The time has come for LGBTQ horror. In times of adversity and repression, we find horror again. The way that it burst into creative multi-faceted exploration in the 80s, horror has once again diversified, as every segment of society faces up against difficult times. The Slayed! shorts block features and celebrates exactly what’s so appealing about this emerging underground culture in filmmaking — wildly creative, here, and ready to scare.
The premise here is sound and moving: an Asian American high school football player deals with past trauma so he can move past it and express his true feelings to a teammate. Existing as a trigger is a terrifying apparation that appears from nowhere, a visualization that haunts the character, a brief glimpse of horror in an otherwise dramatic short. It’s shot with great empathy and the actors read comfortably with each other. It is a moving small yarn about self-acceptance. Jeremiah is a reminder of the good horror can do. With the right perspective, it’s a genre that can say and do anything.
Stigma attempts body horror as an analogy for HIV. It spends a lot of time with the lead texting a guy, then the guy’s right outside, then they have sex. Then the plot happens and the main character is bitten by a bug! (We could have started here and saved eight minutes!) Then the good stuff happens, a couple fine gross-out moments of body horror with larvae stuck inside his leg and his back clearly malformed. Perhaps it could have been done in a couple minutes but the meaning and end feeling are there.
Alana’s lover requires an experimental procedure. It takes violent, convulsing turns as her partner seizes and fights roughly through the operation. We feel the director begins to understand and play with their camera, finding their focus as they go. Shot in stark black and white, it remains colored with sentimental emotion. Ultimately, The Original is about tough decisions and second chances. Director Michelle Garza Cervera imbues the picture with the strength of a strong woman’s choices in relationships. It feels like it could expand naturally and we hope to hear more from the talented creator soon.
“God loves you but hates the sin in you,” says the priest to a group of badly dressed teens (not their Sunday best, certainly.) In protest of their conversion therapy, they tie him up and take turns cutting off his tongue and kissing it back and forth in their mouths. It’s that short but means something. The way LGBTQ horror works is that the lifestyle already implies a lived-in horror, every day. And so it is ripe with material to bounce ideas off of. Conversion therapy is a particularly effective one, the psychological gaslighting that takes, and the anger that folks feel as a consequence, just pours right out in a horror short like Penance.
Cassie (you get it, like Carrie, 1976) is harassed in a woman’s bathroom for her boylike features. While the other women compliment and degrade each other’s breasts, she comes out shyly from the stall and gets the brunt of their anger. Tampons? Who are those for? Those girls are about to have hell to pay. Cassie’s mother utilizes her anger, channeling it through a seance to conjure up an awful bathroom troll to put those mean girls to rights. It’s as devilishly fun as it is simple, hinging on a hot button topic of the comment – gendered bathroom accessibility – to drive home a good horror story. In this house, even trolls get to stalk the bathrooms.
I had reached a true state of peace & serenity with the festival’s screeners. Slouched back in my chair, contented by the enjoyable fare included in Slayed!, I was not prepared for what was coming. What was coming were giant space cocks. They glide listlessly through space until connecting and one becomes enveloped in the other’s foreskin! I found out what Docking means today. I did not find out what exactly the author means by this story about why they are single.
An effortless rewatch although I’ve nothing to add to my last experience: “A few minutes into SWITCH, I said aloud, “this is porn…” and, it is soft porn. It’s also a staggering, feverish short about gender dysmorphia. The story is full of gender-switching. Which is as useful to know as a general content warning as it is to advise what kind of art it contains. It’s a slightly confusing story about a girl, perhaps she wants to be with a girl, is with a girl, maybe she is a boy, or that is a part of her fantasy. SWITCH freely explores the taboo desires and implicit allure of the most fluid of subjects, gender, and sex. It employs nudity and contact because that is what is necessary to draw our attention to its larger overarching goals.”