Sexual Identity Crisis in Horror Films

The sexual repression of a horror movie villain, and sometimes its hero, is nothing new. The idea has been a horror staple for decades now. Commonly, the spurned, nerdy virgin now out for bloody revenge will always seemingly be bested by a fellow virgin, though one who was only pure for purity’s sake, as opposed to being a social outcast.

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To fine tune a few other examples: Jason never had a chance to get laid, so now he takes it out on slutty counselors. Ignorant Carrie uses her psychic powers to lash out at her sexuality-embracing schoolmates. And Dawn from the movie Teeth… well, if you’ve seen the flick then you know just how her sexual repression manifests.

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But what if the catalyst for the horror wasn’t the repression of sexual expression, but repression of a whole sexual identity? With this notion, I took a look at several well known horror films and discovered that the end results are usually just as horrifying…

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Probably the most popular film to tackle this issue is A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. In it, a young man named Jesse, who is clearly struggling with his sexual identity, becomes an easy host for Freddy Kruger to resurrect himself through. The people who surround Jesse (his S&M loving gym teacher, his sweaty and sexy frenemy, and his girl-next-door AKA camouflage) don’t do him any favors. Ultimately the story winds up not to being about the mystical dream killer anymore, but more about a young man who is so dishonest with his self that it’s frighteningly easy for a monster like Freddy to take control of him, effectively making life all the worse for poor Jesse.

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Another great example of repression in horror is the French slasher flick High Tension. The film follows Marie, the butch peep-on-you-in-the-shower type friend to Alex, whose country home is the scene of a violent home invasion. With only Marie left unharmed, she enters into a deadly cat-and-mouse game with the killer in an attempt to rescue her friend/object of desire. But Marie may have more in common with the killer than we think, and it soon becomes apparent that holding in the desires she obviously has for her friend might not be the best course of action.

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But while these two genre films may most accurately depict sexual identity repression, there are many others that touch upon the subject without making it the sole focus of the movie. The Lost Boys is perhaps one example, and no it has nothing to do with obviously gay Sam. Instead, take a look at the relationship between Starr and head vampire David. He clearly tries to control her, yet the two are never seen together in a romantic or even purely sexual sense. Is his bitchy, controlling attitude towards and about her an attempt to hide his true nature from the other boys? Is it too far a stretch that he’d much rather have Michael to nibble on?

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Another film is Ginger Snaps, and it’s one even I had to really think about. The film’s plot, about two goth, loner, scarily attached sisters being attacked by a werewolf, actually deals a lot with sexuality and identity. New werewolf Ginger quickly comes into her own sensual being, biting boys all over town, but in the background is the now tossed aside Bridgette who realizes that she’s pretty much lost her sister. But I definitely saw more to Bridgette’s character. I saw a girl who wasn’t afraid of losing her sister, but who was afraid of standing on her own two feet. Clearly not interested in boys, or even girls for that matter (besides her sister, which can be mentioned for its own connotations), Bridgette is a quietly complex and confused character who continues to struggle against herself even into the sequel! Was she our first ever, clearly asexual horror heroine!?

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Sexuality in general is difficult to navigate in life, but I’d say it’s a whole lot tougher when that sexuality itself is causing a complete identity crisis. I mean, when you literally have another man bursting out from inside of you while you’re playing sleepover with your hunky bff… yikes.

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For further film references, I suggest also checking out the psycho-thriller Black Swan, The Loved Ones, and the black comedy segment I Was a Teenage Werebear from the anthology film Chillerama.

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3 thoughts on “Sexual Identity Crisis in Horror Films

  1. Ginger Snaps is an interesting movie geared toward sexual identity. The entire flick dealt with or dealt with poorly the notion of menstruation and the transformation into “womanhood.” I love how the writers used the werewolf motif to translate that kind of symbolism, the beast within, so to speak.

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    1. Agreed. It was such a smart move and creative idea, but since it only applied to Ginger’s character, I think that’s why most of us ended up ignoring and not even noticing what Bidgette’s issues were…. I only wish the sequel and prequel had been as smart haha.

      Liked by 1 person

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