It’s been said before, and I’m here to proudly scream it from the rooftops again: Horror is queer. Horror is a genre that unapologetically explores the macabre, the weird, and the unconventional. And, more often than not, you’ll find queer subtext or outright queer characters and storylines within popular horror content.
There are throwback examples of films featuring sapphic characters like Dracula’s Daughter (1936), Daughters of Darkness (1971), and The Hunger (1983). Then, there are relatively well-known contemporary examples such as Jennifer’s Body (2009), Fear Street trilogy (2021), Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022), and Bad Things (2023). While these more mainstream sapphic horror films are great recommendations, I want to add these five underrated instances of sapphic horror to your radar.
All Cheerleaders Die (2013)
An underrated film doesn’t need to be perfect, and All Cheerleaders Die is far from it. However, it’s got a bit to offer and is campy as hell. The film focuses on a bunch of cheerleaders who are brought back to life through supernatural means. From there, it becomes total chaos for the football team. There are several queer ladies to either root for (or not, depending on what you enjoy in a character), and if you live for sapphic drama, then this is the horror comedy for you!
The Carmilla Movie (2017)
Web series seldom ever get a film follow-up. Yet Carmilla, the incredibly queer Canadian web series, accomplished this feat. The series was adapted from Sheridan Le Fanu’s novel of the same name and features more than a few sapphic characters (as well as a very queer cast). The film follows Carmilla (Natasha Negovanlis) and Laura (Elise Bauman)’s relationship and the new supernatural threat they face five years after the series finale. It’s the perfect way to wrap up a celebrated web series. Plus, it makes for a satisfying conclusion to a series binge.
What Keeps You Alive (2018)
There’s nothing wrong with queer characters being antagonists, as long as their queerness isn’t depicted as the root of their villainy. What Keeps You Alive presents viewers with that idea and revels in it. The film follows Jackie (Hannah Emily Anderson) and Jules (Brittany Allen), a married couple that goes on a cabin vacation, only for it to turn into a fight for survival when Jackie reveals her true murderous nature. A psychological horror that features a lesbian couple who are battling against each other? There are absolutely not many stories like this out there, and if you’re into twists and turns, then you’ll find this one a thrill to watch.
Knife + Heart (2018)
Murders, unapologetic queerness, trippy imagery, and lesbians who direct gay porn? This is exactly what Knife + Heart has to offer. The film follows porn producer and director Anne (Vanessa Paradis), who is thrust into a bizarre investigation after the brutal murder of one of her actors. The sapphic characters in the film, especially Anne, are incredibly dysfunctional, which serves a purpose in the film. Knife + Heart allows for diverse depictions of the LGBTQ+ community, where cis-gender and/or heterosexual characters aren’t the only people allowed to be hard to root for, and sometimes happy endings are near impossible for the circumstances at hand. Knife + Heart might not be the happiest, but it’s visually striking and worth a watch.
Sissy is the literal definition of underrated. Sissy follows an influencer named Cecilia (Aisha Dee), who goes on her former best friend’s hen’s weekend (aka bachelorette party) and comes face to face with the girl who bullied her in high school. Typically, there’s no rooting for influencers in horror because they are often so reprehensible. However, Cecilia is a special case because the people she’s taking out are actually horrible. Cecilia can absolutely be read as a queer woman, but the more explicitly sapphic characters are her ex-best friend and fiancée. At the end of the day, it’s a very queer slasher with a Black (assumed queer) woman as the lead.
Mainstream horror isn’t always willing to risk placing sapphic characters at the forefront. So, if you’re looking for your sapphic fix, explore indie full-length films or even short films if you must… Supporting lesser-known horror films is always a plus. There are plenty of options to find the representation you’re longing for!