haunted house attraction – there’s aliens, ghosts, devils, mutants, zombies, witches, everything under the moon. On top of that, the camerawork is stunning, and the acting… it’s hard to find a better ensemble on television. Don’t expect pure horror, but on many other levels, this show delivers.

COURAGE THE COWARDLY DOG

Courage_the_Cowardly_Dog_intertitle

We all got nightmares from this one as kids. And now that it’s on Netflix, we can have nightmares again. This show is amazing for its bold animated vision, and its willingness to show its young audience something far darker than most shows dare to try. It’s truly disturbing, but in such a wacky way that you can laugh… or can you? Childhood traumas aside, this show proves that you don’t need to be R-rated to be scary.

THE X-FILES

x_files-fox

Not all of the episodes are suitable for Halloween, but this show goes down in history as one of the most consistently frightening on television. There are several episodes that made me afraid of the dark. Whether you want alien conspiracies or just a good monster of the week, Mulder and Scully always stumble upon something chilling, and often the horror goes unresolved – as any fans of Lovecraft know, that is the surest way to keep your audience scared. With the revival coming next year, it’s a must to watch this one. The truth is still out there.

There are a few honorable mentions – The Twilight Zone, Twin Peaks, American Gothic, and Gravity Falls – that don’t quite say ‘Halloween’ to me, or that I haven’t seen yet, but are worth bringing up as genius genre television. If I missed any others, let me know. And happy horror viewing, ghouls.