Image Credit: ‘The Judgment,’ Perspective Pictures / Frameline48

Those of us that live in cities or more socially progressive communities may not realize what a privilege it is to walk down the street as a visibly queer person—let alone while holding hands with a same-sex partner.

The reality is, in many corners of the world, daring to do so can still be a harrowing experience. Take a turn down the wrong street and suddenly you can find yourself in the middle of a horror film.

One such horror film is The Judgment, a bone-chilling new feature from filmmaker Marwan Mokbel (Ouija Summoning) which employs supernatural scares with some very real fears that’ll surely resonate with queer audiences.

Egyptian-American couple Mo (Junes Zahdi) and Hisham (Freddy Shahin) have been living together happily in the States for some time. But when a family emergency means they’ll need to spend a week in Egypt, they suddenly realize they’ll have to go back in the closet in order to keep the peace.

Image Credit: ‘The Judgment,’ Perspective Pictures / Frameline48

Backed by a morally conservative government, the majority of Egyptian society still views homosexuality as a perversion, and while same-sex acts are not formally criminalized, there are a number of laws in place that make it especially easy target and prosecute the LGBTQ+ community.

All of this is top of mind for Mo and Hisham as they make the trip to their home country, pretending to be friends when in mixed company. They both still have family in Egypt, but Mo, in particular, is estranged from his, and hasn’t spoken to his mother in nine years.

Things quickly get tense when reports circulate of real-life lesbian activist, Sarah Hegazi, who met a tragic fate while in custody for flying a rainbow flag in public. Moved, Mo posts a photo of himself and Hisham with a rainbow-colored filter on social media, which upsets Hisham who reveals he, too, still grapples with viewing their love as sin.

But the nightmares are only just beginning. Literally. Mo starts to hear ominous noises, and feels haunted by the image of an eerie child in shackles who haunts him both in his sleep and waking life. Is he just being paranoid, or is he losing his mind?

As the visions persist, Mo believes that one of his family members found out about his secret and is using witchcraft to punish the two for their sins. Despite Hisham’s protests, it becomes clear the only hope Mo has for saving their relationship—and themselves—is to confront his mother and come clean.

Image Credit: ‘The Judgment,’ Perspective Pictures / Frameline48

Perhaps it goes without saying at this point, but The Judgment is not for the faint of heart. Even with the usual horror movie frights aside—and there are plenty of jump-scares—Mokbel’s film is an uncompromising and gut-wrenching experience.

Still, brave moviegoers will surely be moved by his artful take on the material, expertly blending family drama with sexy relationship fable with thrilling scares as he tackles internalized homophobia and the intersection of queerness and spirituality.

The Judgment made its world premiere last fall at Reeling, Chicago’s LGBTQ+ International Film Festival, and next will head to San Francisco for Frameline48 where it will screen on June 24 and simultaneously stream via the fest’s virtual program through June 30. Tickets and more info on both screening options can be found here.

Ahead of the film’s Frameline bow, check out the first trailer for The Judgment below. But be warned: even this teaser is intense!

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