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Posts Tagged ‘queer horror’

 

POSTER_2.1

Poster for Brides to Be, which shows two brides on a wedding cake; the right side of the cake and bride on the right are being swept away in the wind; the bride on the left is holding onto her.

Queer horror in the Pacific Northwest? Heck yes.

Brides to Be (2016) is a film based on the short film Together Foreverin which Robin and Jenna get engaged. The original film is not a horror film, but the sequel, in which Robin, Jenna, and Jenna’s best friend Nate try to set up for the wedding, definitely is. This is a haunted house film as well as a love story, and I really enjoyed getting to see a film with queer heroines, especially two queer femmes who look like the queer femmes I know in the PNW. Also, that twinkle-light aesthetic is how I want my apartment to look 24-7.

Some spoilers ahead.

As much as I enjoyed the director’s genre-bending, queer-positive film, I feel like the narrative could have been tighter. There were a lot of plot holes and unexplained sequences, including

-Whenever Jenna or Robin has an ghostly episode, which is roughly every 15 minutes, why do they just move on as if nothing is wrong?

-Why are Robin, Jenna, and Nate there at the site alone overnight? Is the venue a B&B or does it only have two rooms? Where are all the other guests? (This isn’t an elopement with a photo shoot–we’re told there are guests and that it’s a “big wedding.”)

-Jenna is having trouble writing her vows; she confides in Nate that feels like Robin is so with-it and together and that she can’t be like that. This is never followed up on or explained–is Jenna estranged from her family? Out of work or working an unsatisfactory job? Is she out and supported in her community? Does she have other friends besides Robin and Nate? Does she compare herself to Robin? Does Robin make her feel bad for not having a supportive family and community or not achieving her personal or professional goals? We don’t ever see or hear about Jenna’s problems, or, if not problems, low self-esteem or anxiety/depression to really make her fears seem real.

-Literally WTF is the timeline here–I know the sun goes down at like 4:30 in the winter, but how did we go from brunch doughnuts to driving in the day to a night that lasts forever, in which the three have time to check in, try to set up the entire venue themselves because Gordon didn’t do anything and has no help, have a nighttime photo shoot, have sex, have showers, explore the house, have multiple naps, drink, etc?

Major spoilers below.

Whose horror?

One point of interest in this film is who is suspect and who is the site of horror. In films made by and for straight cis people, queerness and queer/trans people’s bodies are the site of horror–think Silence of the Lambs, Sleepaway Camp, and Valley of the Dolls 2. In Brides to Be, straight people, specifically straight cis men, are the site of horror. Part of it is the constant wondering about discrimination–is Gordon, the venue event planner, actually sick or is it because the wedding party is two brides? Is Bob, the replacement planner/caretaker, creeping on Jenna and Robin because he’s the creepy caretaker or because he fetishizes queer women? Is Nate’s betrayal because he’s always loved Jenna still childhood and she chose another woman instead of him (fucking cry me a river, Nate) or because the house is haunted? Is it sapphophobia or ghosts?

Even though we see the house possess Jenna and Robin as well to a lesser degree, we never find out if Nate’s and Gordon’s treatment of them is queerphobia and how much is the house. And that’s honestly the reality we queer and trans folks live in. People who discriminate against us and murder us don’t always just tell us, which makes it easier for violence against LGBTQ folks to not get labelled as a hate crime and makes intent in queer/transphobic interactions hard to prove.

Also, I was super confused by Nate’s treatment of Jenna because I assumed he was a gay friend (who ARE straight people?) right up until Robin and Jenna told him he’d meet a nice girl; so then I assumed he was bi because I want to believe that bi friends respect each other’s relationships. Clearly I read into that differently than what the creators intended.

All in all, Brides to Be feels like an important film in the beginning of a new age of queer horror–one in which we are the heroes and in which maybe, just maybe, our love can conquer all. Or at least fight off ghosts.

*It’s never stated explicitly in the film whether Robin and Jenna identify as lesbian, bi, or queer, so it may also be the case that Jenna isn’t attracted to men at all.

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Now as an adult, I turn to horror stories not to train myself to survive the world but to make sense of it. The world is horrible sometimes. Terrible things happen for no explicable reason, and the rules that run society can be unfair and cruel and horrid. But horror stories reframe the terrible things of the world. They hold a mirror up to the revolting so we can put it into some kind of taxonomy. They place wickedness and evil in a context that helps us see their limits and comforts us with the notion that darkness can be labeled, lit, and even survived. The work of the horror story is to define and demarcate the uncanny and the dark. But to be queer and to love horror stories is not always easy. Those stories are spun out of our culture and our societal norms, and the labels and definitions that come out of horror stories aren’t always inclusive or healthy. (Kindle edition, loc 60)

If you’re not familiar with the Destroy All Genres series, Lightspeed, Nightmare, and Fantasy magazines have held several series respective to their genres to highlight marginalized authors under the accusation that diversity (or “identity politics” or “political correctness”) is “destroying” the genres of sci-fi, horror, and fantasy. I first became aware of their “Women Destroy” series through Escape Artists, and for Halloween this year, I purchased a copy of “Queers Destroy Horror” special issue of Nightmare Magazine. Queers Destroy is one of the series, and so far there are also Women Destroy and POC Destroy Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy series, with Disabled People Destroy coming in Sept. 2018.

“Queers Destroy Horror” is broken up into several parts: Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction, Art, and Interviews with the artists and the authors.

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Today we have a guest post from Kathryn Hemmann, whom you may know from our collaborative panels on shôjo manga/anime, about the queer horror comic Nico’s Fortune.

The short stand-alone comic Nico’s Fortune is a collaboration between American writer Ryan King and Malaysian artist Daryl Toh. This is their second project together after the disturbing and eerie comic The Games We Played, which was published in October 2016. Nico’s Fortune is still plenty creepy, but the attention it devotes to the inner lives of its two protagonists serves to heighten its emotional impact while rendering its gruesome climax all the more shocking.

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