“Queer stories are thrilling and forbidden,” explains filmmaker Michael Varrati. “We can use the horror genre to critique and comment on society. We get to use a monster to do it for us.”
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.
“Horror is a genre of otherness, and who knows otherness better than queer people?” asks Varrati.
A natural storyteller, Michael Varrati tells us his career began as a child, when he would write short little “masterpieces” for his parents. “A very supportive audience,” he jokes.
He soon discovered horror films, which opened his eyes to a whole new genre and a new realm of possibility in storytelling. This was the point of inflection that flung the writer/director/producer head first into his destined career path.
“It all started when I watched a double feature of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and Return of the Killer Tomatoes on TV. Even though those are more in the comedy genre, I had this revelation that I just was not seeing stories like these in the local multiplex,” says Varrati.
He goes on to explain, “I knew there must be more of this whole other world. Writing gives you the ability to express yourself through story and character, and we use horror stories in particular to discuss the things we’re not ready to in real life.”
Varrati explores this idea in his latest works, a pair of short films entitled The Office is Mine and the newly released A Halloween Trick. While both films fall squarely in the “queer horror” genre, the tone and tempo of each is remarkably unique. While the former is a surprising thriller, the latter is more of a bite-sized fright. Whatever your flavor of choice, both films are guaranteed to fright and delight.
“The Office is Mine lands at the intersection of queer identity and horror,” explains Michael Varrati. “It’s about a gay guy in the office. That’s his cache. But when another gay man gets hired, he has a mental breakdown about losing that identity.”
As the saying goes, Art imitates Life. Varrati goes on to describe, “Gay men are territorial. It’s damaging. We should be raising the next generation to be more accepting of each other in the community, but then we’re in a world that turns around and says there’s only so much room for us.”
A Halloween Trick is more of a straight-forward spooky tale, but much like the EC Comics stories of yesteryear, still has an element of social commentary under the splashes of blood. The film also afforded Varrati the unique opportunity to work with Vander Von Odd, an award winning drag performer best known from Season 1 of The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula. Von Odd put thread and sequin together for the most notable costume prop in this short film. “I like to work with queer artists anytime I can, “ Varrati proclaims.
A Halloween Trick was something of a surprise addition to Michael Varrati and his production company June Gloom Productions, which he founded with fellow filmmaker Brandon Kirby. “We were not working on another project this year for the sake of rest and re-energizing,” he explains.
However, with a great storyline and a rock star crew at his disposal, Varrati simply couldn’t turn down the opportunity to sneak another short horror in before the end of the festival circuit. Skillfully written, and filmed swiftly and entirely in an apartment building, the result is a stirring, yet relatable little fright film with a dash of depravity and blood spray.
“It’s the idea that this act of aggression could occur in a little pocket of our world,” says Varrati. “That’s horror on a daily basis. You don’t really know what’s going on with your next-door neighbor.”
All pictures reproduced courtesy of June Gloom Productions