Reality has been looking a little bit like a horror movie lately. Most of us are staying inside to stop the spread of Covid-19, and finding new ways to stay entertained. How about trying some escapism in the form of queer horror fiction? We’ve made a list for you of some of our favourite horror books that either include queer themes, representation, or are written by members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Whether you’re in the mood for a classic ghost story, young adult fiction, or something a little more gory, we hope you’ll find something spooky to suit you. Happy reading, horror fans!
Let The Right One In
By John Ajvide Lindqvist
Content warnings: child abuse, sexual abuse, violence, suicide, self-harm, parental neglect, bullying
Read if you like: Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
Synopsis: Set in the bitter cold of a Swedish winter, Let The Right One In follows Oskar, a twelve-year old boy who is bullied at school and has a difficult relationship with his separated parents. He meets Eli, a femme-presenting child who appears to be the same age, and the two form an intimate bond. However Eli has a secret…
Spookiness: Much of the horror stems not from Eli, the vampire, but from Håkan, the obsessive paedophile who procures blood on Eli’s behalf. The brutal everyday horrors are perhaps more unsettling than any supernatural elements. There is also some gruesome body horror!
Queerness: Much of Oskar’s bullying is due to being perceived as feminine, but he finds acceptance in Eli, who, like him, is an outcast. The book explores gender, transness, vulnerability, and non-sexual intimacy through central characters on the cusp of queer discovery.
Recommended by: H (they/them)
The Haunting of Hill House
By Shirley Jackson
Content warnings: Psychological horror, suicide
Read if you like: The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (side note: Henry James was queer and his novels contain a whole lot of queer subtext!)
Plot: The Haunting of Hill House was published in 1959 and is seen by many as providing a foundation to the haunted house stories we love today. Dr. Montague, an occult scholar, brings together Eleanor, Theodore, and Luke to investigate the supernatural activity of the notorious Hill House. On the surface is a scientific investigation of the paranormal, but the story becomes deeply psychological. The novella focuses on Eleanor, who recently lost the elderly mother she has been caring for. Eleanor, controlled by those around her and constrained by the societal expectations of how single women should behave, longs to escape – but what awaits her at Hill House?
Spookiness: Shirley Jackson is a master at writing unsettling stories, and this story features some excellently uncanny moments. Hill House also has all the classic haunted house tropes – strange noises, writing on walls, doors opening on their own… Chilling. If you want to devour more, there have been some great film and TV adaptations.
Queerness: Theodore is queer-coded in 1950’s language, and Eleanor is drawn intensely to her. Critics and reviewers write that Eleanor and Theodore have a sisterly bond (heard that one before) but let’s be honest, all that hand-holding in bed together at night evokes a different kind of tension…
Recommended by: Elecia (she/her)
The Hellbound Heart
By Clive Barker
Content warnings: Mutilation, body horror, cutting, scarring, hyper sexuality, gore, violence
Read if you like: Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix
Synopsis: The Hellbound Heart starts with Frank, the estranged uncle of the Cotton family. Frank has devoted his life to a selfish, single-minded pursuit of the ultimate sexual experience. After many years, Frank feels unfulfilled and wants to find something more extreme. He then comes across the Lemarchand Configuration, a puzzle box that is said to be a portal to an extradimensional realm of unfathomable carnal pleasure. After retrieving the puzzle, Frank obsesses over the puzzle trying to open it and open the portal. When he finally does, he is shocked by the grotesque creatures known as cenobites who enter through this portal to hell. When Frank goes missing and his brothers family move into his abandoned house they have no idea what awaits them and what family secrets will be revealed…
Spookiness: The Hellbound Heart is a family drama played out with extreme torture, BDSM, gore and otherwordly creatures.
Queerness: Clive Barker, the writer of The Hellbound Heart and the writer director of the movie adaptation, Hellraiser, is an out queer man. The Hellbound Heart is classic Barker and weaves body horror, BDSM and fantasy into a disturbingly beautiful commentary on otherness and sexuality.
Recommended by: Sammi (they/them)
By Rory Power
Content warnings: body horror, medical experimentation, violence, quarantine
Read if you like: Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer
Plot synopsis: Raxter island, home to the The Raxter School for Girls, is in quarantine after a new disease, aptly named Tox, has infected all living beings. Everything touched by the Tox is altered in strange ways, from bodies growing extra bones, scales, boils, and increasingly unpredictable behaviour. The students are not allowed to leave the school grounds except to collect supplies from the mainland because of the horrors awaiting past the school fence. Hetty, our brave protagonist, suspects sinister secrets – but toes the line until one of her friends goes missing. What is really going on?
Spookiness: Wilder Girls has been compared to Lord of the Flies but with girls, and at times, the horror comes from what people do to each other in survival situations. It’s a young adult read, but features LOTS of body horror, so proceed with caution if you are squeamish! The animals and plants on Raxter island are also especially creepy.
Queerness: Wilder Girls has background characters in lesbian relationships as well as an intense queer first-crush develop in the main storyline. You know, the all-consuming teenage kind of love, except this also has Tox monsters. Adorable.
Recommended by: Elecia (she/her)