They were roommates. They were very good friends. No. They were gay. And Shudder’s new series Queer for Fear makes sure you know that. Directed by Bryan Fuller— writer/developer for NBC’s Hannibal— Shudder’s new documentary series explores horror’s history through a queer lens.
The first episode focuses on the authors whom many consider to be the parents of the horror genre: Mary Shelley, Oscar Wilde, and Bram Stoker. The episode dedicates a section to each author, and dives into the writer’s personal lives, their famous work, how both are intertwined with queerness. The episode is comprised of interviews, movie clips, and other fun segments that keep it from turning into a lecture. Told with lots of humor and colorful visuals, the series incorporates lesser-known history and film analysis to create a captivating lesson in everyone’s favorite genre through novel perspectives.
After a brief intro discussing queerness’ historical proximity to monstrosity and horror, the episode starts off with the Mother of Horror and author of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley. People from a wide range of areas and careers all chime in to recount the Mary Shelley’s life and career, and how her queerness translated into her work. From the series’ director Bryan Fuller— to the season two winner of Rupaul’s Drag Race All Stars, Alaska Thunderfuck— the episode is filled with queer actors, filmmakers, writers, and more— all with their own experiences to tie into the series’ recounting of history.
Following Mary Shelley is the author of The Picture of Dorian Gray, author Oscar Wilde. Co-creator of Netflix’s Dracula series Mark Gatiss and The Wrap‘s Alonso Duralde are two among several interviewees that dive into the significance of Dorian Gray as a villain, as well as the real life trials of Oscar Wilde. Wilde, a gay man, was put on trial for gross indecency in 1895, then served 2 years in prison until 1897.
The episode’s final section focuses on Bram Stoker, the creator of the literally and culturally immortal Dracula. The episode touches on the vampire’s not-so-subtle sensuality and sexuality, as well as Stoker’s, perhaps overcompensating, rampant homophobia after the trials of Oscar Wilde. Though never actually out as gay, Stoker’s letters to American poet Walt Whitman— who was known to be in a relationship with a man— suggest a complicated relationship with his sexuality.
Aside from the three writers, their works, and the films that came from them, the episode also briefly discusses other relevant and sub textually queer films of around the same time like F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922) and Faust (1926).
The series is akin to another Shudder original Horror Noire, in that it contextualizes the history of the genre contrary to how most of history in general is told— through a white, patriarchal perspective. That being said, the first episode does still leave much to be desired in terms of the diversity of the people interviewed, a majority of them being white. Though with only the first episode out, there is still a chance that the series rectifies this in upcoming episodes.
The four-part series premiered on September 30th, with new episodes airing weekly on Fridays through October 21st on Shudder.