Heather O. Petrocelli introduces their monograph, Queer for Fear: Horror Film and the Queer Spectator.
Growing up, I was a kid who knew they were queer and loved horror films, both facts I often hid from others to feel safer or not so out of place. This changed in my 20s when I sat in a movie theatre and had the revelatory experience of watching horror films with a mostly queer audience. From that moment on, I knew that I wasn’t alone and suspected the queer connection to the horror genre was distinctive. This perspective fuelled my pursuit of doctoral studies and informed my thesis work to determine how and why queers have a distinctive relationship to horror.
In Queer for Fear: Horror Film and the Queer Spectator, I analyse the relationship queer people have to horror with a qualitative and quantitative study, building on decades of theory that had emphasised horror’s queerness as being subtextual, allegorical and figurative. This groundbreaking study of the queer spectator of horror film expands theoretical discourse with empirical data to evidence that queer embodiment has ontological and phenomenological connections to the horror genre.
This study collected 4,107 survey participants’ responses and 15 in-depth oral histories, leading to the first empirical, comprehensive and inclusive understanding of the queer spectator’s horror opinions, habits and tastes. After engaging and analysing the data, the primary conclusion is that horror is queer to the queer spectator. Queer for Fear further establishes that a significant percentage of queer spectators actively and therapeutically engage with horror to work through their queer trauma and that they knowingly have a camp relationship to horror. Furthermore, this book demonstrates the importance of the queered presentation of horror films to queer audiences with live cinema screenings that feature live drag performance, examined through case studies of Peaches Christ’s Midnight Mass and Carla Rossi’s Queer Horror.
Leveraging original survey data, in-depth oral histories, and theory, Queer for Fear makes overdue and impactful empirical contributions to the fields of queer, horror, trauma, camp and live cinema studies. The investigations and conclusions of this book not only lead to the queer spectator of horror film being affirmed a place in both academic and popular discourse, but also function to make visible and galvanize the diverse community of horror-loving queers.
Heather O. Petrocelli is an interdisciplinary independent scholar, working across film studies, queer theory and public history, and conducting research engaging with and rendering visible queer stories and experiences.