These four films made John Patterson the extreme queer horror movie lover he is today.
This month, I’ve decided to forgo the more analytical parts of the column and instead bring you a list of four films that have helped shape the ideas and thoughts that go into queer film analysis. extreme horror. I watched three pretty early on in my queer horror journey. The latter, however, is a recent watch and the impetus to launch this column in the first place. Every movie on this list deserves a watch, and I think a fresh look and readings of these movies would be beneficial as a whole. Part of the idea for New Queer Extremity was to start the dialogue so others could branch off and create their own writing on the subject. I hope some of them will inspire you to get more into extreme horror.
A caveat: one of the most important films in forming these ideas was Tetsuo: The Iron Man. However, I have already written a full article about it, which you can read here. Some of them could possibly be the subject of a complete analysis. But for now, I would just like to share them with you. With that in mind, let’s dive into a few movies.
It seems appropriate to write about this film since it has just been added to Shudder as part of the New French Extremity lineup (on which the title of this column also plays, as well as New Queer Cinema). When High tension came on DVD in the US, it joined a semi-constant rotation in my movie lineup. Until now, I was mostly into slashers and splatter movies. But it looked different. The film has a grit and grit that was compelling in a viewing habit that primarily involved early Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson.
The film comes across as a simple stalker/slasher with an average streak. And for most of the running time, it plays pretty simply. However, the twist in the third act (while making some of the early parts of the film quite incomprehensible) reveals a layer of obsession and love that adds thematic richness to the film. We discover that the killer is actually Marie, the alleged protagonist. The killer we see was actually a manifestation of his lust and obsession for his friend, Alexia.
It casts much of the earlier conversations in the actions in a different light, while also highlighting the masculine mental image Marie attaches to her violent desires in order to distance herself from those thoughts. It creates an interesting image, while exchanging some problematic ideas about gender. However, at the time, there wasn’t much else like it and it also introduced me to the new French end.
Dual functionality by Takashi Miike
The second and third films on this list are from the same director, so it seemed appropriate to group them together. Director Takashi Miike is a king of extremes of all types. The first is Ichi the killer, the first major example of a bisexual character I had seen in a horror movie. While he is a trope – the depraved bisexual – he is still presented as the protagonist of a film that wallows in the ugliness of humanity. The character, Kakihara, is a masochistic sadist who doggedly searches for his missing boss. He is obsessed with how his boss satisfies his masochistic desires and repeatedly tries to find someone to replace his boss. but it’s never the same. What follows is a descent into depravity that can be a very difficult watch, but still worth it.
Although Kakihara is a problematic character, it’s important to remember that my first exposure to this character was eye-opening. As a bisexual man, I had never seen a bi man portrayed in a movie that wasn’t a joke. Kakihara is treated seriously and fairly throughout the film; the only time he is the butt of the joke, he quickly fires back. While he might be a villain, his portrayal made me realize that portrayal can move away from jokes and create well-balanced characters. Instead of a joke, Kakihara made me feel like I could see something of myself on screen.
The other Miike movie that I would like to mention is Fudoh: the next generation. Again, there are problematic aspects in the portrayal of certain characters. However, I think the way younger Yakuza members view sex and gender hints at a shift in attitude in newer generations. This changing of the guard and looking to the future portends a more tolerant and diverse future, while punishing the more conservative older generation for their failure to see these people as a threat. It plays on expectations while creating dangerous and interesting characters out of people who would usually be a joke. As ichi, the film is definitely an artifact of its time. But hopefully we’ll get a new release so it can be re-evaluated.
I watched this movie for the first time last year, and without it I wouldn’t be writing this list here today. 29 needles is Scott Philip Goergens’ feature debut. I don’t think I’ve seen a more provocative and divisive feature in years. The film follows Francis (played fearlessly by Brooke Berry, RIP), a man obsessed with pain and sex. His trauma is alluded to, but its nature becomes terrifyingly clear by the end of the film. The performance follows Francis’ descent into increasingly self-destructive acts in order to drive away the perfect feeling (orgasm) as he comes to terms with his past and finds peace in his own way.
The film is obviously low budget. But Goergens has created a movie in the canon of queer extremities unlike anything else. Awash in body horror, sex and violence, the film is uncompromising in its vision and pulls no punches in its depiction of a queer man falling apart. This includes the use of several unsimulated sequences of sex and mutilation that repel the viewer while attracting them. In movies like this, it’s often easy to lose the audience through sheer overload. Corn 29 needles maintains the perfect balance.
Movies like this remind me of the potential of the low budget. A film like this, and so explicitly queer, would not be successful in a studio or any other normal medium of production. It’s a labor of love, blood, sweat and tears. If possible, and if you think you can handle this queer end piece, please seek this one out.
This is what I have for everyone this month. Although a bit short, I think it’s still important to suggest movies that someone might like. As moviegoers, we all want to share the movies that make us think and feel. These four films are worth the time and (sometimes) the effort. As always, stay safe and take care of yourself. I’ll see you all next month!