SHRIEK: Women of Horror is back! Since you last saw us, we’ve expanded and moved days and venues, but we’ve always been proudly sponsored by Scarecrow Video.
Continuing our annual Pride screenings, in June SHRIEK becomes SLASH: LGBTQ Horror! Join us June 17th to watch CRUISING at Naked City Brewery (all-day Sunday happy hour!), with special guest host Jeffrey Robert of Gay Uncle Time.
In CRUISING, a young cop (Al Pacino) must go undercover to catch a serial killer—in New York City’s gay leather community. Discomfort ensues; read more below.
CRUISING is a highly divisive horror film. Appearing in 1980, just before the emergence of AIDS and a few years before it became an epidemic, the film drew both support and protests from the LGBTQ community. There’s an unflinching portrayal gay leather bars and bdsm, which can arguably normalize the subculture. Of course, from the director of THE EXORCIST, much of this comes across as sinister. There is also that pesky serial killer running around stabbing men to death on camera.
That’s part of what makes CRUISING a strange and widely-panned film: the central mystery becomes protagonist Steve Burns (Al Pacino) and his sexuality, as opposed to catching the killer. It becomes two films, the thriller and the coming-out drama. Has Steve “gone native” as part of going undercover in the gay bdsm scene? Is his own heterosexuality now expanded into bisexuality? The film certainly suggests so.
As one of the earliest horror films (earliest American films, period) in which queerness is explicit, rather than cryptic or implied, it’s groundbreaking for presenting gay men on film in America and beyond. The men are almost entirely white, but also almost entirely “butch,” men who “pass” as straight men, skewering expectations of the time. There are closeted characters, such as a married police officer who frequents the leather bars and rapes a transfeminine sex worker. This happens off camera (mercifully), and is merely discussed before and after.
The film is occasionally surreal to the point of incoherence. There’s a regrettable scene in which a muscular black cop(?) dressed in nothing but a jockstrap and cowboy hat enters an interrogation room, slaps the shit out of a suspect, and leaves. The actor doing the slapping has no lines, and the scene becomes more reminiscent of David Lynch’s aesthetic than Friedkin’s other work.
Ultimately, CRUISING is an exploitation film, doing the subversively problematic work of the genre. Like many exploitation films, it shows us more facets of a marginalized, unrepresented community, making them both sympathetic and objectified. The film continues to split queer audiences among three major opinions: “I hate this,” “This is grossly exploitative, and I love every moment,” and “I simply love it.” Those who have none of the previous sentiments probably haven’t seen the film.
SHRIEK: A Women of Horror Film Class presents CRUISING
Sunday, June 17, 2018
doors 6:30pm, opening talk & screening 7:00pm
8564 Greenwood Ave N.
Hosted by Jeffrey Robert & Megan Peck
Sponsored by Crypticon Seattle and Scarecrow Video
Join us at Naked City Brewery to watch and discuss this controversial classic of queer horror!
Starring Al Pacino, Paul Sorvino, Richard Cox, Don Scardino, Karen Allen
Directed by William Friedkin
Written by William Friedkin, based on the novel by Gerald Walker
Subgenre: Slasher, Crime Thriller, Police Procedural
Bechdel Test: Not even close. Depending on whether the character DaVinci is viewed as a transgender woman or a transvestite man (the film never really addresses this), there may only be one named female character in this film (Nancy, a minor role played by Karen Allen).
Blood & Gore: Plenty
Sexual Assault: Yes
For the love of horror,
Evan, Heather, and Megan
SHRIEK is a community class merging film with education and offering an accessible forum outside of academia. The goal is to offer low-cost opportunities to learn about film and women’s studies and to inspire more diverse filmmakers, especially women, to get involved as creators in the genre.