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Review: It Came From the Closet

This anthology of essays is the perfect pick for horror lovers. And if you couldn’t tell from the title or expressive cover, it’s a great read for LGBTQ+ History Month too! Each of these essays is a reflection of a queer and/or transgender person’s life through an exploration of a horror film important to them. The essays are divided into themes, giving the reader opportunity to reflect on pillars of the genre. From the misty terrors of Appalachia to the extreme take-over of a twin’s career, the lives of these essayists are fascinating as well. 

The films included in these essays span across many decades, beginning as early as 1941 and ending as recently as 2019. Curious about a specific movie? The following films are central to the anthology: 

The Exorcist 

Originally a novel by William Peter Blatty, this film was released in 1973. It’s a classic horror story many fans of the genre are familiar with. The latest installment of the series, The Exorcist: Believer, came out earlier this month. Essayist Trimble takes a look at closeted lifestyles in the context of religious intolerance alongside a queer interpretation of the movie. 

Jennifer’s Body 

This film received mixed reviews when it first came out in 2009 but about a decade later received new critical acclaim as a feminist feature. While discussing Jennifer’s Body, the author takes this chance to add flexibility to the cultural definition of bisexuality. Maria Machado also unabashedly critiques the concept of queerbaiting, taking on a more controversial take than most. 

Hereditary 

A film for fans of the occult! This psychological horror from 2018 delves into family secrets. Essayist Owens Grimm describes teetering on the fragile line between his love for his wife and desire for men throughout his marriage.  

The Ring 

Another classic. This film was originally a Japanese book published in 1991 and adapted into film in 1998. The accompanying essay focuses on the 2008 American adaptation for Western audiences, which terrified many viewers when it first came out. As one of two films discussed in Lisowski’s essay, The Ring helps establish the author’s relationship with disability

Pet Sematary 

For lovers of Stephen King, this essay is about the film adaptation of his 1983 novel of the same name. Lisowski uses The Ring and Pet Semetary in her essay to describe sympathizing with the monsters

Grace 

This film was first released as a short film in 2006 before director Paul Solet expanded the story in his 2009 film of the same name, the latter of which is discussed in the essay. The story takes viewers on a twisted journey through a miscarriage that’s taken to term. As essayist and editor Vallese describes his own struggles with his surrogate’s miscarriages, he adds a loving and empathetic tone to a difficult topic.

The Blob 

While both releases of The Blob are before the 21st century, the one written on in this collection is the 1988 version, which was released thirty years after the original. Narby uses The Blob to help readers navigate the desire to be truly genderless

Society 

Released in 1989 to a UK audience before hitting the US in 1992, this film received very different responses between these countries. Narby’s essay takes a favorable interpretation of the infamous body horror classic. Similar to Narby’s take on The Blob, Society’s discussion revolves around breaking apart the shape of a person and the boundaries of our values

Godzilla 

This 1954 staple in the realm of horror has had a strong global influence in monster fighting and is still frequently referenced in popular culture. Dzelzkalns’ essay grapples with his anxiety while this epic monster destroys the Tokyo cityscape. 

Good Manners / As boas manieras 

This Brazilian film released in 2017 is about a young werewolf growing into himself. Shakur opens his essay with a story he has promised to never tell before, drawing the reader into his tumultuous relationship with his family. 

Jaws 

With an iconic soundtrack, Jaws (1975) left a long-lasting impression of sharks. It also included a boating crew rich with casual skinship. Corrigan emphasizes the film’s queer subtext while critiquing attitudes towards bisexuality

The Wolf Man 

The essay focuses on the original 1941 film. Taylor describes the haunting aesthetic of Appalachia, and the general distrust of the horror genre found in its dense mountain range.

Dead Ringers 

While also a TV miniseries, this essay is on the 1988 movie. Tsai uses the film, which centers around the lives of a pair of twins, to explore their own complicated relationship with their twin. 

The Birds 

From the legendary director Alfred Hitchcock (who is perhaps best known for his film Psycho), The Birds is a film released in 1963. It’s inspired by the short story of the same name by English author Daphne du Maurier. The essay reviews the seductive tension of that which is left unexplored, both in the movie and in her own first love. 

The Leech Woman 

While this film was originally released in 1960, the author is describing its 1997 TV feature in season eight of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Through breaking down this movie he discovered in his youth, we learn about Robbins Leon’s experiences with shame and hidden selves. 

Candyman 

This essay discusses both the 1992 original and its sequel. The author also makes references to many staples of the horror genre. Centering the argument around Blackness, income inequality, and the white savior complex within the movie, Saulson also allows us a glimpse into how these elements reflect their own life. 

Friday the 13th, Part II 

This 1981 sequel is the second of the Friday the 13th franchise, of which there are twelve films. The series has an even broader range of story mediums as it has been adapted into comics and novels to name a few. Sutton helps us see how he used horror films to hide from his own fears, including the panic of HIV/AIDS that swept the country. 

A Nightmare on Elm Street 

While the franchise has a complicated past riddled with controversy, the author focuses primarily on the original movie released in 1984. Lieberman uses the dangerous protagonist-antagonist relationship between Nancy and the infamous Freddy Kreuger to analyze the fraying of his own relationship with a once good friend. The essay also places mental health and being transgender as central focuses. 

Us 

The 2019 film is the second project written and directed by Jordan Peele. Its terrible tale of doppelgangers (or something akin to them) is sure to unsettle any viewer unprepared for the ensuing chaos. Triplett uses this theme to explore his own complicated sense of the self.

The Blair Witch Project 

The 1999 film used a largely improvised dialogue as a sensational documentary-style film that left a landmark presence on the horror genre. It is still one of the most successful independent films ever made due to its immersive marketing style in which the actors of the film were portrayed as missing to the public. Williams builds on this found-footage atmosphere while reviewing her own memories through the lens of an aspiring filmmaker.

Is That You? / ¿Eres tú, papá? 

This 2018 film was shot in Cuba and subtly explores Communism’s long lasting effects on the country during its age of dictatorship. Through examining the abuse in the film, the author also recalls the abuse she survived. 

Get Out 

The directorial debut (2017) of Jordan Peele is a psychological thriller focusing on a seemingly harmless relationship between an interracial couple. Originally a comedian best known for his role in College Humor’s Key & Peele, Peele utilized his writing skills for a drastic pivot into horror, taking many by surprise. Much like the protagonist's immersion in the surreal-feeling environment of his white partner’s suburban world, essayist Autman navigated Salt Lake City, Utah as a young Black, gay journalist. 

Halloween 

This franchise is just in season! With the legendary character Michael Meyers, Halloween has made an iconic impact on horror. The essay focuses on the first film (1978) as the author nostalgically recalls watching it on VHS. Scott Larson revisits uncomfortably growing into his sexuality by exploring Michael Meyer’s relationship with his own hidden identity. 

Eyes Without a Face 

This French film was released in black and white in 1960. Through exploring the villain’s masks used to hide the disfigured face he botches his surgeries on, the essayist also recalls growing up with a figurative mask. 

Child’s Play 

Perhaps best known for its horrific antagonist, Chucky, this film is part of a larger franchise that began in 1988. The essay also covers Child’s Play 3, which was released in 1991. The doll is sure to have frightened many children away from their toys. And yet, essayist Stockton’s adopted son is drawn to the cursed doll. Stockton revisits his relationship with his son alongside his own relationship with horror. 

In My Skin / Dans ma peau 

A psychological horror French film from 2002 known for being too gruesome even for horror fans. The author likens dysphoria to the sense of curious isolation the protagonist has with her body. There’s also sharp criticism of anti-trans rhetoric paralleled with body horror

Sleepaway Camp 

For something not too far from home there’s always Sleepaway Camp, which was filmed in upstate New York. This 1983 film of summer days in the woods is a cult classic. While weaving in and out of memories from his own camper days, Dinh revisits the LGBTQ+ themes in this film.


If you are adverse to spoilers you might want to pick up these films as required watching. However, the essayists do a great job of clueing in readers to what you need to know. Each of these essays investigates their films with unique perspectives, making them satisfying for cerebral readers and those who want to find deeper meanings in the films they watch. 

Don’t miss out on this great read this spooky season! You can find It Came From the Closet: Queer Reflections on Horror at the Yonkers Will Library under: FA 791.436 V


Zaivy Luke-Aleman is a clerk at the Yonkers Will I. Grinton Library who knows too much about horror for someone who avoids the genre! (Thank the people in your life for exposing you to new experiences.) Check out the starred (⭐) essays for a sense of their favorite picks. 

 


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