Swept Away by Dracula (Ep. 126 - horror films)

This Week's Guest: Jeffrey Schwarz

We're noted from time to time on this show that many gay men hold a special place for horror in their hearts. But that's only a fraction of the story with this week's guest. Jeffrey Schwarz has made a lifelong study of film, starting with an early job editing the documentary The Celluloid Closet, right up to today with a new documentary about flamboyant producer Allan Carr. As a weird young gay man, he found kindred spirits in people who, like him, reveled in intensity and excess. And now as a filmmaker, he's reaching out a hand to invite others to join him.

This Week's Recommendation: The Lost Boys

Thanks again to Jeffrey for joining me, and no thanks to all the creepy horror stuff I looked through after recording this week's episode. I had some particularly unpleasant nightmares thanks to that title sequence from the show Chiller. But that obviously means that something's working -- something's speaking to me, even if I don't want to hear it.

I've always been squeamish about horror, because I'm easily spooked in general and also because it sometimes makes me confront anxieties I don't know how to handle. That's why it is with some nervousness that this week my recommendation is The Lost Boys, a 1987 vampire movie based on the lost boys of Peter Pan.

The film is set in a California coastal town and focused on a teen boy and his preteen brother. The older boy falls in with a sinister crowd of vampires, but they're not JUST vampires -- they're also extremely gay. In fact the whole film oozes with queer desire, probably because it was directed by Joel Schumacher. 

One young boy has a sexy pinup photo inside his closet; another signals that he's joined the vampires by wearing a single earring. There's a oily muscular saxophone player in purple tights who seems to have wriggled off of the pages of International Male, and the camera devotes a deeply uncomfortable amount of attention to a boy in a bathtub who sings about not having a man in his life. And that's all before we get to the extremely thin veil on the metaphor of a fraternal plague spread by the sharing bodily fluids in the 1980s.

For all its gleeful sexuality, The Lost Boys makes me a bit sad since it ultimately feels self-loathing. The band of brothers are evil monsters, killing without remorse. And they're ultimately defeated by child-heroes wearing uniforms of 80s action-star heteronormativity. Worst of all, the film attempts to shock with a predatory bisexual twist.

I want to root for the Lost Boys, both the movie and the characters. I want to be a part of the sexy, carefree young men living hedonistically on the beach. But no, the movie insists, you can't. Those guys are bad. The straight world is good. It really bums me out that the movie sees vampires this way, especially a movie made by a gay man.

But then again, in 1987, that is how the world saw gays. It was a story told about us so widely, so emphatically, and so convincingly that many came to believe it about themselves.

Clips of Stuff we Talked About



Parisian Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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