5 'Don't Miss' Gay Indie Horror Flicks and Why Gay Zombies Matter
To address the lack of gay horror being shown to mainstream audiences, gay filmmaker Shawn Ewert and festival organizer Andrew Rose began Fears for Queers, a semi-annual LGBT horror film festival.
Though the event's proceeds went to help Youth First Texas, a support network for gay kids in the Dallas area, it also introduced movie lovers to some young blood pumping in the horror genre.
Ewert also directs horror movies of his own. He made Jack's Bad Day, a comedy short about a serial killer whose victims tend to die before he can kill them. He's also currently directing a movie entitled Sacrament, where a gay couple and their friends get caught in a town full of religious cannibals "who take the body and blood of Christ thing very seriously."
We sat down with Ewert to discuss his favorite gay films (trailers below), whether real-life gay bashings make good horror films, the problem of gay villains in mainstream films and why gay zombies have risen up in so many recent gay horror flicks.
Gay.net: Gay horror has only had a resurgence through your festival and LOGO TV's Fearce horror series. And yet such films often seem badly acted and poorly produced. Is the quality of gay horror films improving or getting worse?
Shawn Ewert: Unfortunately I don't think a lot of people seek (gay horror movies) out. A lot of people see the crap and then don't look for the good stuff. And as a filmmaker and a film festival guy, we have a really hard time getting people to take it seriously because they've seen (poorly-made gay horror films). I don't think (poor quality) is a gay thing or a horror thing. It's an independent film thing.
In general, I want a story. I made a comment in an interview a couple of years ago and it still kinda haunts me. But a lot of times, gay filmmakers make a film as gay as possible just to be gay and to reach that audience without making the film good.
I don't think (a film) has to be one-hundred thousand percent gay. If you have a good story, if you have good actors, that's where you're grabbing your audience.
Because of films like Bruce LaBruce's films L.A. Zombie and Otto or Up With Dead People, gay zombies have gotten a new life in gay cinema. What does that mean about contemporary gay culture or what gay directors want to see?
As far as zombie culture goes and that whole thing, I just think zombie movies are the easy way to go. Zombie makeup is one of the first things that a makeup artist learns how to do. It's something that is easier to pull off makeup wise... Especially now with things like Shawn of the Dead and all the stuff that George Romero put out... the zombie genre is more popular now.
I may be reading way too much into here, but do you the recent rise in gay zombie films is a comment or some sort of weird reflection on the gay-bashings and bullycides that have been more prominent in media over the last few years?
I think that that may be there somewhere underlying in some dark recess, but I don't know that that is at the forefront. A lot of filmmakers are trying to put out stuff that they love and that gay filmmakers really wanna make something more that speaks to the life that we know. Absolutely. I think that that's part of it. But I don't think that's all of it.
Speaking of real-life gay horror, have you seen gay-bashing and bullying emerge as common scenarios in queer horror films?
That is the easy way out and... people don't really want to see it. I think it has done well, if you look at Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives from a few years ago.
It can be done, but I have no interest in putting that into one of my films. I have a script that has been sitting on my computer for the last couple of years that deals with a gay kid getting bullied and beat up and things like that and I don't know that I wanna make it.
It's nothing that I really wanna see. It's hard to get an audience on board with something like that. To me, it's not horror, it's depressing. It's depressing and it makes me angry. I watch horror because I want to be entertained.
Film has a long history of gay and transgender villains, most of which have been taken as wholly negative depictions that re-stigmatize the queer community. How do those films strike you now?
I can see both sides of that argument. But I tend to fall on the side of thinking that people are a bit too sensitive. Granted, I grew up in the 80s and I did not, thanks to people that fought for civil rights ahead of me, I didn't have to deal with quite the same bigotry that they did.
However, I've been chased by truckloads of rednecks with baseball bats. I've had my life threatened. But I think that if you are a part of society, you can be the villain.
I've gotten into very heated arguments with friends over the movie Cruising. Cruisingis one of my favorite films... it's a great film! And the killer's gay. He preys on gay men.
But you know what? Switching to a slash film, Jason Voorhees is not gay and he goes after campers. If you are part of society, you are open to being the villain.
To me, that argument [that gay villains stigmatize gays] is the same as the Italian-American association going after The Sopranos because they were portraying Italians in a negative light. Well you know what? Not all Italians are perfect, law-abiding citizens. Not every gay person is a wonderful, stand-up kind of person.
There are numerous rotten people out there and they come from all walks of life whether they're gay, straight, black, white, doesn't matter.
EWERT'S TOP 5 BEST GAY INDIE HORROR FILMS:
J.T. Seaton's George's Intervention, a film about a group of friends who have an intervention for their friend who is a zombie.
Creatures from the Pink Lagoon by Chris Diani. Evertt says, "It's a re-hash of Night of the Living Dead, except with gay zombies. They're pretty much the same kind of zombies... just with limp wrists [and]... sterotypical gay mannerisms. But it's played in a very funny way without being incredibly disrespectful."
Michael Simon's short "Gay Zombie."
Billy Clift's Baby Jane? "They took Whatever Happened to Baby Jane and did it all with drag queens," Everett says.
J.T. Seaton's Divination. Of Seaton, Everett said, "He's a great writer and a really great director."