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Horror Film: Identity in Horror

An exploration of the modern horror film, examining how we can successfully break down horror through a social justice lens.


Identity and diversity in horror is a fascinating topic. Horror certainly has a bias towards straight white beautiful men and women, but there is quite a lot of good horror films that stray from this and explore topics of identity and oppression in their themes.

The films listed here are simply examples and are not a comprehensive list.

All posters are cited from


Cruising (1980) is an American crime thriller documenting a serial killer targeting gay men. The title is a play on words for police cruising and a slang term for gay men looking to hook up with each other. The film was criticized by gay rights protesters for displaying queer people in a poor light and the kink community for displaying those who participate in leather culture in a poor light and for its open-ended ending. However, it does emphasize gay men in horror, a rarity.

Cruising can be viewed on Amazon.


Hellbent (2004) is an American slasher film. It started in a gay and lesbian film festival and went on to ignite a series of different gay slasher films, becoming a weirdly popular genre among the LGBTQ community. It stuck very true to the tropes of slashers before it, pulling heavily from things like Halloween and Friday the 13th.

Hellbent can be viewed on Amazon.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) is a musical-turned-movie based on The Rocky Horror Show, which was a horror-comedy musical with heavy themes of science fiction. It has become a cultural cornerstone of film, initially being panned on being release but growing an international cult following with moviegoers acting out the characters and lip syncing their words, talking back to the movie, and throwing things during it. Especially among queer and trans people is it popular due to it's subversive nature and it's rejection of societal norms.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show can be rented from UK Libraries or viewed on Amazon.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985) is the second movie in the Nightmare on Elm Street series, continuing as a slasher from the original featuring Freddie Krueger. It uses a different protagonist, a male one this time, and the film was called out for its incredibly gay undertones. The first movie employed pedophilia as an undertone, but this one chose to focus on gay undertones. Originally, the director and actors refused to admit that it was purposeful, but later they came out and said that it was purposeful.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge can be viewed on Amazon.

Get Out

Get Out (2017) is an American horror film written and directed by Jordan Peele in his directorial debut. It chronicles a black man visiting his white girlfriend's family and discovering their dark secret: they are transporting the brains of their white family and colleagues into black bodies to gain the talents and skills that the white people lack. It was critically acclaimed for its satirical themes and social commentary on race that are poignant and important for our current political climate.

Get Out can be borrowed from UK Libraries or viewed on Amazon.

Rosemary's Baby

Rosemary's Baby (1968) is an American horror film that has become critically acclaimed, even being selected for preservation for the National Film Registry for being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." The film follows a woman who feels that her baby is attempting to be taken by the occult. This ends up ringing true, and it comes to light that she was raped by the devil and gave birth to the Antichrist. The film deals in themes such as motherhood, the occult, women's liberation, and the issues of Catholicism and Satanism.

Rosemary's Baby can be checked out from UK Library or viewed on Amazon.

Sleepaway Camp

Sleepaway Camp (1983) is an American slasher film, made in the heyday of slashers, famous for its twist ending. It was panned by some for its use of homosexuality and trans characters, but many more commended it, calling it a low budget Friday the 13th. It is revealed that our protagonist, Angela, is actually her brother Peter, who was supposedly killed but survived and raised as the daughter his aunt always wanted after the actual Angela passed away years earlier.

Sleepaway Camp can be viewed on Amazon.


Killjoy VideoCover.jpeg

Killjoy (2000) is an American slasher film with a predominantly black cast. Despite people of color being known for being the "first ones to die" in horror movies, Killjoy sought to change that by using a black cast with a black killer as well. It draws heavily upon POC culture, and also draws heavily upon the ideas of dreams in horror, and how they bend and shape reality.

Killjoy can be viewed on Amazon.

The Vampire Lovers

The Vampire Lovers (1970) is a British-American gothic horror film exploring lesbian vampires. The film was contentious for this reason, exploring lesbianism in gothic periods, especially in relation to horror. It spawned a series of films surrounding lesbian vampirism and even sparked a sort of small subgenre of horror surrounding vampires who are lesbians, weirdly enough.

The Vampire Lovers can be viewed on Amazon.