Welcome to the Weekend Binge. Every week, we’ll suggest a binge-able title designed to keep you from getting too stir crazy. Check back throughout the weekend for even more gloriously queer entertainment.
The Horror-Homoerotic: Clive Barker Double Feature
Few directors leave a mark on the history of horror cinema like that of Clive Barker. For that matter, even fewer directors leave a mark on the genre so unapologetically queer.
In honor of Halloween, we highlight two of Barker’s most underrated films as a good, old-fashioned, queer double feature. Nightbreed, Barker’s follow-up to Hellraiser, follows uber hunk Aaron Boone (Craig Sheffer), a man suffering strange visions of an underground city called Midian. Boone seeks the city and discovers the Nightbreed–former humans become magical monsters living in their own outcast society. An encounter with one of the locals transforms Aaron into Nightbreed too…and attacks the attention of a murderous psychiatrist (David Cronenberg) and a monster-hunting priest (Malcolm Smith). Boone and his girlfriend Lori (Anne Bobby) must band with the Nightbreed to save their city from certain destruction.
With Lord of Illusions, Barker probably made his best movie–which is a shame. It also happens to be his final outing as director. Less conventional horror than a supernatural mystery, Lord of Illusions channels the feeling of classic film noir mysteries combined with gay fetish clubs…seriously.
Eternal daddy Scott Bakula stars as Henry D’Amour, a detective that stumbles onto a mystery involving a Manson Family-like cult with ties to a David Copperfield-type magician named Swann. As Henry investigates, he begins to suspect that Swann isn’t an illusionist so much as a real warlock. Naturally, that amps up the danger factor…as does Henry falling for Swann’s wife, Dorthea (Famke Janssen). We don’t want to give away too much here, as many of the thrills of Lord of Illusions come from blindsiding plot twists. The movie gives an oft-shirtless (and occasionally nude) Bakula a chance to show off his considerable charisma and range.
Nobody combines the sexy and scary better than Clive Barker, and as always, the director weaves homoeroticism into both Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions. The former features at least one implied gay character, as well as hints at a sexual charge between Aaron and his psychiatrist. Moreover, the “society” of Nightbreed feels an uncanny amount like a group of goth queers hanging out at an underground club. In the case of the film, the Nightbreed take their club literally underground. In a similar fashion, Lord of Illusions features at least one implied gay character and hints at homoerotic relationships between Swann, Henry, and the undead leader of a cult. In both movies, Barker doesn’t so much tie sex and death together…as see them, more or less, as forms of the same thing.
Creepy, mysterious, and charged with sexuality from start to finish (with a dash of dark comedy thrown in for good measure), we offer up Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut and Lord of Illusions as two underrated, erotic and magnificently queer horror films to set the mood for Halloween.
Whether that involves screaming in terror, ecstasy, or both is entirely up to you, dear reader.
Lord of Illusions streams on VUDU.
Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut streams on Amazon, Peacock, Shudder & iTunes. Note: Nightbreed underwent catastrophic cuts when it debuted back in 1990. The Director’s Cut restoration reinserts 40 minutes of deleted footage including Barker’s preferred ending, so watch that version.