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“QUEER FOR FEAR” and Here to Stay: Interview with Documentarian Bryan Fuller

Monday, October 3, 2022 | Uncategorized

By LINDY RYAN

Having premiered September 30th on Shudder (and via the Shudder offering within the AMC+ bundle), Queer for Fear: The History of Queer Horror, is a four-part documentary series about the history of the LGBTQ+ community in the horror and thriller genres from executive producers Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, Pushing Daisies) and Steak House (Disney Launchpad, The Mustang).

From Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker to legendary gay director James Whale, the tragic end of Oscar Wilde, and a touching tribute to closeted gay heartthrob Anthony Perkins—Pyscho’s Norman Bates—Queer for Fear “re-examines genre stories through a queer lens, seeing them not as violent, murderous narratives, but as tales of survival that resonate thematically with queer audiences everywhere.” Illuminative, intoxicating, and deeply moving, Queer for Fear shines a spotlight on those queer pioneers of horror whose works have commanded the page and screen while the stories of the people behind some of horror’s most fundamental scares have all too often been erased from history.

Rue Morgue recently had the opportunity to sit down with executive producer Bryan Fuller to talk more about this unabashedly brave and passionately poignant new docu-series.

Bryan Fuller

From Star Trek to Pushing Daises, you’ve done it all. What attracted you to this project?

I’ve been watching horror films and consuming horror stories my entire life, so it felt exciting to have that conversation on a bigger platform with folks who’ve also been having that conversation and that experience: watching these films and seeing queerness in them, wondering if it’s just their projecting onto the storylines or if there’s something actually there. As we wanted to illustrate very clearly with Queer for Fear, there is something there and those projections are valid. There’s something about the “other “experience as a queer audience member and as a queer storyteller that brings these stories into a greater clarity of how we see ourselves in the movies, television, and stories we consume. Queer for Fear just felt irresistible on that level.

It’s certainly irresistible to watch! Can you tell us a little bit more about the development of the series—how you’ve curated the people profiled and those you’ve invited to help tell their stories? Personally, I had such an emotional experience watching the series—even tearing up at the recounting of the tragedy of Oscar Wilde. How did you make some of the darkest horror stories so incredibly resonant?

Queer for Fear started as a sort-of offshoot of a wonderful documentary horror noir Shudder released a few years ago. The producer of that documentary—Phil Noble, editor at Fangoria—wanted to do something from the crew’s perspective. So, we had a straight white guy as a queer ally, who pushed this storyline into being, and in a way that goes to show that we have allies outside of our community that want to hear our voices just as much as we do (did).

It’s such a sprawling canvas, queer history and horror stories, and so much bigger than any of us realize on an individual level. As a fledging documentarian, I didn’t know that Mary Shelley was queer; I didn’t know that Bram Stoker was queer. Yes, I knew about James Whale, but I didn’t understand that he got bit by the “theatre bug” as a prisoner of war. So, what started as a 90-minute movie soon began to burst at the seams. By the time we got to Oz Perkins (son of Anthony Perkins), he was so incredibly vulnerable and honest and refreshing, we knew what we could make a lasting impact if we stopped to tell the right story. We had to make room; it wasn’t going to do anybody any good to give information that was a quick Google away. We didn’t want to shave things down but expand them and give them that emotional context. You talked about tearing up over Oscar Wilde, and it makes me so happy because that’s the experience we want viewers to have. It’s heroic, and it’s foolhardy, and it’s arrogant, and it’s dumb, and yet brilliant and savvy at the same time. We tried to get as much information out with enough emotional context that we’re able to tell complete stories at pace without short-shrifting any of the material, so I’m glad you had an emotional experience, because that’s exactly our intention in sharing these stories.

You’ve referred to yourself as a fledgling documentarian, but it’s impossible not to feel the love you hold for the subject matter and see your passion for storytelling in every episode. And, in a way, Queer for Fear is a love story to the people who have shaped horror as we know it. What do you want audiences to take away from watching this series—how can we embed these stories and these truths into their lives?

I think, especially for queer audiences, we would love our audiences to see themselves and a validation as to why horror means so much to them—to claim ownership of the genre, because foundationally, queers own the horror genre in a way that no one else does. And that deserves a Pride parade in and of itself, as far as I’m concerned. For straight audiences, I think there’s going to be a lot of folks who get angry that things they love have queer associations (tweet about it, just make sure to hashtag us). Then there will be people that see, or find an affinity for, an association with the queer community, because they can relate to these things and to the queer people who created these things—like, I have more in common with queers than I perhaps do with anybody else in terms of feeling marginalized, like a monster, or ideologically queer even if not sexually queer.

There’s a lot of commonalities to be found in the horror genre for straight horror bros to look at the genre and say, “You know, I have more in common with queerness than I realized, and therefore queerness is more acceptable, or less demonized, or less different than I once thought it was.” Because queerness is about this experience, this human aspect, of an audience member seeing themselves in a monster and relating to Frankenstein’s monster, because they too felt unloved in some circumstances in their lives. If we can bring straight people closer to associating and understanding the queer experience and accepting that, and then also give queer people a home for conversations about art and storytelling, where parables and metaphors and euphemisms all run rampant, you get to dissect and interpret them and project yourself onto them. This makes the experience of watching a horror film both more communal and more personal.

Episode 1 of QUEER FOR FEAR is available now on Shudder. 

Lindy Ryan
An award-winning author, editor, professor, and short-film director, Lindy Ryan was recently named one of horror’s six most masterful anthology curators, alongside Ellen Datlow and Christopher Golden, for her work in UNDER HER SKIN, a women-in-horror poetry showcase, and INTO THE FOREST: TALES OF THE BABA YAGA, a forthcoming women-in-horror anthology from Black Spot Books and Blackstone Audio. A 2020 Publishers Weekly Star Watch Honoree and previous board member for the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), Lindy is a long-time advocate for women-in-horror and an active member of the HWA and ITW. She is the current chair of the Horror Writers Association’s Women in Horror Month. The author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, Lindy’s work has been adapted for film. Her debut horror-thriller novel, BLESS YOUR HEART, is forthcoming from St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books.