DRACULA’S DAUGHTER and Lesbian Erasure, Stephen King, Clowns, And More
In this Issue:
- Horror History: Dracula’s Daughter and Lesbian Erasure
- Image of the Week: “The Alchemical Chasm”
- Tiny Bites – This Week’s Best Horror Headlines
- Things We Love: I’m Going Hunting
- Hey, That’s Us! – Shudder in the News
Dracula’s Daughter and Lesbian Erasure
By BJ Colangelo
When I was in kindergarten, I got a girl sent to Catholic school because we kissed under the slide during recess. After our teacher notified our guardians, the girl’s parents stormed into the school, gripped their hands around her arm, and pulled her away from me. Their gasps pierced with hate and their tongues spat venom with every word. My parents tried to assure me that I had done nothing wrong. However, I kept thinking something must have been wrong with me because her parents weren’t just angry, they were scared. These people were terrified of the power they believed I possessed because she had wanted to kiss me, and there’s “no way” their daughter would ever dream of doing such a thing.
I felt ashamed. I felt broken.
I felt like a monster.
In the 1930s, Universal Pictures set the standard for cinematic monsters. Culturally omnipresent, the Universal Monsters and their excessive merchandising guarantees that the non-horror loving people in our lives will always have a go-to option when buying us gifts. Think of an item and there’s likely a version of it with the likeness of Dracula, the Wolf Man, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Mummy, the Gill Man, or the Bride. They might as well be a monstrous little league team in a 90s sports movie: a total boy’s club and the token girl.
In 1936, one year after the success of The Bride of Frankenstein, Universal Pictures tried their hand again with another femme-facing monster movie sequel, Dracula’s Daughter. Following the events of the first movie, Countess Marya Zaleska (Gloria Holden) receives word that her father, Count Dracula, is dead. The news is joyous as she now believes that his death will put an end to her curse of vampirism. However, when nothing changes, she seeks the help of psychiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Garth. When he fails, she turns him into her companion in favor of her current manservant, Sandor.
In Dracula’s Daughter, vampirism is coded as queerness and nothing about it is subtle.
During a session, Dr. Garth confronts the Countess declaring she’s “concealing the truth” about herself. Marya retorts that the truth is “too ghastly.” Hiding the “ghastly truth” under a vampire’s cloak is easy, but this film takes place in a time when queerness was considered a mental illness and psychologists frequently assigned conversion therapy.
The question remains; Is Marya referring to her vampirism? Or that she frequently seduces women before consuming them?
We frequently see the film through Marya’s eyes, and the camera hangs on her gaze whenever she targets a new woman. The man she kills is thrown away with complete disregard, but the women are adored and appreciated before the act. She loves women, craves them, and knowing her yearning will ultimately bring upon their demise, she wants their final moments to be ones of beauty and desire.
The “normalcy” she thirsts for is not unlike the self-hating internalized homophobia that poisons the minds of so many queer people forced to grow up in a heterosexist and binary-gendered society. Countess Zaleska is ashamed of her truth and desperately wants to be “cured,” knowing that continuing to live the life of a vampire was only going to end in the same manner as her father.
To be queer — err,vampiric — is to be killed for who you are.
I knew I was gay when I was a kindergartener, and spent the following two decades not unlike Countess Marya: knowing the truth but having to navigate a world that saw me as sick and dangerous. I had public-facing “manserverants” like Sandor who graciously understood my compulsion to spend time with women. And, much like Sandor, they wished me great harm when they realized that no amount of hiding was going to change the truth about who I really am.
I have Countess Marya Zaleska’s portrait tattooed on my arm as a reminder of not just the pain that comes with denying one’s true identity, but to keep alive a woman that I believe has been forgotten in favor of a far more hetero and palatable canon, one that still punishes women for their autonomy.
BJ Colangelo is a recovering child beauty queen that fancies herself the lovechild of Chistopher Sarandon in FRIGHT NIGHT and Susan Sarandon in THE HUNGER. She writes about horror, wrestling, sex, kicking pancreatic cancer’s ass, and being a fat queer all over the Internet. She’s also the co-host of the teen girl movie podcast, This Ends at Prom, with her wife, Harmony Colangelo.
IMAGE OF THE WEEK
“The Alchemical Chasm”
There’s something phantasmagoric about Bo Bramwell’s art, which would be just at home in a Lovecraft-inspired manor as it would in Wonderland. See more of Bo’s art here.
STEPHEN KING, CLOWNS, AND MORE
Daily Grindhouse looks at how Spontaneous is an allegory for school shootings.
Daniel Isn’t Real director Adam Egypt Mortimer is releasing a soundtrack to a non-existent film and FANGORIA has your first listen.
Certified Forgotten looks at The Seventh Victim and its honest portrayal of mental health.
Southeast Asian horror films are ready to take over and Al Jazeera has no problems diving in.
Ever wondered if Stephen King has a movie that he was too scared to finish? He does.
Film School Rejects has a list of all the horror streaming this June.
If you’re looking to dip your toes into horror anime, ScreenRant has a list for beginners.
Meanwhile, Paste Magazine looks at 35 of the best found footage horror films over the years.
The Guardian revisits 1973’s folk horror classicThe Wicker Man.
Scared of clowns? Here are some recommendations of creepy books with your favorite circus denizens.
Lance Bass and husband Michael Turchin are expecting twins and they announced it through a horror movie trailer.
THINGS WE LOVE
I’m Going Hunting
Legion M has opened up orders for their exclusive Mandy Funko pop figures, including Red Miller holding his signature axe. Snag yours here.