LGBT Horror is itself a subculture of a subculture. While much horror fails to show up in mainstream cinema, save for the occasional Halloween-themed October film fest, queer horror takes even more effort for the hungry film lover to uncover. And when one starts to dig, Michael Varrati is the LGBTQ storyteller who is right there waiting for them.
A story that comes, quite literally, from one of the farthest corners of the globe, Leitis in Waiting is a surprising and thought-provoking documentary from co-directors Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson. Surrounded by vast oceans, coral cliffs, and lush rainforest, the Leiti community has lived peacefully for centuries in the small island kingdom of Tonga. Leiti (or fakaleiti) is a local term used to describe individuals who are born male, but behave as females.
The film is told through the eyes of Pepsi, a transsexual Muslim from the Philippines. Pepsi was previously a member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, an Islamic political group known for their hardline separatist tactics and an unwavering conservative stance regarding homosexuality and transsexuality. As the political climate worsened, she was forced to flee her homeland.
Archive footage provides plenty of dream-like nostalgia, as a high-flying and extraordinary Cassandro takes out his opponents one-by-one. Complete with lavish dress and feathered hair, Cassandro, recognized as the “Liberace of Lucha Libre,” quickly climbed the ranks of popularity in the Mexican sport, all without smearing his eyeliner.
Part Thriller, part Period Film, part Romance (…sort of), French director Yann Gonzalez transports us on a kitschy and intriguing ride. Knife + Heart (Un Couteau Dans Le Coeur) throws viewers head first into Paris 1979, complete with eclectic fashion, technicolor, and that unmistakably soft, creamy focus in every shot.
Set in sleepy Michigan farm country, the film features a broad cast of characters, with a small LGBT twist. Hunter, having recently come out to his parents, is making his first trip home from the big city to face his conservative father. Needing the support of his gaggle of friends, Hunter returns home with a variety of mismatched characters – a gaggle of horror film clichés who are ripe for the picking.
What begins as a hactivist message quickly diverges into a clever found footage film shot with phones, security cameras, and a few DJI quadcopter drones. Drew Lipson plays Skyler, a social media-obsessed vlogger who broadcasts his daily life to his thousands of subscribers on his YouTube channel. Skyler and his partner Corey decide to kick off their spring break on a brief camping excursion with Skyler’s twin sister Dakota and her boyfriend Tren, setting up the perfect opportunity for a variety of new vlog entries, as well as a relaxing and fun getaway.
“I’ve been a fan of horror since I was very young,” recalls Erlinger Óttar Thoroddsen, director of the Icelandic horror film, Rift. “I remember being six or seven years old, being at the video store and browsing the horror section. I wasn’t allowed to rent those movies, so I’d make up stories in my mind of what they were about based on the cover art.”